"Nice to meet you... or to see you again." -- Desmond, to Jack.

Exactly. Which is it? As Season Six starts, are we catching up with our old friends, or meeting new (and improved?) versions of them?

To the dismay of some fans, the first two hours of the final season didn't answer as many things as were hoped for, and didn't use Juliet's act of detonating the bomb to nicely and conveniently snap everything into one tidy storyline.

If anything, we went from following two storylines in two time periods (1977, 2007), to... following THREE storylines in two time periods (2004, 2007). Who would have known that the Carlos Castaneda title 12-year-old Ben once handed to Sayid, A Separate Reality, would be a perfect description of the start of this season? And how clever of the producers to have put a "split" between the letters in "LA X" in the episode's title (had been wondering what that was about). But stay with me, because I'll try to make the case that this is better, that our patience will be rewarded, that the show gave us plenty of answers, a few more good questions, and lots of clues.

Let's take a storyline-by-storyline look into what we saw...

SEPTEMBER 22, 2004

Oceanic 815 is flying over the Pacific, and Jack is looking out the window, just as before. And just as before, Cindy the flight attendant has a conversation with him about his drink.

It looks like the bomb trick really might have worked, because this scene appears just as you would expect to see it play out after so many episodes of listening to Faraday talk about constants and variables: most of the things are the same - the big things (815 in the air, mostly same passengers on board, Seth Norris is the pilot, they're going to land at LAX as scheduled) are all there, but several of the details - the variables - are just slightly different. Let's examine them as related to the characters:

Jack: He's still a spinal surgeon, still works at the same hospital, still flying his father's body home. But he's not had too much to drink, he actually appears rather lucid, and proves capable of helping in an emergency. As he looks out the window, does it look like he's either having deja vu, or memories of being at the Swan site for the explosion and now wondering how he's back here? He goes to the bathroom to check a spot of blood on the left side of his neck. Oceanic has lost his father - they don't know where he is, other than that he was never loaded onto the plane.

Something that struck me as odd in both our original story and in this new one is the timing of his father's funeral. Here, it's supposed to be two hours after the plane has landed. That's a bit rushed isn't it? Doesn't much allow for late arrival or anything. In the Oceanic Six timeline, the memorial service wasn't held until 10 months after Christian died (7 months after the O6 returned). Which always struck me as way too much time to have waited, considering how badly Jack berated the Sydney Oceanic rep that, "I just need this to be over." Which brings up another thing about new-timeline Jack - sure, he's frustrated that Oceanic lost his dad, but he's not the emotional wreck that he was in our original timeline.

This Jack is also receptive to conversations from strangers about his business, and comments about afterlife/faith, such as Locke's mention that Oceanic didn't lose his father - who knows where his father's eternal soul and persona are? - just his body. Original Jack might have rolled his eyes or offered a snappy comment about his bad ol' dad or this rude stranger. One other difference: he mentions that his father died in Sydney, and he flew down there to retrieve the body. In our original timeline, Jack went down there to retrieve his living father, only to find out he had died while there. This Jack also has a very interesting new phrase to use: "Nothing's irreversible." Somewhere, he became a believer in the power of change - something this show has always been about, even though it had to take detours to probe the question of just how much change is possible, both on personal and past-present-future levels. Jack wears this new motto well. Though it's comparable in some ways to his old cocky need to "fix," everything, it's a different permutation. Here, he knows his skill as a surgeon, but isn't obnoxious about it, and the things he can fix are not about him. Here, it's about Locke. If he'd like a consult, then Jack will be happy to see what he can do for him.

Locke: Still in a wheelchair, but not embarrassed or full of self-pity about it. I want to believe he got to go on his Walkabout, like he tells Boone (he sounds so honest), although that brings into question why he is then on 815. The reason he was on this flight the first time is because he was not allowed to go on the Walkabout. So if he did go on it, shouldn't he be on a different return flight about 10 days into the future? Locke is genial, and confident. So much so that - knowing that Katey Sagal has signed to return to the show - I wondered if Locke might be married to Helen. I checked his hand - no ring. Bummer.

Hurley: Instead of cursed, Hurley is now doing what Jacob once suggested, and looking at everything in his life as luck or a blessing instead, even calling himself "the luckiest guy in the world," which only makes him more confident, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of owning one Mr. Cluck's franchise, he now owns the company, and has gone global. Good to hear the "Have a cluckety-cluck-cluck-day" line again, in a bad Aussie accent this time.

