It’s the beginning of the end, people. No, not the episode "The Beginning of the End," but rather the first hour of the 3-hour Season 4 finale of Lost. And personally, I feel a little like Jack. I’m tired, sweaty, semi-delusional, stubbly, and bleeding from my right side. Let’s just hope I’m not lying on the floor stinking of alcohol a few years from now ruing the day I ever took on this task. But I’m gonna push that fear aside for now and deliver the penultimate edition of the"We Have to Go Back" series for you all. After this…just one more to go.

(Read about my initial journey home here.)

There’s No Place Like Home, Part 1

4) In Summary

"Let’s go see us some pretty flowers."

8) Present Day

Those on the beach try to figure out why the helicopter dropped the phone rather than simply landing. Faraday calls the phone on the chopper, where he hears Keamy talk of deploying to the "Orchid" upon landing. That word doesn’t sit to well with Faraday. Juliet, for her part, has never heard any mention of anything called the "Orchid." Jack leaves, despite Juliet’s protests, and heads for the chopper. He tells her he promised everyone else on that beach that he would get them off, and leaves with Kate to help keep that promise.

Nearby, Faraday is still freaking out about what he’s heard. He turns to a page in his journal that shows the same Dharma logo seen in Keamy’s secondary protocol briefing, which we now know to be the Orchid Station. He then tells Charlotte they need to get off the Island right away.

The following morning, Jack is walking like a madman towards the signal. Kate suggests they take a break, noting a blood stain on his side. He lies to her about the nature of the wound, and both soon hear movement in the jungle. It’s Miles and Sawyer, the latter’s eyes completely hollowed out from the last time we saw him. He mournfully tells them about Claire’s mysterious disappearance, which further twists the knife in Jack’s already aching side. Sawyer also informs them about the attack on New Otherton, leading to an argument between the two men. Kate takes Aaron in her arms for the first time to remove the child from the fight. Jack leaves for the chopper himself, but Sawyer follows in hot pursuit: "You don’t get to die alone!"

Sayid reaches the Island shores, having successfully followed Faraday’s bearing. He tells those on the beach he needs to start shepharding people six at a time before the chopper returns to the boat. Juliet frantically notes Jack and Kate are running directly towards said danger. Isn’t it ironic…don’tcha think?

Looks like Keamy isn’t the only one heading to the Orchid: so are Ben, Locke, and Hurley. Ben tells them it’s a "greenhouse." Riiiiight. Ben explains to Hurley that moving the Island is last resort, with the effects dangerous and unpredictable. Sounds like me strapped onto roller blades. They soon come across a clump of rocks. Inside? A bag with a box. Inside? Dharma crackers, a mirror, and some rope. Ben uses the mirror to communicate with an unseen person in the nearby jungle. Unsurprisingly, he gets an immediate response from the top of the nearby mountain. Yet, Locke can’t decipher the message between the two parties. So, if I have this right, Locke is the ultimate outdoorsman but never learned Morse code. Point goes to Bernard on this one.

Faraday volunteers to take people to the Kahana in Sayid’s place, what with Sayid anxious to go after Jack and Kate. Juliet insists that Sun be part of the first boat out. Kate returns with Aaron, and offers to lead Sayid to Jack’s position. She then hands Aaron over to Sun, and with Jin and a few redshirts takes off towards the freighter. "I told you I’d get you off this Island," Jin says. Great, thanks Lost, way to make me cry.

As they approach the Orchid Station, Hurley starts to fret. He wants to get OFF the Island, not move it. Apparently, some people like to move it, move it, but he’s just not one of those. He also worries that moving the Island won’t rid them of their killer soldiers problem. Ben tells him he’s working on a solution. They arrive at the Orchid, and much to Ben’s dismay, Keamy’s Krew has already beaten them to the site.

Faraday reaches the Kahana, safe and sound. After depositing everyone on the boat, he heads right back. Jin and Sun are shocked to see Michael aboard the ship, as he announces the engines are once again working. It’s all speed ahead to the Island…only, not, as there’s RF interference preventing the boat from judging nearby reefs. Looks like something’s transmitting from aboard the ship. 

Jack and Sawyer catch up on things like emergency surgeries while they follow the signal on the sat phone. They come across the chopper, with Lapidus handcuffed to it. Sawyer grabs a toolbox to find something to free him. As he’s cutting himself free, Lapidus tells them of Keamy’s plan. Sawyer realizes Hugo’s in harm’s way. "Son of a bitch!" screams Jack, doing his best unintentional impression of Sawyer.

