I have 4,000+ words to try to sum up the heartache that was “The Candidate.” Any hopes of a quote-unquote “happy ending”? Gone. And “Lost” forever. One thing we learned tonight: Martin Keamy was dead wrong when he said that some couples just aren’t meant to be together. Unfortunately, we saw that contradiction play out in a way I’m not sure any of us expected, and certainly none of us wished. I watched the episode once straight through, as per usual, then recapped while watching it a second time. Since I’m already red-eyed and out of Kleenex, let’s get to recap without further introduction.
4) In Short
You said you believed it but believing won’t fly
And right before you hit your prime
That’s when we fell in love but not the first time
And when it’s all over and you open your eyes
To see the room turned on its side
You’ll be lying by a note on the floor signed…
…the royal we
Silversun Pickups, “The Royal We”
8) Sideways Timeline
Locke wakes up, post-surgery, to the sight of Jack standing over him. “I know you,” Locke says, and Jack agrees, noting their meeting in LAX a few days before. (Unclear if that’s what Locke really means, but OK.) Jack tells him that the surgery went fine, and that during the procedure, he caught sight of the initial injury to Locke’s spine. Turns out that Locke is a candidate (ding ding) for a new type of surgery, one that could even restore Locke’s ability to walk. Much to Jack’s surprise, Locke shoots down Jack’s offer. Just then, Helen walks in, overjoyed that her fiancée is alive. She runs over and hugs Jack, thanking him for saving Locke’s life.
Jack then visits everyone’s favorite dentist: Bernard Nadler! Yay! I have the warm fuzzies. Jack wants to look at Locke’s patient files, having learned that Bernard performed some emergency dental work on Locke three years before. When asked about his interest in Locke, Jack starts to relay the story of how they met a week before. Only, it seems Bernard already has an inkling why Jack’s there. After all, he caught Jack flirting with his wife on that very flight. (Bernard FTW!) “It’s pretty weird, huh?” Bernard notes. While he can’t break doctor/patient confidentiality, he does give Jack the name of the other person involved in the accident: Anthony Cooper. “Good luck, Jack,” he says. “I hope you find what you’re looking for.” I bet you do, Bernard.
At a nursing home, Jack runs into Helen. They are both there to see the same person: Anthony Cooper. She’s not so keen on letting Jack see him, begging him to let this go. Helen, this is Jack Shephard. His cellphone ring tone is Coldplay’s “Fix You.” (Yes, Coldplay’s big in the sideways universe, too.) Finally, she relents, and walks slowly toward a man who looks far too old to be the man we once knew. She wheels him around, and there sits a white, ashen, drooling, vegetative Anthony Cooper.
Jack stands over Locke’s sleeping body. Um. Vaguely creepy. Locke says things like, “Push the button,” and “I wish you had believed me” and “You complete me.” OK, maybe just the first two. Just then, Claire shows up, looking for her half-brother. The two retire to an empty waiting room. Jack offers her an Apollo Bar, but she refuses, instead showing Jack the item Christian specified above all go to her in his will. It’s a music box that plays the familiar “Catch a Falling Star” theme, and mercifully, it’s far less creepy than its last use at the end of “Sundown.” (And we get a mirror shot to boot, as Jack and Claire see themselves reflected in the box’s interior glass.) As they part, Jack insists that Claire stay not in her cheap motel, but with him. “But we’re strangers,” she says. “We’re not strangers,” Jack replies. “We’re family.” Live together, or sleep in motels alone.
An orderly (not Abaddon, sadly) helps wheel Locke out of the hospital. On the way out, Locke runs into Jack, who reveals his little trip to Cooper’s retirement home. Locke reveals the reason behind the accident: a plane crash, involving the two of them during Locke’s initial solo flight. Anthony didn’t want to go up, but Locke insisted they would be safe. To this day, he’s unclear what he did wrong, but tells Jack it was his fault. Jack reveals that Locke gave painful but necessary advice to him in the airport, and it’s time to repay the favor.
He tells Locke “what happened, happened,” and that he should stop punishing himself for the crash. “You can let it go.” “What makes you think letting go is so easy?” Locke replies. “It’s not,” Jack replies. “In fact, I really don’t know how to do it myself. And that’s why I was hoping that maybe you could go first.” Locke laughs through his tears, and bids the doctor farewell. Before he can turn the corner, Jack says, “I can help you, John. I wish you believed me,” a line that clearly sticks in Locke’s head AND throat before he leaves the hospital.