Arzt: Still annoying, bugging Hurley to "say the line," but far less so. Holds a book or card with pictures of scorpions and ticks on it, so is still fascinated with bugs.

Sawyer: Whatever happened to him in Australia, it wasn't an accidental killing which he's regretting. He grins from ear-to-ear most of the episode, though he still makes it his business to pick up on everything that's happening around him (Hurley having money, Kate being in cuffs). He truly looks like a "confidence man," even helping a pretty girl escape airport security. The tortured past and present are - if they exist - not obvious on his face in the least.

Kate: Not much different in her character or storyline yet from what we can tell. Still running, still pulling guns, still telling lies, still "a murderer" (though there is rampant speculation that it wasn't her father she killed in this bizzaro timeline). We'll have to wait and learn more about her.

Sun and Jin: Biggest revelation to me was that they're not married (did you catch that?). Not only is she not wearing a ring, and wistfully talking about how happy Bernard and Rose look together, but when Customs hauls Jin away, they address her as "Miss Paik" instead of "Mrs. Kwon." This small fact of not being married doesn't stop Jin from telling her to button up that top button, though, one of the many things that made us roll our eyes at him in the first season. He's still flying for the purpose of delivering the watch, and still works for Paik Industries, but he's got some heavy cash in his suitcase. Does Sun understand English? The question put to her from the Customs agent about if she does, now would be a good time to say so, is meant to parallel the original storyline, but here, I don't think she does. Not having married Jin, she probably hasn't had reason or desire to learn yet. Why is she traveling with him? Perhaps as an emissary of her father's company? Not sure yet.

Charlie: He's wearing the ring, and he's got drugs. Was he attempting to hide them by swallowing them, or was it a suicide attempt? All we know is that he tells Jack he shouldn't have saved him because he's "supposed to die." We know that's a big part of the Charlie storyline originally, but he sure has accepted this fate - if it is indeed still his fate - a lot earlier in this timeline than he did in the old one. He's one of the few characters that looks LOST on this new 815.

Boone: I like the way the show covered for Maggie Grace being unwilling to return as Shannon. It's just a part of Boone's story. He did go to get her out of a relationship, she probably conned him, but it didn't eat him up. He's able to leave her behind, something which took one heck of a drug-induced vision quest from Locke the first time around for him to realize.

Rose and Bernard: If she has cancer, they're not acting like it. Perhaps she's still living under the lie she told Bernard about having been healed at Ayers Rock, and he's giddy about it. Only thing we know for sure is they're happy, and they aren't bickering.

Sayid: SOMETHING is definitely different in this new timeframe if Iraqi passengers are not only not looked at suspiciously, but are trusted to help during in-flight emergencies by kicking in doors and holding air bags over passengers' mouths. Sayid has no qualms about anything weird happening when he asks if he can be of assistance. Sayid does carry a photo of Nadia, but it's different than his old one. Here, Nadia looks like a college student. Perhaps Sayid is flying to visit her.

Cindy: Good to see her with lots to do again.

The Pen: Ha! I laughed when Jack was looking for a pen as he tried to get Charlie breathing. Direct parallel to Boone wanting to find a pen to shove into Rose's trachea the first day on the island, the original 9/22/04. Jack can't find his pen because Kate, when bumping into him outside the bathroom, plucked it from his pocket to use in her eventual escape attempt.

Frogurt: Frogurt lives! And he didn't appreciate Kate trying to steal his cab when "there's a line!" Reminds me of how the Others once told the 815ers, "there's a line."

Claire: We only see her for a second in the taxi Kate commandeers, and of course, her belly is hidden. So we don't even know for certain she's pregnant.

Desmond: As always, he's our wildcard. Is he really there? Jack is the only one who actually interacts with him. Rose and Bernard didn't see him... but was it because they were sleeping, or because he wasn't truly there? When Cindy goes to find a doctor on board and comes to Jack, she doesn't seem to notice anyone in the aisle seat. But from Jack's perspective, he squeezes out past Desmond.

We have no "first-time-around" comparison to go by with Desmond, and no reason for him being on that flight. We don't know if he's with Penny or not. All we know is he seems perfectly content, he and Jack wonder how they know each other (is this from their stadium-steps encounter in LA, though, or is it from the island?), and he's reading a book: Haroun and the Sea of Stories, by Salman Rushdie. According to Wikipedia, "It is a phantasmagorical story set in a city so old and ruinous that it has forgotten its name. Haroun and the Sea of Stories is an allegory for several problems existing in society today." Ghosts? Ancient ruins? Also interesting is a friend was just commenting to me the other day that the Others - those who dwell in the Temple and protect the island - need a better name. I mean, what do they call themselves? Have they been around so long they've "forgotten?"

