The "Lost" season six rewind posts are not intended as a thorough analysis of the episodes, but are a fresh look at each in light of what later events would do to shed new light on them.
It goes without saying, but HERE BE "LOST" SPOILERS. If you haven't watched the entire final season of the show yet, please put down the guitar case and step away from the murky spring.
As a long-time viewer of "Lost" reruns, I know re-watching an episode a few years later, with a lot more of the show's mythology on the table, can be a revelation. When I saw "Flashes Before Your Eyes" for a second time last year, I kept thinking about it for several days because of how different much of its story played, particularly the scenes with the character we later knew as Eloise Hawking. Even the pilot episode has moments that didn't make sense until the fifth or sixth season, with real payoffs for those who go back and watch the episode again. (I'm a fan of the backgammon scene, in particular.)
"LA X: part 2" is not one of those episodes.
A "Lost" episode doesn't have to tie directly in to the overarching storylines in order to be great, of course. Some of the best episodes of the first season focused on adapting to extended life on an island after a plane crash. No monsters. No polar bears. Just survivors on a beach making things up as they go along. Or in season three's "Greatest Hits" where Charlie thinks back on his favorite memories as he prepares for a mission he knows will kill him.
"LA X: part 2" is not one of those episodes either.
The biggest problem is the introduction of the Temple and the band of Others who inhabit it. This storyline never took off, dragging the island timeline down for much of the season's first half. The behavior of Dogen and his followers defies logic most of the time. When Hurley, Jack, Kate, Jin and Sayid arrive at the Temple, Dogen immediately orders them shot. Only when Hurley tells him that they were sent by Jacob does he halt the executions. And if Hurley hadn't screamed in time? Or if sometime between the second plane crash, life in the Dharma Initiative, or taking part in the detonation of a nuclear bomb he had lost track of the guitar case that proved Jacob sent them? All but one of the surviving candidates dies in an instant at the hands of Jacob's own followers.
Now, I realize that Jacob was a hands off leader who wanted those who came to the island to choose good or evil of their own free will. So it's quite possible that until Dogen cracked open that Ankh in the guitar case he had no idea there was such a thing as "candidates," why they're so important, or that there were only five of them left. He had no reason to believe that killing a bunch of strangers would be such a devastating blow. So I guess I don't fault Dogen (even if he is a frustrating character).
No, Jacob is the one to blame here, because although he's so hands off with the island Others, he still went to the mainland to raise an army led by Ilana. He charged that army with protecting him and his candidates, a concept that Ilana knows all about. My point is, if Jacob wasn't opposed to discussing the importance of the candidates with Ilana who wasn't even on the island, why not go ahead and tell the Temple Others now that it's getting down to crunch time? Because he didn't, we came very close to having Sawyer be the only candidate left. Seeing how his various schemes against Flocke played out later in the season, I don't think he was quite up to the job.
Despite never taking off as a narrative thread, the Temple isn't a total waste of time. The Temple Others are the logical consequence of the way Jacob chose to run things, something we later learn isn't supposed to be infallible. He's just a man who had a warped childhood. We're even led to believe in the finale that Hurley will run things differently in his own stint on the job. The Temple Others get what they want by force, threatening the people they're supposed to protect with physical violence at every turn. Dogen himself conjures up an infection story to explain away Claire's insanity and Sayid's resurrection, treating each as an adversary with no effort to have a reasonable conversation. Had Jacob not run such an isolationist ship, perhaps the Others wouldn't have become so hostile and trigger happy.
And let's not forget Smokey's influence. As Ben says to Flocke tonight, "You used me." For almost Ben's entire life he has done the bidding of the Man in Black, thinking it was the absent Jacob leading him. The first time Ben ran into Richard Alpert, he was following the apparition of his dead mother. It's safe to assume now that Mommy was actually Smokey leading Ben to the Others. This connection was precisely how Smokey infiltrated and corrupted them. Even with Ben (aka MiB's puppet regime) no longer leading the Others, the damage was done and even the contingent in the Temple bore the scars of that corruption. So we get a group of "protectors" who order executions at the drop of a hat, try to murder people on the grounds that they have a fictional infection, and refuse to tell the candidates what the hell is going on.
But they're still annoying. (In this episode we get one of the season's worst lines, courtesy of Dogen: "I don't like the way English tastes on my tongue.") In a few episodes, when Dogen and most of his crew are slaughtered by Flocke, this storyline will end with no real narrative benefit to show for the time we spent with them. As with a lot of season six, I like the ideas behind the action, just not always how it plays out on the screen. And I must not be the only one, because in the two hour recap show that aired before the premiere, there was no mention of the Temple or the events that transpired there to be found. It was pure thematic development with no payoff for the plot.