15) Island Timeline
Jack wakes up in a canoe, unsure of where he is. “Welcome to Hydra Island,” Sayid tells him. “At least you didn’t have to paddle. Since I’m a zombie, I no longer feel pain.” OK, he didn’t say the last part. Inland, “Dough Boy” orders Sawyer and Co. into the polar bear cages. Sawyer isn’t having any of this, and quickly disarms the man with a Ph.D. in geophysics but not even a G.E.D. in badassery. Widmore then pulls a gun on Kate, noting that the list of names he has doesn’t have “Austen” on it. Sawyer quickly backs down, and it’s back to a diet of fish biscuits for our heroes.
Once they’re inside the cages, Widmore insists he’s doing this for their protection. Sawyer’s skeptical. (Won’t be the first time this ep, sadly.) Widmore tells his goons that he wants the fence up and running. When he learns it’ll be an hour, Charles notes that don’t have that much time. “Tell them to work faster. He’s coming.” Santa???
Back at the shore, Sayid fills Jack in: During the aftermath of the mortar attack, the Others scattered into the jungle, leaving just the three of them. Why did Smocke bring Jack there? To help Smocke and Sayid rescue his friends and get on the plane before Widmore knows what hit him. Jack agrees to help liberate his friends, but refuses to leave the Island. Locke hopes to convince Jack otherwise, but reminds him that his friends DO want to leave, and hopes he can convince them to trust Smocke again. Why? “Because I could kill you, Jack. Right here, right now. And I could kill all of your friends. And there’s not a single thing you could do to stop me.” In related news, Smocke is a lying liar that lies.
In the polar bear cages, Sawyer tells Kate about the caves, and why he knew Widmore was telling the truth about killing Kate. Elsewhere in the cage, Sun and Jin catch up, and Jesus, this is 100 times more painful watching the second time through. They talk of Ji Yeon, and how beautiful she is, and Sun gives Jin his ring back, and I’m bawling. I sure hope Smocke comes by to lay the smackdown so I stop acting like a 14-year-old girl watching “The Notebook.”
As if on cue, the power goes out in the facility. Because bazillionaire Charles Widmore can’t afford a back-up power supply. Sigh. The familiar sounds of the smoke monster are heard, and Hurley calmly says, “Aaaaand we’re dead.” The monster takes apart Widmore’s goons, which would be satisfactory if any of them had personality or were a threat. In the confusion, Jack shows up to let everyone out of the cage and toward the next thing that will almost kill them this episode.
A quarter-mile from the plane, Jack reiterates his plan to stay on the Island to Kate. As Sawyer thanks Jack for coming back for them, Sayid comes out of the jungle. Jack affirms that Sayid turned off th
e power (as opposed to Dharma Electrical Company, I suppose), and Sayid informs them all Smocke is waiting at the plane. Well, he’s not so much waiting as calmly walking over to two of Widmore’s goons, absorbing their bullets without so much as flinching, breaking one’s neck and shooting the other one, stealing their guns, and generally being awesomely evil. He then goes inside the plane, sees a few errant wires that shouldn’t be there, and opens an overhead compartment.
Jack and Company reach the plane, where they find Widmore’s dead goons. “If it’s any consolation, Widmore knew I would kill these men,” Smocke says while deboarding the plane, declaring they were there merely for show. He then presents what he found in the overhead compartment: C4, enough to blow up the plane if it actually started up. “He wants to get us in the same place at the same time. A nice confined space we have no hope of getting out of. And then he wants to kill us.” Boy, that sure sounds like a plan that might work at a later time under different circumstances. Say, in 20 minutes?
Smocke says that with the plane now unsafe, another method must be used: the submarine. Sensing an opening, Sawyer agrees, and apologizes for doubting Smocke before then. Hurley tries to speak up, bringing up Alpert’s warning, but it falls on deaf ears. Once again, Jack agrees to help, but insists he’s not leaving. As they make their way to the sub, Sawyer hangs back, admits he still doesn’t trust Smocke, and asks to make sure it doesn’t get in the sub. “Just get it in the water, I’ll do the rest.” Either they are about to neutralize a smoke monster, or they are parents striking a bargain over that night’s bath for their toddler.
They all arrive at the dock. Sawyer gives marching orders, with Jack and Locke taking up the rear. The approach is … quiet. Almost too quiet. Sawyer and the first wave enter the sub easily, and quickly overtake the two men sitting onboard. Kate, Claire, and Sayid form the second wave, as Smocke distributes a backpack to himself and Jack. Try as I might, I couldn’t reach through my TV to snatch them away. On the way to the sub, Smocke asks Jack to reconsider one last time, insisting that whomever told him he had to stay didn’t know what he was talking about. “John Locke told me to stay,” Jack replies, and smacks Smocke with the butt of his gun into the water. Best. Jack. Moment. Ever. And the last bit of happiness I’ll have for a week.