Ana-Lucia, Michael, Libby, Eko: It's believed these characters ARE on the plane, we just haven't seen them yet. Walt? If Michael is with Walt, a new actor will surely have been cast in the role of the kid. But it's my guess, sadly, that the once-promising Walt storyline is truly finished, and that if Michael is indeed on the plane, it's probably because Susan never died and Michael just went to Australia for a visit.

If there's one thing most of these characters seem to have in common in this rebooted timeline it's that fear seems to be gone. Charlie is not afraid of his fate. Locke is not afraid of what people will think about his condition. Boone is not afraid to be without Shannon. Sawyer's not afraid of his past, or of getting caught. Rose and Bernard are not afraid of cancer. Sayid is not afraid of American prejudice. Even Arzt is not afraid that everyone is in an exclusionist clique - instead he's outgoing. Most of them seem changed for the better... for now.

There's one more thing to discuss in the 2004 timeline - the wildest thing of all. In this iteration of 2004, the island IS UNDERWATER. A virtual Atlantis (speaking of which, all the Atlantis and Purgatory theories from Season One? They amazingly were resurrected Tuesday night in some ways. I'm going with this being the producers smiling at us and indicating the "full-circle" nature of thematic elements, though).

So how did it happen, and when? Well, we know it happened past the crumbling of the statue, past the arrival of Dharma. We know Dharma still did come to the island, from the existence of the barracks area and the infamous Dharma-branded shark. The security pylons are in place. The obvious guess is that the island sunk as a result of the H-bomb explosion set off by Juliet in 1977... except that this makes it very hard to explain how everyone else involved in that explosion so conveniently time-flashed to 2007 to join the other Losties who were already there hanging out by the big foot. Oceanic 815 did shake and shudder as it flew over the island (is the electromagnetic anomaly exposed and active, but from so deep underwater not strong enough to pull apart the plane?). Come to think of it, why is 815 even headed over this spot? They originally only happened upon that point by accident - when their communications malfunctioned and they had to turn around to land in Fiji.

This island perhaps being blown into the sea in the blast in 1977 - but our friends being flashed out to 2007 where the island still very obviously exists - is the biggest clue that tells me right now, we're dealing with "A Separate Reality" in the form of either two versions of events - two timelines, or else varying iterations of one timeline. And something is STILL going to have to occur to resolve this.

2007 - THE TEMPLE

I want a word with the producers, who have been unnecessarily cruel. Twice this week I relived the gut-wrenching scene of Sawyer saying goodbye to Juliet when she was pulled down the hole to end Season Five. Then, they make us live through him having to say goodbye to her as she dies in his arms. Come on, man! Not fair!

Okay, that having been said, we do learn some very interesting things here:

Kinda like when Desmond - on that very spot - once turned the failsafe key, and none of him, Locke, Charlie, or Eko died from it, so too are our friends safe (fair question: all of Desmond's clothes were disintegrated last time. How come Juliet's still got hers on? ;-)). Jin, who has experienced time-flashes before, lets us know that this is probably what happened here... and I just want to quickly say that this is sheer brilliance. Nobody I knew saw this possibility coming, despite all of us knowing that the strange energy material under the island can do these things when energy is applied to it, ala turning the wheel.

The theory goes that when Juliet touched off the bomb, the resultant reaction with the electromagnetic material was a time flash. We may question the convenience of that flash putting this group into the exact day, hour, minute second as Ben, Sun, Richard, Flocke, Ilana, and Company, but that's the way it has to be. Speaking of the time flashes, did you catch how this season we have a "new sound" that plays as we switch between the scenes of 2004 and 2007? It's not the old "whoosh" sound that used to occur between Island-and-Flashback. No, now it's the sound we heard so much of in early Season Five with the time flashes. Gotta be more than a stylistic choice, dontcha think? Are our characters perhaps caught in some toggle between times, like Desmond's consciousness used to be? Perhaps instead of bleeding from the nose, they now bleed from the neck (Jack's spot? Okay, I don't really believe that one)? Is there a constant for them in both time periods (all of each other for each other?).