On the Kahana, Sun’s still trying to piece together how Michael ended up there. No time for guilt trips, though: Des has something they need to see. That something? Enough C4 to blow the Kahana sky high. My God, there’s a lot happening in this episode. Like, more than happened in all of Season 2 combined, it seems.

Back on the Island, Kate and Sayid decide to go old school. How old school? They go and get themselves captures by hillybilly clothes-wearing Others. Looks like they stumbled into Season 2 on their way to the Orchid.

Ben gives Locke his Baton of Future Badassery. He tells Locke how to activate a hidden elevator that leads to the "real" Orchid station below. Ben tells them he’s taking care of the guards himself. How? "How many times do I have to tell you, John? I always have a plan." Amen, brother.

Ben then walks out into the open, announcing his presence to the militia. On the Kahana, Sun walks onto the deck. In the jungle, Jack and Sawyer walk towards the Orchid. Elsewhere in the jungle, Richard Alpert leads Kate and Sayid to parts unknown. Locke and Hurley watch attentively as Keamy points a gun at Ben’s head, then knocks him out with the butt of it.

The pieces are moving into place.

15) In the Future

Two pilots make note of some slight turbulence, with one rubbing a rabbit’s foot due to the cargo they are transporting. One asks a woman named Karen Decker to tell the others on board they will be landing soon. She heads back and we see the Oceanic 6, in all their off-Island glory, for the first time. She tells them they are landing in a military facility in Honolulu. Looks like she’s a rep from Oceanic Six, and suggests they need not talk to the press if they don’t want to do so. Everyone but Jack is silent, and he agrees to a press conference. Almost no one wants to make eye contact with each other until Decker leaves.

After she returns to the front, Jack reminds them they "all know the story." If any questions arise that might make them deviate from the story should simply be ignored. Jack suggests using shock as an excuse. "We ARE in shock," Sun replies. Jack notes, "Then this should be easy." As the plane lands, various members meet their families for the first time in months. Jack meets his mother, Hurley introduces Sayid to his parents, Sun completely ignores her father, and Kate stands alone with Aaron, no family there to greet her. Poor Freckles. Fantastic, wordless scene.

Karen Decker tells the press corps a lovely tale about how the Oceanic 6 managed to save themselves after the plane went down in the Sunda Trench. It’s a marvel of fiction. Jack is the first to speak, telling the "story" of how they managed to escape before the plane went down. Sun looks like she’s either going to throw up or murder him with her eyes. Jack mentions the name of three other survivors: Boone, Libby, and Charlie, who eventually died after they made it ashore initially.

Other questions follow: about Hurley’s money, about Jin’s status, about Sayid’s plans to return to Iraq. All answers are curt and filled with barely concealed pain. One pointed series of questions centers around Aaron’s parentage, as one reporter noting Kate’s criminal background and unlikely maternity. Decker halts questions on such a front. The final question: is there a chance there are any other survivors? Sayid immediately replies there’s absolutely no chance of that. As they leave the conference, Decker tells Sayid he has a visitor outside. That visitor? Nadia. Talk about a world of contradictory emotions: we’re happy for them, yet know this ends HORRIBLY. Good Lord.

Some time later, Sun walks up the long steps to her father’s office. Atop them, Paik is worried about something that involved "five banks." He orders his men to investigate this business matter. It’s something he’s unwilling to discuss with his daughter, whom he deems too stupid to understand. When he asks about her pregnancy, we see a very, very different side to Sun than we’ve really ever seen before. She tells him not to pretend he cares about her baby, and moreover tells him that thanks to the settlement from Oceanic, she purchased a controlling share of his company that morning. Why would she do this? Because when you mess with Sun, you get the horns. That’s why. She tells him two people are responsible for Jin’s death, and he’s one of them. As she leaves, she tells him she has plans for a new direction for the company.

Hurley drives his beat-up car to his mother’s house. The door is ajar when he gets home, which puts him ill at ease. He kicks over a coconut, and hears what sound like the Whispers. He grabs a solid gold statue of Jesus, heads towards the sound, opens the door, and finds…a surprise party. "Jesus Christ is not  a weapon," his mother says. Heh. It’s a tropical island-themed party, which is in the Top 5 of All-Time Ill-Advised Themes for Parties in the history of merriment. Kate, Aaron, Sayid, and Nadia all attend. Jack’s running late, and Sun’s apparently busy hating the entire world.