Just then, shots ring out from the jungle. Kate takes a bullet high on her chest, and it’s a bad wound. Claire and Smocke, having emerged from the water, hold those in the nearby jungle at bay. Sawyer rushes up after Claire after Jack brings Kate down, only to see Smocke on the dock. Sawyer closes the sub hatch and tells Lapidus to give the order to dive. Claire screams, but Smocke smiles, noting she wouldn’t want to be on that submarine. Down below, Jack’s incensed that he’s leaving the Island. But anger turns to fear as he reaches into his bag for a first aid kit and finds the C4 from the plane, armed to blow in four minutes. “Locke. We did exactly what he wanted.” Sigh. Yes. Yes, you did.
Panic sets in. They try to get to the surface, but soon learn that they would emerge long after the bomb would go off. Zombie Sayid luckily still knows all about explosives, and oddly enough, acts waaaay more alive than at any point this season. He notes that in theory, the two side wires, removed simultaneously, would render the bomb inert. But Jack stops Sawyer from pressing the button. Oops, did I say, “pressing the button”? I meant, “pulling the wire.” But honestly, folks, this is the mirror scene to the end of “Orientation,” in which Locke tried to convince Jack to push the button. Here’s what Jack says:
“Nothing’s gonna happen. Don’t pull those wires out. We’re OK. Locke can’t kill us. This is what he wanted. This is what he has waited for. Everything that he’s done has been to get us here. He wanted to get us in the same place at the same time. A nice enclosed space we had no hopes of getting out of. Locke said that he can’t leave the Island without us. I think he can’t leave the Island unless we’re all dead. He told me he could kill any one of us whenever he wanted. So what if he hasn’t because he’s … not allowed to? What if he’s trying to get us to kill each other?”
So, Smocke’s The Joker in “The Dark Knight,” essentially. But whereas that movie affirmed mankind’s capacity for good, Sawyer proves The Man in Black’s assumptions about mankind correct. He doesn’t trust Jack’s assumption that they’ll be fine, and in pulling the wires, he only accelerates the countdown. In the final, frantic seconds, Sayid informs Jack of Desmond’s location, noting that he’ll need Desmond’s help to defeat Smocke. Why is Sayid telling Jack this? “Because it’s going to be you, Jack,” Sayid says. He then runs to the back of the sub with the bomb, where it explodes. And my heart breaks. But not for the last time this episode.
Lapidus runs down to assess the damage, and gets a huge metal door to the head for his trouble. Sonofabitch. Down below, the room is filling up rapidly with water. Jack manages to pull up Kate, facedown in the water. He hands Kate over to Hurley, along with a small oxygen canister to tandem-breathe with as they swim to the surface. “I have to go after Sayid!” screams Hurley. “There IS no Sayid!” retorts Jack, which I knew, but Jesus, it feels more real when someone actually said it. Jin, Sawyer, and Jack start to help Sun, who is trapped behind a large metal crate. They manage to move it, only to find she’s hopelessly entangled in a series of small pipes against the wall. Around now, I started to well up. And it only got worse.
With only one tank left, Jin insists that Jack leave with Sawyer. Jack tries to leave the tank with Jin, but he’s not having any of it. “Just go,” he tells Jack, and everyone is selling the living HELL out of this scene. I can barely breathe, I can barely see, and I’m loving and hating this all at once. After Jack and Sawyer leave, Sun and Jin say their goodbyes and break my “Lost” heart in 42 places. For all the grief surrounding their long separation, this episode reminds us what they were fighting for all those years. Even with no chance of rescuing her, he’s not going anywhere. They have their final “I love you”s. Their final kiss. As the sub sinks, a series of muted, almost abstract shots show the remains of Widmore’s craft, with a red blinking light illuminating their submerged, limp hands floating away from each other. I hurt. Everywhere.
On the beach, Jack and Sawyer emerge from the water. Nearby, Hurley and Kate do as well. They realize those that have been lost to the water: Sayid. Lapidus. Sun. Jin. Dear. Effing. Lord. Hurley loses it, and hey, look, I’m losing it again. Jack goes down to the water, looking for the same thing he did in “Lighthouse.” And then he cries. Back on the dock, Locke says simply, “It sunk.” (Hmmmmmm. Something else sunk this season, but not in this episode. And not in this timeline.) He then leaves Claire, noting not everyone died, and that he has to finish what he started.