LIVING Juliet bemoans the fact that, "It didn't work." DYING/DEAD Juliet attempted to tell Sawyer and does say through Miles that, "It worked." So what's the deal? At what point did she gain this insight? What is it based upon? Has she had a glimpse of the alternate timeline? And maybe most importantly, will we really never see her again? I hope not. I'm not much about the characters and relationships as much as the mystery, literature, and religious overtones of this show, but I sure hope to see a version of a time where Sawyer and Juliet get a happily-ever-after. On a related note, did anyone else notice the weird not-quite-Smokey-esque-but-close sounds coming from the grave when Miles was down close to it? Kinda scared me a bit...

Juliet's line about "going for coffee" and "going Dutch" just before she dies reminded me of poor Charlotte's time-tripping brain before she died. Eventually, with Charlotte, we became privy to the story behind her "not allowed to have chocolate before dinner" line, when it was from, and that it involved Daniel. I just know that one day in some past or future timeline, Juliet Burke and James Ford are going to have a meet-cute, and decide to go out for some coffee...

Sayid - slowly bleeding out from the gunshot wound - ponders his eternal destiny. This is something the show has left open, the discussion of heaven and hell, and determining where people end up. I like this choice. They let it be beyond them to have determined, which is necessary in a show where morality and good/bad have been impossible to ascertain at times. This is also left open during the conversation Jack and Lock have about Christian in the LAX baggage complaint area.

Regarding Sayid's gunshot, when the Temple Others ask who did this, Jack takes the blame. Okay, but the real answer is Roger Linus shot Sayid 30 years in the past. And that got me to thinking:

  • Sayid shoots Ben in 1977. Ben is saved by being taken to the temple, probably for the same reverse-baptismal sequence we see Sayid undergo.
  • Ben twists Sayid in 2005-06 into being a shooter for him. They kill many people.
  • Sayid is shot by Ben's father in 1977. Sayid is taken to the temple dying from this wound in 2007. And the endless-time-loop link of killing and being killed between the Linus-Jarrah tandem dances on into eternity. When Ben was saved in this method, Richard told Kate and Sawyer that Ben would then "always be one of us." Is that same thing true for Sayid now?

Jacob was right when he told Hurley outside of jail on the mainland in 2007 that his "curse" of being able to talk to dead people - which we had to wonder if it was real or in his head - was actually a blessing. And here we see one of Jacob's purposes for Hugo. Jacob was killed about an hour ago, and now appears to Hurley. He gives him the mission the episode centers around: get Sayid to the temple. But don't go through the front doors, go through the tunnels. Okay, not sure why that was necessary... unless it was to discover the one-armed remains of Montand, and in particular, one book he had with him...

Montand, in 1988, before Smokey got him (what? his French buddies who went down the hole after him never carried him out? What really happened down there?), was carrying a copy of Søren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling. The title is taken from a Bible verse, Philippians 2:12, which says, "Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling." Very LOST-y. Also interesting to note that, by contrast, there is now by and large a lack of fear-driven emotions and expressions among the new-2004 815 passengers. So is this a good or a bad thing? Kierkegaard's book looks at the Abraham-sacrificing-Isaac story, one which has previously been discussed on LOST (remember Desmond's time as a monk? He and Brother Campbell discussed this). Now, check this quote from Wikipedia and see if you can ignore the LOST parallels:

"In Fear and Trembling Kierkegaard introduces the 'Knight of Faith' and contrasts him with the 'knight of infinite resignation.' The latter gives up everything in return for the infinite, that which he may receive after this life, and continuously dwells with the pain of his loss. The former, however, not only relinquishes everything, but also trusts that he will receive it all back, his trust based on the "strength of the absurd". For Kierkegaard, infinite resignation is easy, but faith is founded in the belief in the absurd. The absurd is that which is contradictory to reason itself. For Abraham, this faith in the absurd manifests itself in Abraham's belief that he would kill his only son but he would nevertheless receive him again in his lifetime."

A man of faith and a man of being resigned to circumstance? Sacrifice? Lifetime or after-lifetime? Absurdity vs. Reason? And don't forget that Abraham and Isaac are the grandfather and father of... Jacob. With every literary reference, we get another step closer to knowing what the show is all about: the human condition, the attempts to explain it, the ways a plane crash story can illustrate it, and the possibility of where the Truth can be found.

