It started off so simply, and I don't mean that in a good way. Charles Widmore's goons pointed guns at Team Sawyer for the 27th time. The group went into the Hydra Island cages -- site of the most unpleasant plotline in Lost history. Fake Locke plotted for destruction. Sun and Jin made small talk (in English) about their baby. Kate, Lapedus and Hurley remained in the background. Pretty pedestrian stuff -- considering, you know, that this series is ending in 19 days and all.
Then the sub happened. And a Lost classic was born.
This entire sometimes-fascinating, often-frustrating season has been built around one philosophical debate: In the epic face-off between Jacob and the Man in Black (i.e., Fake Locke), who is truly evil? Thus far, Fake Locke has made a compelling case for wanting to help the castaways leave the island, but can he be trusted? Or is he simply following up on his 19th century promise to Jacob -- that he'll kill every single contender to Jacob's throne? (Ok, that's three questions, but you catch my drift.) Give credit to actor Terry O'Quinn for crafting these dualities so brilliantly. If he ends up guest-starring on 30 Rock next season, I'll be shattered.
I always thought the answer would come in the series finale, but now it appears evident that, yes, Fake Locke was employing the long con. The first red herring in this edition started when he convinced the newly reunited group -- which included five of Jacob's candidates -- to ditch the intricate escape-via-plane route. He claimed Widmore had rigged the aircraft with dynamite. Plan B: Use Widmore's submarine. All they had to do was kill his henchmen and take off into the abyss.
Which leads me to my weekly head-scratchers: There weren't any electrical pylons surrounding the sub. Which means that Fake Locke could have activated his powers and easily killed Widmore's guys on the sub, a la that cool neck-snapping move he did getting onto that plane. So why were the castaways so amenable to doing the wet-work themselves? What's more, it's perplexing that the group (minus Sawyer) was so quick to believe Fake Locke that Widmore wanted them dead.
Whatever the fuzzy logic, everyone -- except for Claire and Fake Locke -- managed to get on that sub. Since this just the first episode of May sweeps, it was obvious that these guys weren't going to end up at the marina near LAX. That said, nobody could have predicted that the vessel would turn out to be a watery graveyard for half the cast.
You see, even though Jack insisted that he was going to stay on the island, Fake Locke knew that his friends would not have it. On a deeper level, he also surely suspected that Jack would not be able to turn his back on his friends. (This theme neatly tied into the flash-sideways, in which Jack went to extreme lengths to fix his paralyzed patient Mr. Locke -- to no avail.) Perhaps Fake Locke also suspected that somebody -- in this case, Kate -- would get shot in the gun warfare with Widmore's guys. Which is how Jack came to open up his backpack to look for medical supplies and found a bomb ready to go off in less that four minutes. Now, maybe Jack Bauer could have defused that sucker without so much as an elevated heart rate, but Jack Shepherd... not so much. In fact, instead of diffusing it, he begged the group just to let the clock tick down to zero, reasoning that Fake Locke was incapable of killing them. Translation: The island wanted them to live. But Sawyer, likely still smarting over Jack's ill-fated decision to detonate Jarhead, refused to listen. He pulled out a few cords, which only sped up the timer.
What happened next was both shocking and maddening. Sayid, the man so desperate to find redemption in his life, ran off with bomb and martyred himself. It should have been a poignant and haunting moment (see: Charlie's death. Season three finale. Not Penny's Boat!) There was just one problem -- he's infected with evil! The former torturer has been a walking zombie ever since his death No. 1 in the season premiere. Yet he suddenly morphed into the noble Sayid of yore. The only explanation is that Desmond somehow snapped him out of his zone during his "we're all searching for love" pep talk in the well in the previous episode. But that's an assumption, and a pretty weak one at that.
Quibbling time is over. The bomb has exploded, and the sub is going down. Titanic-style.
A truly nail-biting sequence of events followed. During the underwater chaos, Sawyer was knocked unconscious and Sun got pinned against a piece of equipment. Jack immediately retreated into his natural born leader mode and tried oh-so-hard to help everyone to safety. He almost succeeded -- but wasn't able to free Sun. Neither was Jin. He stayed with her in a scene that was anguishing to watch. No, there would be no happy ending for the couple who spent three years apart, crossed a time warp to find each other and finally became reunited just hours earlier. Even though I'm still in the denial phase (maybe they'll be resurrected in the series finale?), for now, two original castaways are dead. And, more importantly, two candidates are crossed off the list.
Just three candidates remain: Jack, Sawyer and Hurley. (Oh: Though it wasn't clear, I don't believe Lapedus drowned. He wears that pilot's uniform for a reason.) In the closing moment, Fake Locke matter-of-factly explained to Claire that his plan was not over yet. Indeed, the battle between good and evil has three more episodes to reach a climax. And though Jack, Sawyer, Hurley and Kate were left crying on the beach in anguish over their fallen friends, there's a strong chance that four forgotten friends will give ultimately help them out: Ben, Miles, Richard and Desmond. And maybe even Widmore.
But for now, one final goodbye to Sayid, Sun and Jin. So very sad, but my heart will go on. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)