All season there has been a theme of nostalgia as we’ve revisited people, places and scenarios we have seen before; drawing on previous seasons to evoke in us a fondness for the show’s history coupled with a sadness for it’s passing. This season has also been character driven; keeping the ‘centricity’ of individual characters for individual episodes. There was no space for either of those hallmarks in ‘The Last Recruit’. In fact, if we are to compare ‘The Last Recruit’ to previous episodes then it is most similar to the penultimate episodes of seasons 4 & 5; ‘There’s No Place Like Home – Part 1’ and ‘Follow the Leader’ – both of which were as equally concerned as this one with accelerating towards the season’s climax at the expense of character arcs and straight out mythology. They are necessary episodes in the pacing of the season – a counterweight to the slower episodes – but certainly not LOST at its imperious best. And considering we have to wait 14 days for another episode I thought we could have been left with a juicier cliffhanger. Never mind. A lot of things happened in ‘The Last Recruit’ yet I find myself wanting to talk about only a few them. Because of the sheer amount of all that took place, this episode cannot be considered ‘filler’. It was more like an episode in fast forward – all plot development and movement but few memorable moments – but at those moments there were we shall hit the pause button to stop and consider.
The man who coined ‘Live together, die alone” seems only too happy to have a one-to-one with the ‘evil incarnate’ Smoke Monster posing as Locke. And it is the form of Locke that most troubles Jack as he heads straight to the question we all want to know; who else has he appeared like? Locke confirms that he was the ‘Christian Shepherd’ that appeared in ‘White Rabbit’. I believed him – he knew about leading him to the water. Later in the episode we hear from Claire that she knows that Smokey was pretending to be Christian to her as well. This probably means that this is going to be the explanation for all the Christian Shepherd appearances – though that does not seem to be consistent with him appearing to Michael in season 4 (that was on the boat and Smokey apparently can’t cross water) and Sun & Lapidus last year (Ben was with Locke at the same time as Christian appeared to them). Perhaps there is still a question mark over these appearances, as there was with Ghost Michael’s last week, but I now think we are getting the explanations that are going to stick. And I’m cool with that.
Claire follows them into the jungle in order that they may have their Luke/Leia moment. Kind of weird. Then Claire repeats an idea that we first heard from Dogen regarding Locke (and from MIB regarding Jacob); once they are talking, they have you. These Saruman-esque powers are apparently irresistible – their very words containing a hypnotic quality that will subvert your own sense of reason.
In the Sideways the story line the most interesting thing this episode by far was Sun’s recognition of Locke and, seemingly, his identity as the Man in Black. How did the revelation come about? Is it linked to love? If so, then why has Jin had no similar revelation? It is more likely that the trauma of the gunshot brought her closer to the truth as did Charlie and Desmond’s near death experiences. Does this give traction to the idea that Desmond running over John was simply to give him the trauma he needs to see the light? Well, Sun didn’t seem so sure this was John Locke at all.
“You can always bring people back from the dark side. I mean, Anakin…”
Back on the Island Zoe visits Locke’s camp in the least intimidating fashion possible. Locke doesn’t even blink at her requests. (As soon as she appeared I was longing for him to go into Smokey mode and smash her against the trees). The war has officially started, the first shots have been fired and Locke hands out the tasks – Sawyer to get the boat and Sayid to kill Desmond. Sawyer then informs Jack of his escape plan (later revealed to be as bad and ill thought out as we all thought it was). Sayid is reminded of the bargain he made with Locke and treks out to the well; ready to fulfil his evil instructions. The following conversation between Sayid and Desmond is one of the few in this episode that gripped me in the same way the rest of the season has. Desmond directly challenges Sayid’s “dark side” – is getting what you want worth killing me for? Sayid effectively says ‘yes’. Then Des counteracts with an intriguing possibility – in the act of killing him will he spoil the very thing he desires most, Nadia’s love? Time and again in the series we’ve seen Sayid regret many of the things he has done – and boy, does he have some things to regret. In the Sideways timeline we see that these acts are the things that separate him from Nadia; he doesn’t deserve her – perhaps in the Island timeline, under a Karmic worldview, those evil deeds are what has separated him from Nadia his whole life. They were childhood friends who lost touch. Then when they next met he was an Iraqi Republican soldier, she was an insurgent. They spent a decade apart until the Oceanic 6 returned from the Island. Then they were together mere months before death separated them, seemingly forever. Killing Desmond will not bring Nadia closer to him, it will only drive a bigger cosmic wedge between him and his true love. It appears more likely that Karma, (or the Universe, or the Gods, or the Island) have ordained that he will never find love. Those he loves will die in his arms. And he will watch them die as he has watched so many of his victims perish.