We finally see the Temple. It's pyramidic, but surprisingly not in an Egyptian way at all. It looks more like a Mayan temple built into a Chinese garden. All the cultures and languages and historical time periods represented on the island are either really confusing... or really evident of a conglomeration of all humanity and time.

Why, in Season Five, did LOST go to the trouble of telling us that Latin is the language of both the enlightened and the Others... only to have the Temple Others not use it?

Cindy is at the Temple, as are Zach and Emma - the kids who were kidnapped from the tail section. We'd long known there was a group of Others living at the temple. Cindy makes one comment that caught my ears. She identifies these people as 815ers: "They were on the first plane, with me." The FIRST plane? Seems like word of the Ajira crash on Hydra Island (just a day or two ago in real time) has reached the Temple.

Hurley keeps his friends from being killed by invoking the name of Jacob. And we finally find out what's in the guitar case. A giant ankh. We've seen these Egyptian fertility symbols before. Amy - the Dharma woman who married Horace and birthed Ethan - kept one that used to belong to her ex-husband. The statue of Taweret used to carry one in each hand. So who else thought when we saw this that it somehow meant female fertility was being restored to the island! Only to have Bruce Lee go all karate on it just to discover it was the world's most unnecessarily-elaborate ENVELOPE. He pulls out a secret message saying, as far as we're privy to, that if Sayid dies they're all in a lot of trouble. Okay, so did Sayid die? Or does it not count since he rises again? What's your take?

Once Sayid has "died," Hurley tells him he's there if he ever wants to talk (love it), while Miles has a reaction I can't quite place. Either he's confused because he's not getting any readings from Sayid's body (is this because Sayid's not "all dead," just "mostly dead?" Where's Miracle Max when you need him? And speaking of Billy Crystal movies, I couldn't help thinking of Forget Paris with the lost-coffin plot)... or else he IS getting some feedback from Dead Sayid and he's mega-confused about what it means, as in he's never seen anything like this before.

The pool isn't clear. This must have just happened, as the Others comment upon it. The apparent and most obvious cause is Jacob's death. This is why I believe later when Hurley tells the Priest that "Jacob's dead," they don't even question it, they don't raise their eyebrows, they don't berate him for speaking blasphemy. No, they take it as truth immediately. The discolored pool was just the first clue.

Every religious building I've been in with a pool has involved the ritual of baptism, in which a person is laid on their back, dunked under briefly, and raised again to symbolic new life. In the Others' pool, however, a person still-living-but-near death is placed in face-down, held under for a predetermined amount of time (the hourglass), and brought up, apparently dead. When they inform everyone that Sayid "is dead," it was my take that this is expected, this is what's supposed to happen. Then we leave him for a little while to let whatever it is the pool does take effect. But as we know from Ben, the person who is saved is also somehow changed, and the implication thus far in the series is that this change is not necessarily for the better. Here again they warn us that there could be "risks," but do we wish to proceed anyway?

Great line by Sawyer: We got caught by the Others again?
Kate: Yeah, only this time they're protecting us.
This time. Yet again, we circle back around with just some details changed.

Jack, like the new-2004 version of Jack we looked at above, can admit it and live with it when he can't "fix" Sayid. Raise your hand if you thought we were getting ready to see another "Jack won't give up until he literally punches the life back into Charlie" type scene with Jack and with Kate kneeling next to him by Sayid's body? My hand's up. But no. This Jack was able to let it go. Which in turn let the real miracle happen...

Once the Others learn that Jacob is dead, they go to full Defcon-5. Everyone to their posts, send up the flare, barricade the temple, pour the ash!

Why all the precaution? As the hippie-looking Other tells Hurley, it's "To keep HIM out!" So who's him? Well, we still don't know him by name, but we'll examine that immediately below. One thing I want to say though is that this ambiguous pronoun "him" has been used several ways on this show, including the time Kate had a dream of Claire telling her not to dare "bring him back." We assumed she was talking of Aaron, as she was standing over him. Did she mean someone else? Did she mean not to bring someone back from the dead? Was it yet another association of Aaron as possibly some child of evil spoken of in prophecy? One thing is sure, there are several identities on this show for which LOST has its reasons for keeping them from us (Libby's last name, anyone?). So let's look at what we do know...

2007 - THE STATUE

Okay, so Who is The Man in Black / Smokey?