16) The Moment
Bye, Sun/Jin. For now. I hope. I pray. (Yes, I know better. More on this below.)
23) The Mythology
Look, I’m emotionally spent. I mean, done. Kaput. Stick a fork in me and call me Frogurt. So forgive these mythological ramblings as the product of a mind that’s trying to process all of this so soon after the fact.
Everything we thought about Smocke’s plan was a lie. This isn’t something entirely new to the playing field, but nevertheless forces us to re-examine everything that’s come before. Rather than looking at the sideways world as a possible result of Smocke and Company sailing off into the sunset on Ajira 316, we know have to consider what it could mean in a scenario where every single candidate (and perhaps, every single person) on the Island dies. I say all this b
ecause while it’s easy (well, EASIER) to conceive of a scenario in which the timeline we only discovered this season gets wiped out before it reaches fruition in the first place, it’s extremely difficult for me in the immediate aftermath to root for a timeline in which Ji Yeon is an orphan.
So rather than look at the doom-and-gloom on the Island (the biggest “end-of-‘Empire-Strikes Back'” in the show’s history), let’s try and suss out what’s going on in the sideways world, where the noose is ever tightening. Let’s go back three years in this timeline, where Locke and Cooper suffer a catastrophic accident due to unusual and unexplainable circumstances. Those sound to me too fishy to cast off as mere malfunctions. The use of the word “candidate” by Jack to describe Locke’s position in the sideways world, in my mind, gives a whole new importance to Locke’s role in the Island timeline. Rather than be the “sucker” described by Smocke, he may indeed have been taken out first because he was the most important/powerful of the remaining candidates upon the crash of Oceanic 815.
Given what we learned tonight, Des’ pancaking of him in “Everybody Loves Hugo” starts to make more sense. To break through this man’s trauma and guilt, a mere date on a beach or chance encounter with a spinal surgeon wouldn’t break him out of his funk. And it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to learn that Eloise Hawking had fiddled around with Locke’s plane on that fateful day, submerging one of The Man in Black’s biggest adversaries into a deep pit of remorse, deeper than the pit in which Island Desmond now finds himself.
The question ultimately becomes: Why do Locke, or any of the people from the timeline we’ve watched for the series, NEED to wake up? What, exactly, are they waking up from? I’m fine with not knowing, even with only four hours of the show to go. The fact that I know we’re supposed to be asking this question is fine for me at this stage in the game. Before tonight, I would have said, “They need to wake up in order to send out a psychic S.O.S. to the other timeline to avert what’s about to happen.” But Jesum Crow, what was ABOUT to happen, in my mind, pretty much just freakin’ happened. While I wasn’t surprised by Sayid’s death (the type of self-sacrifice I expected from his character before the show ended), Lapidus’ death did shock me (in that Ilana-esque “really?” way), and Sun/Jin’s death straight-up devastated me.
Here’s why: I’ve argued that the morality of the show dictates that life is hard and cruel, but essentially fair. It’s Darwinian, but provides the capacity for happiness if the right decisions are made, the right people are met, and the right community can evolve. For centuries, if not millennia, The Island has been the place where Jacob brought people to achieve this happiness, and where The Man in Black would subvert each and every attempt that humans themselves did not blow themselves. You don’t get do-overs in “Lost,” except in a sci-fi, “Pulp Fiction”-esque way in which dead characters return via postmodern narrative trickery, timeshifting, parallel universes, or Whispers.
All this leads us back to Smocke’s latest attempt to prove Jacob wrong: the 4-minute timer on the bomb. I think Jack was 100 percent right in thinking the bomb would NOT go off had they not touched it. Think back to “Dr. Linus,” when Jack sat with Richard in The Black Rock, watching the fuse head to the dynamite. Jacob could help stop that dynamite from exploding, but there’s one thing he absolutely, positively cannot do: Stop people from giving into their worst impulses, innermost demons, and weakest instincts. Sawyer’s inability to truly trust Jack ensured the demise of four people, three candidates, and any hope of that character making it through the show alive. (C’mon: Who needs to atone more now than Sawyer?)