Hurley’s father David has a surprise for Hurley. His present? The Camaro, finally restored to its full glory. David tells him he fixed it up while Hurley was missing, as a way to keep his son close. But when Hurley gets in the car, he sees The Numbers written into the odometer, freaks out, and runs down the street.

Hey, it’s Sucker Punch Sunday, with Jack giving the eulogy for his father. Everyone but Sun is there, as she’s still doing her Angry Dance elsewhere. Afterwards, a woman we know introduces herself to Jack. It’s Claire’s mother, and yup, it’s the absolutely perfect time for Jack to learn his half-sister didn’t make it off the Island. This is why I stopped going to church all those years ago. Matthew Fox KILLS this scene. And yea, Kate heard the whole thing too, while holding Carole’s grandson in front of her. Brutal stuff.

16) The Mythology

Surprisingly little. Everything exciting about the Orchid happens in the finale, and once you know WHY the Oceanic 6 are lying, it’s more about seeing how all the pieces fit even when you as a viewer know the reason. Does it all hold up? Absolutely. Is it slightly less interesting second time through? You betcha.

23) The Moment

Sun putting her father in his place. Lord, I look forward to Future Sun something fierce in Season 5.

42) In Retrospect

The disparity I highlighted in the Mythology section for me underscores what some see as a fundamental flaw in Season 4’s construction. Unlike Season 3, we knew the endpoint for the this season’s narrative arc. We worked season-long from two perspectives ever closer to the single moment the Oceanic 6 leave the Island. We knew for CERTAIN this would happen. Not only does this take away drama from certain episodes (Jack ain’t gonna die from no appendicitis attack if he’s alive and "well" in the future), but also left the audience asking not "What will happen?" but "How will it happen?"

Now, this second question isn’t necessarily a bad one. Plenty of pop culture relies on this structure to great affect, where the end result isn’t as important as the journey the audience takes to catch up to one or more fictional characters. The Usual Suspects comes to mind, where the movie hinges upon the audience piecing together what happened at the outset of the film. And that’s all good fun…for two hours. For an entire season? Even a strike-shortened one? It only calls attention, in a meta way, to the plot of a fictional show broadcasting on our television on a weekly basis. And that’s not exactly a good thing.

Now, did the show hold some surprises for us despite this framework? Indeed. Moving the island was a brilliantly satisfactory surprise. And I never anticipated the reunion in the final episode. So there were definitely some aces up their sleeve. But the fundamental shift between, "What’s going on?" and "What happened?" hampered the show somewhat even as it gave it a rigid structure upon which the show skillfully wove its web.

The structure gave almost a Greek-like tinge of tragedy to the on-Island events, as we the audience knew the basic outcome and were helpless to stop it. That made episodes like this painful to watch, as the characters approached ever closer to the zero hour. On the other hand, it brought to the forefront the almost mechanical nature in which events unfold in this final three hours of Season 4. It’s almost as if the donkey wheel started turning before Ben ever entered that cave, and no one could stop its momentum.

Excellent television for sure. But just not as filled with the infinite possibilities inherent in Season 3’s march to the end. This isn’t some slag on Season 4: it contains four all-time classic episodes and a host of strong ones to support those. But I did miss having absolutely no idea where the show was going. That was more thrilling to me, personally, then watching the flash forwards throughout Season 4 and wondering how they got there.

108) In Summary

This, friends, is set-up. It’s called "we have to condense four episodes into one so we don’t have to shoot the Oceanic 6 via canon along the 305 bearing in the last seconds of the season." It aired as a stand-alone episode, so I am recapping it as such, but it’s really just the first act in a three-act play that ultimately leads to the identity of the man in the casket and the plot of Season 5. So while I might be damning this ep with faint praise, it’s all in context, people.

Next up: Ben turns the wheel, and we wrap up our seven-month journey. I’ve started a thread over on the Facebook group, asking for Lost-theme drinked recipes with which I can celebrate. So make sure you leave your mark…on my liver.

Ryan also posts every 108 minutes over at Boob Tube Dude, then peruses Zap2It’s Guide to Lost Facebook group. He also encourages you to join the all-new Zap2It’s Guide to Lost Twitter feed. Pretty soon he’ll have as many platforms as the Oceanic 6 have guilt pangs.

Posted by:Ryan McGee