  • Jacob told Hurley he's "An Old Friend who grew tired of my company." (Kinda like how Lucifer was a favored angel until he tired of worship?)
  • He's gone through quite a lot to be there, ever since he found his loophole.
  • He's "not a what, I'm a who." (I spent some time in my past recaps looking at what role this question of identity has played in the show, and how often knowing "what" someone is superceded "who" someone is. But Smokey rejects that form of identification, probably because he views himself as not defined by his function or actions, but by a status or title).
  • When Bram's unit comes in, I find a discrepancy. They know enough about this entity to use ash to defend themselves, but they don't know his name, asking, "Who are you?" If they know about one, and if they know Jacob so intimately, mightn't they know the other answer, or at least have a pretty good clue?
  • Smokey offers "Good News" to Bram's group. If they were Jacob's bodyguards, they are now set "free"! ("good news" (i.e. gospel) and "set free" generally being the domain of the Christ figure, unless of course the concepts are being twisted)
  • Bullets pass through him. Even so, Richard is very adamant that nobody shoot this Locke-looking-entity. Does that just make him mad? Sure seems like it!
  • He's cunning. He can't get directly to Bram in his circle of ash, so he causes some debris to fall on him and push him outside it.
  • He's sorry Ben had to see him like that. But... Ben's seen him like that before, even if it didn't involve crushing people.
  • Ben calls him "the monster," he says "let's not resort to name calling," as if he could just as easily flip that term on Ben.
  • He says the one thing that made Locke - who was otherwise pathetic and "irreperably broken" - special is that "he was the only one who realized how pitiful the life he left behind actually was." (To be fair, this is a statement that, depending on context and tone, could be interpreted as coming from a deity like God or his nemesis like Satan).
  • He wants the one thing John Locke didn't -- to go home. Where is home? It's obviously not on the island. Might it be the bizarro 2004 universe? Or is that too weird?
  • He is "very disappointed... in all of you!" Again... is this a God statement, towards people who followed a false god and went their own way? Or is it a Devil statement, towards people who assumed one deity was more powerful than another and who acted like sheep in blindly following without seeing?

There have been "Angel of Death / Shadow of Death" analogies to this mysterious presence ever since "The 23rd Psalm" episode with Mr. Eko. We also know he has some kind of association with Anubis, an underworld god of the Egyptians (we know this from the mural Ben discovered beneath the Temple wall). We still don't know why this entity lets some live and some die (perhaps it knows of purposes to yet be fulfilled, which is why it let Locke and Juliet live?). The menacing nature, the plot to kill, and the fact he tires of humans and how predictable they are, lead one to think he is a most convenient Devil metaphor, even if a Paradise Lost-ish sympathetic one.

Who is Jacob?

  • Jacob's body disappeared, having burned up in the flame (or did it "pass through the fire"?).
  • Jacob did not fight back (this bugs Ben. But it suggests a willful death, a surrender or sacrifice)
  • Jacob was betrayed by a former follower
  • Ben seriously doubts that Jacob was "ever confused." Is this because Jacob is brilliant and godly? Or is it because he is the "author of confusion," he who confuses others, i.e. Satan?
  • When he said "They're coming," he was probably referring more to the people he "touched" off-island (Hurley, Kate, Sayid, Jack, Sawyer, Sun and Jin). They were somehow marked by destiny to be there for his purposes (such as Hurley with the guitar case).
  • Is Sayid now Jacob? Is this why Jacob told Hurley to take Sayid to the Temple? Is Jacob in Sayid's body? Is he using it? I want to argue no, because we already know Smokey is not possessing Locke's body, just taking the same form. But then is Jacob truly gone? Or will he rise again?

There are definite Christological parallels with Jacob. Among them: probably having a bigger, better plan for victory than the one who schemed just to conquer you, being betrayed, not fighting back, having power to heal, having devoted followers, only being revealed at the proper time, and more.

Who is Richard?

  • Only now, once Fake-Locke comes out of the foot, does Richard look into his eyes and recognize him for who he really is. "You!" Richard seems genuinely surprised, as if it's been a while or as if he never expected this entity to be here. Why not? We know Smokey's been all over the island. It's confirmed for Richard when the Temple sets off the warning flare that "Him" is on the move.
  • Richard has previously explained that he is the way he is (ageless) "because of Jacob." So it only follows that he became a follower of Jacob.
  • Smokey tells Richard it's "good to see you out of your chains." For the first time ever, Richard appears worried. Even guns to his head have never caused him to break a sweat before.
  • It's long been suspected that Richard perhaps arrived on the Black Rock. It also always struck me as odd that on the Black Rock, there was still a body left in chains inside. I mean, who would have left someone like that? Whether the person was free or slave, good or bad, dead or alive upon arriving to the island, why didn't the survivors either let him out, or bury him? One possible answer is because whoever was chained up there was not a slave, but a very dangerous and bad person. Is that what Richard was? Either way, I'm operating under the assumption that his is the body in chains inside The Black Rock.