If I have suggested, all along, that the sideways world feels “wrong” because it gives second chances that undo the moral complexity and overall gravitas of the show, then it’s hard to see a world in which those four deaths tonight are undone by anything that happens in the sideways universe. I can’t have my sideways cake and eat it too on this issue. I foresaw hard moral choices on both sides, that could undo potentially happiness but ultimately not undo death itself. Dead is dead, the show has told us. But I’m facing the moral quandary that most of these characters have experienced all along: I don’t WANT to think Jin/Sun are dead, and I’m willing to go to places that I normally wouldn’t to wish they could be alive again.
“But they are, you imbecile! In the sideways universe!” Thus screameth the epiloggers, tearing their hair out that I haven’t ceded to their viewpoint after tonight’s episode. But one thing stuck out at the end of the episode to me: the use of the word “sunk” by Smocke. He was ostensibly referring to the submarine, but in a way, I think he was talking about the Island. Almost as if he could sense that piece of the sideways puzzle coming into place. And if the sideways world is still a Smocke construction (which I think it is), then it’s a place of evil. It’s not evil in the traditional hellfire-and-brimstone way of EVIL, but evil in terms of its origin, couched in the mundane of everyday, with its highs and lows and loves and losses. (Especially losses: we operated under the assumption Locke had it relatively good in the sideways world, only to learn he’s more crippled by guilt than anything else.)
But if Jack still needs to be on the Island, and he’s working under the operating orders of John Locke, and John Locke is the candidate, then not only does Jack need the Island to not sink, but humanity needs it as well. It only ends once. We’re still progressing. Ever nearer. But not there yet. (OK, I guess I DID have a lot to say, emotionally exhausted as I am.)
42) Random Thoughts
Anyone else notice Terry O’Quinn soaking wet by the submarine, then scream out, “The Man from Tallahassee!!!” Just me then? OK.
In a season FULL of echoes to scenes, locations, interactions, and phrases, this one might have taken the cake. References to “Orientation,” “Raised by Another,” “Cabin Fever,” “316,” and about a dozen others abounded. Rather than seem cheesy, they almost emphasized a discreet number of ways these particular players can interaction, almost like signals that reference and amplify each other. (And if you think Bernard didn’t know what Jack was looking for the second he walked in, well, you are crazy. I bet he and Rose have been “awake” since “LA X.”)
Sawyer fans: Yeah, you can’t be liking the way the show’s treated him since “Recon.” But you’re probably happier than Ben fans, who are wondering if the show’s forgotten all about him. And Miles. (At least Richard got a shout-out tonight.)
Lapidus’ death: I got nothing. I get that not every character has have an operatic death, but I guess having him sandwiched in between three gutwrenching deaths sold him out a bit.
What will happen should Sideways Sawyer find Sideways Cooper?
Everything in “The Substitute” about Locke’s father attending the wedding is now 108 times sadder.
The people firing on the sub: I looked hard, but couldn’t tell if those were the Others or more of Widmore’s goons. I stopped trying to figure it out, because you can take Widmore’s actions down any path you like and justify it to your own interpretation at this point. Either Smocke told The Others in the wake of the mortar attack to wait for him by the sub, or Widmore’s goons just took their sweet time in opening fire. Only a few hours to go. The show will tell us. I’m fine with waiting.
108) Final Thoughts
I’m sure this episode is going to produce a visceral reaction. This episode meant BUSINESS, and started the long, dark path into what hopefully is something approximating light. Once again, The Man in Black proved a master at the long con, outwitting Sawyer and everyone else in an attempt to re
move the candidates once and for all. Without Sayid’s actions, Smocke would have succeeded, but even so, the damage was largely done. And it was self-inflicted.
So that means while the sideways world might yet be prevented/merged, it will still yield something without a few of our beloved characters. Yes, we knew there would be death, but it still didn’t make anything we saw tonight any easier. I never in a million years thought they would kill Sun, and right about now, I’m worried that Aaron might never see his mother again either. No one is safe. But that’s not a reason to give into despair. And it’s not a reason to wish for them to come back. That’s what The Man in Black counts on. It’s how he manipulated people into creating their own undoing. They are gone, no matter how much alive they seem to be in the sideways world. They are not coming back. What’s left is not to fight for them to once again live, but to ensure that what they did never dies.
Devastated? Heartbroken? Angry? Betrayed? How are you feeling right now, “Lost” fans? Share your thoughts below.
Ryan writes about “Lost” over at Zap2it’s Guide to Lost. He invites you to join the hundreds already in Zap2It’s Guide to Lost Facebook group. He also encourages you to subscribe to the Zap2It’s Guide to Lost Twitter feed and Zap2it’s main feed for all the latest TV, movie and celebrity news.
Photo credit: ABC