Well, I guess it did provide a way for Sayid to recover from his gunshot wound. But even that is mishandled to some extent. In "LA X, part 2" they bring Sayid to the Temple, where he is drowned in a murky spring that's supposed to have healing powers. Presumably the water isn't clear because Jacob died without naming a successor (though that's speculation, with no direct answer provided), and when Sayid first dies, then resurrects at the end of the episode, this is supposed to suggest that something other than the spring brought him back to life. As the next few episodes play out, the conclusion of the Temple Others is that something evil brought him back (and "infected" him blah blah blah), but when all is said and done I think the most direct explanation is that because Jacob died and the water was murky, the spring's power was weakened and it just took longer than normal for it to work. Mystery solved, I guess.
Apart from the introduction of the plodding Temple storyline, "LA X, part 2" also suffers from another technique used all to frequently on the show: one character asks a reasonable question and the person who knows the answer simply stares back at them without answering. It creates suspense, but it often makes no real sense. For example, when they arrive at the Temple, Hurley takes Jacob's guitar case out of the Dharma bus...
Miles: We gonna sing Kumbaya on the way?
Hurley: It's not a guitar, man.
Miles: Then what is it?
Hurley: [doesn't answer]
Had Hurley answered him, "Um, it's a giant wooden Egyptian thing," it would've ruined the reveal later in the episode (and sounded rather stupid to boot), yet there's no real reason for Hurley not to answer that question. Even just to say, "It's Jacob's, so I'd rather not say." No, staring ominously at Miles creates far more suspense, albeit at the cost of the characters' believability.
There are other examples. When the Others submerge Sayid in the spring and he begins to drown, Jack, Kate and Hurley freak out. "What are they doing?" "He's awake. Let him up." "That's enough!" "You're not saving him! You're drowning him!" And through it all, there is no response from Dogen or Lennon. Other than making things as tense as possible, why wouldn't someone respond, even just to say, "This is a healing spring. If he is going to be saved, this is the only thing that will save him." Which is pretty much what was going on, yet such a direct response would've lessened the suspense.
A few random thoughts...
- The Sideways World didn't provide any "aha!" moments here, nothing in the same vein as Rose's conversation with Jack last week. Jack and John's conversation in the baggage claim office about Christian's missing coffin still plays well, but with no payoffs regarding the Sideways-World-as-afterlife notion, save for maybe a slight nod in John's line about the airline only losing Christian's body, not Christian himself. "How could they know where he is?"
- Most of the Sideways story in the episode is about Kate escaping from custody, so it's all action oriented. There is that great scene in the elevator between her and Sawyer where he sees her handcuffs and helps her avoid a couple of security guards. Once we learn Sawyer is a police officer, it at first feels odd that he helped her escape even knowing she's on the run, but it fits in with the reason he was on the Oceanic flight in the first place: hunting down the con man who killed his parents. He doesn't want Miles or anyone at the department know about his vigilante trip to Australia, and getting caught in the middle of an airport manhunt would probably reveal everything.
- Water played a very big role throughout the season, and Sayid's drowning in the healing stream is the first real instance of this. Among other things, water would be an important element in the glowing cave, the wreck of the Black Rock, Jack's choice to not leave the island, and the deaths of Sayid, Sun and Jin. Sayid's drowning here foreshadows those deaths (including his own) on the submarine.
- When Sun tells the customs officials she doesn't speak English, we're not sure at this point whether she's telling the truth. As we learn in a few episodes, she was.
- There were a couple of big lines in the episode from Flocke that either turned out to be sort of inaccurate or never got an explanation. For one, he tells Ben that he wants what John Locke never wanted: "I want to go home." Well, he wanted to leave the island, but since he was born on the island and has never left it, leaving wouldn't really amount to "going home." I suppose he was saying it more as what John Locke considers to be the equivalent of leaving, but it's a stretch. The other line is when he says to the congregation of Others outside the statue, "I am very disappointed in all of you!" With the show wrapped up, I'm still not quite sure what he meant here. Perhaps he's just finally telling them what he thinks of their being followers of Jacob, but that seems an odd way to express it.
- Flocke does have a great line that gets payoff later in the season: "It's good to see you out of those chains." Upon hearing it, Richard realizes who Locke actually is. As we learn in "Ab Aeterno," that's what the Man in Black said to Richard after freeing him from the slave chains he wore on the Black Rock.
- More evidence of Hurley's status as the chose one: He is the first of the candidates that Dogen summons for a private conversation. Jack is second.
- Next week is the dreaded "What Kate Does," one of my least favorite episodes of the season.