Why is Ben STILL lying? When sent outside to summon Richard to Smokey, he says that Jacob is fine. Why lie? Can he just not stop? Is it his way of remaining in control?

Regarding the Ash Circles, in my final recap for Season Five, regarding the scene where Ilana and Bram visit the cabin, I wrote:

Frank is freaked about what's in the box (there's the box theme again, and you have to love how Desmond's old nickname for Locke of "box man" has come full-circle). Bram assures him that he has to show the contents to a group of people so they'll know that what they're up against "is a hell of a lot scarier than what's in this box." Amen. Bram points out that the line of ash is broken around the cabin. This is obviously significant. And Ilana approaches the cabin armed - not something she would do if Jacob were legitimately inside. They find on the wall a tapestry pinned there with a knife, showing the statue. Here's my interpretation of this scene: Bram and Ilana are Jacobites. They stopped here first to see if their enemy was still imprisoned in the cabin. The broken ash line let him out [who did it? Claire & Christian?], and once inside, this is confirmed. The enemy left the pic of the statue as a message, i.e. "you know where to find me." The time Locke visited the cabin and saw the man in the chair (who looks nothing like the Jacob we've now seen) and heard him say "Help me," it was probably the Enemy, who had been imprisoned here, somehow locked up and kept there with the ash circle. [When Hurley visited the cabin and saw Christian in the chair, and a scary eye in the window, this strikes me as The Enemy as well, giving instructions to Christian, perhaps to get Claire to break the ash circle]. The other possibility is that this really is where Jacob used to reside, but "he hasn't been here in a long time," and "someone else has been using it" (that someone else being the Nemesis / Christian / Smokey. In this case, it's still pretty clear, though, that possibly the person saying "Help me," and clearly the Christian/Claire duo - were NOT Jacob. Locke was getting his instructions from the guy whose whole plan is to be using his likeness right now.

And again, it would seem that Smokey is the one who can't penetrate the ash. But if he was imprisoned in the cabin, how did we see him so many times around the island? Who was really imprisoned and/or protected in the cabin?

I want to keep an open mind about this, because several LOST bloggers whose opinions I respect have toyed with the idea that we're going to get a switcheroo pulled on us, and that the Man in Black is really the "good" guy (I can even force myself to see the possibility in how he has been "disappointed" by everyone, and how sympathetically he talks of John Locke, and how Locke was the only one who realized he wanted to lose his life to gain his soul), and Jacob is the "bad" guy. Or that perhaps both are bad, having "used" humans and robbed them of free will at times to prove their own points and play their own little game? Like I said, I'm leaving my brain open if things start to slide this way, but right now, the God-and-Devil symbolism with respect to Jacob and his Nemesis is just too strong for me to ignore. That said, we know Jacob's followers, Ilana's group, have been recruited personally by Jacob, and probably even told to be on 316. But as Lapidus tells Sun, "They say they're the good guys... I'm not buyin' it either." So once again, you just never know.

And for now, that's where we have to patiently be satisfied to leave it until next week. More answers ARE coming. Soon enough, we won't have anything left to ask, as this show will end its run. For now, I can wait as they continue to leave me with impossible debates and unanswerable questions.

The Numbers: Not a lot of instances (saw and heard referenced a couple of "4s," but nothing that really stood out). Have they finally been left behind? Are they still applicable?

Deaths: Juliet, due to injuries; Bram and 3-4 of his soldiers, via Smokey Power; Sayid???

New Questions Raised

  • What's with the spot of blood Jack checks in the mirror while on 815?
  • What do the Others need to speak privately with Jack about?
  • Did it work, or didn't it work? Which timeline / version of events contains the reality?
  • Was Desmond really on the rebooted 815?
  • Where is Christian Shepard's body/coffin? Did Oceanic just misplace it, or is there a more sinister or mysterious explanation?

(TO BE UPDATED SHORTLY: The Complete List of Questions from the series so far, which ones have been answered, which still open, etc. We'll revise it each week after each successive episode.)