So what did Sayid do? Did he kill Des as he claims to Locke? No way. For two clear reasons. Firstly, I cannot believe the writers would let Desmond die ‘off camera’. We are too invested in this character to just accept that he is dead and not even get to see him die. Secondly, Sayid would not ‘need a moment’ after killing him. Definitely not. Especially if he is totally emotionless and surrendered to the ‘dark side’. One other interesting thing to note is that Sayid was all set to kill Desmond until he let him speak. We keep seeing that Desmond’s actions in the Sideways world are very reminiscent of Jacob’s visits to the Losties in ‘The Incident’. A little nudge here. An encouragement there. Coincidental meetings and chance occurrences. Now it seems on the Island that Des’s words have the power to change minds too. His enlightened state helps him to see the truth; that perhaps there is good in Sayid. If we saw their conversation carry on, you can almost imagine Desmond telling Sayid that he “doesn’t have to do this” and that he “has a choice”. All very Jacob-like.
The final conversation that grabbed my attention was the confrontation between Jack and Sawyer on the boat. It was in season 4 when Jack was determined to leave the Island and Sawyer accused him of sounding like a ‘broken record’; repeating his promise to rescue everyone so often that he became increasingly frustrating to watch. Even though we knew he was one of the Oceanic 6 and would leave the Island we were desperate from him not to; desperate for him to listen to Locke. Last season we saw how much he had changed as he spoke to Locke’s corpse whilst putting his Father’s shoes on the body. At that point he was trying his hardest to believe. Today he does believe. It was so satisfying hearing him tell Sawyer:
“It doesn’t feel right… leaving the Island… I remember how I felt the last time I left. Like a part of me was missing…. We were brought here because we were supposed to do something James”.
That felt great didn’t it? I loved the way Jack calls him ‘James’ as well; just as John Locke used to. And also it was good for him to apologise for Juliet’s death. He is now owning the things he can’t fix. His training as a Jedi is almost complete. There is just one more task. Without doubt the finale will be about the thing they’re ‘supposed to do’. Who will sign up for the last mission? Who will trek into the jungle one final time to do something that none of them quite understand? I think at some point Jack will have a choice to make – be the ‘Man of Faith’ and do the thing he is on the Island to do or stay and be the ‘Man of Science’. If I had to guess how that choice will be presented I would say that at some point, near the end Kate will be wounded, probably shot, and Jack can either stay and ‘fix’ her or let go and do what he is there to do; reverse the irreversible. But that is just my guess of course.
The long awaited reunion between Jin and Sun was sweet and precious. But like everything else in this episode it happened quickly. Who else thought they were going to be zapped by the sonic-weapon-pylons? Widmore is, unsurprisingly, not a man of his word. They all seem to have forgotten that Widmore was prepared to kill everyone on the Island, including all of them, just to get his hands on Ben Linus. Maybe Jack should be making the plans after all, eh Sawyer?
Next week’s (or the week after actually) episode looks set to centre around Jack and Locke. Perhaps it’s the last ‘centric’ episode we’ll ever get. Locke just saved Jack’s life and in the Sideways Jack is going to attempt to repay the favour. It is all set for a classic episode exploring the complex friend/enemy – ally/adversary relationship they have. They have always represented the greatest opposites within our original characters. Faith and science. Free will and destiny. Black and white. I hope they can some how be reconciled in one world or the other. Or both. If not then it may well be ‘Live together, die alone’.
Soooo, who is most likely to die in the next episode. No-one died in ‘The Last Recruit’ (well maybe Desmond but I seriously doubt it) so after this installment who is looking likely to go next time round….
Zoe (I hope)
Claire (Does anyone actually want her to be reunited with Aaron now?)
Sayid (If he does turn from the dark side and redeems himself then his arc will be complete)
All comments appreciated (except spoilers and criticisms of my shocking grammar) – you may well want to discuss why Sun has got her English back and whether or not it was Locke that took it in the first place… or what will happen when Sideways Claire and Sideways Jack finally get to listen to Christian’s will… or whether or not Ilana has any Island world knowledge in the Sideways… or not.