It goes without saying, but HERE BE "LOST" SPOILERS. If you haven't watched the entire final season of the show yet, please return your window seat at once.
When "LA X" first aired in January, most of the attention paid to its opening scene focused on the lack of, you know, a plane crash and the shots of a familiar island-scape now relocated to the bottom of the ocean (complete with Dharma shark). Well, we now know why the plane didn't crash -- and why that has no bearing on the island timeline at all -- but it's not so clear why the island is underwater.
My own theory, argued unsuccessfully to a couple of Sideways haters, is that it relates to Christian's speech to Jack about how the time spent on the island was the most important part of all the castaways' lives. In "What They Died For," both Kate and Sawyer confronted Jacob about the upheaval caused by bringing everyone to the island. Jacob did a decent job of countering their arguments, but even so, there's little doubt that any or all of the castaways, at some point in their lives, would be tempted to agree with Sawyer that they were doing just fine until the island came along. Thus, part of the Sideways World was presenting to them a version of what their world might have looked like had that interference never came along. There's little question that there was a lot of wish fulfillment at work in the Sideways World (Widmore and Desmond as the best of friends, Benjamin Linus as a good-hearted man, John Locke as the recipient of successful spinal surgery), so why not include what had to have been a big wish for a lot of them at one time or another: no island. As a result, once they "awaken" and have their memories restored, the awareness of a deep connection to a lot of people they wouldn't have otherwise known and of the very important work that accomplished by them on the island as a collective whole would reinforce to all of them how vital that island detour was in their lives.
Now, simply agreeing with me that this was the intent of the underwater island shots doesn't guarantee that you'll like Sideways any more than you already do. But for me it works. Of course, that explanation doesn't quite justify the suspenseful way in which the sunken island was presented in "LA X," but "Lost" has a long history of setting up mysteries in a dramatic manner that doesn't always match the importance of the reveal.
What's more interesting about the opening scene on a second viewing, however, is neither of the original mysteries. Instead, it's what Rose says to Jack. After that bit of turbulence that doesn't crash the plane, Rose notices Jack still gripping his armrests tightly and says to him:
You can let go now. It's okay. You can let go.
And of course that's what the Sideways World was all about: letting go. Once the awakenings began mid-season, I've toyed with the question of whether Rose and Bernard were already awake the entire time. In her few scenes, Rose always served as a reassuring presence for the others, offering advice about letting go of things. And, of course, there's little doubt that Bernard was awake when Jack visited him late in the season. Rose's words here seem to back up this hypothesis, but I'm still not 100% sure, at least not this early on. Her words, while prophetic, don't have quite the same look of awareness behind them that Bernard's did to Jack. But since all the survivors seemed to go through different stages of awakening, it seems reasonable that Rose was still in one of the early stages here.
Jack visits the restroom right after this, and we get the first of many mirror shots in the Sideways World. And in this first shot Jack's neck wound begins to bleed for the first time. The wound, of course, was the result of his cliffside battle royale with Flocke in the finale. Again, the payoff here wasn't as huge as we'd hoped, but still a nice tie-in to the finale and the island reality.
After a commercial break, we get our first appearance of the island reality. The Dharma kids are scattered around the scene of the nuclear explosion at the end of "The Incident," and quickly figure out that a) they've flashforwarded to 2007 and b) the detonation didn't alter the timeline at all. The Swan hatch still got built, someone still had to push the button every 108 minutes, and Oceanic 815 still crashed on the island. So, in Sawyer's eyes, Juliet died for nothing, and it's all Jack's fault.
Sawyer is wrong. Juliet didn't die for nothing. The nuclear explosion, although it resulted in the same chain of events we knew before, prevented a much worse incident. Had Jack not been so determined to counter the electromagnetic energy and Juliet not hit the undetonated bomb with a rock, we know what would've happened: the island would have been destroyed and the evil it kept at bay would've escaped into the rest of the world. We know this because of the finale. My assumption here is that the result of Radzinsky's team drilling into the pocket of energy would've been the equivalent of Desmond pulling the stone cork out of the heart of the island: bye bye island. It's the same energy. There just happen to be pockets of it all over the island that serve as "back doors" into it, as explained by the Man in Black in "Across the Sea." It's the same energy that was released when Desmond was late pushing the button in 2004, causing Oceanic 815 to crash. So in a way, Jack caused the plane crash by setting off the bomb, but had that bomb not gone off, there wouldn't have been an island in 2004, which would have been a bad, bad thing, if Jacob and Widmore are to be believed (and I think they are). So while the bomb may have killed Juliet, the good it did far outweighs the bad.
Once Sawyer descends into the hatch to find a not-quite-dead-yet Juliet, of course, the scene's bizarro moments make a little more sense (though I think we all assumed from the start that Juliet's "Dutch" line would payoff in the Sideways World, didn't we?). Of course, there was another line here that's still not quite clear:
I have to tell you something. It's really really important.
In part two of "LA X," Miles told Sawyer that what she wanted to tell him was, "It worked." Most of the season, then, we're left to believe that she was referring to the nuclear bomb. And perhaps there's some sliver of a chance that she was (see above: it did work), but she also said "it worked" in the finale when Sawyer was trying to get a candy bar. Using Occam's Razor, this is the more likely meaning of the line given its explicit usage in the finale. If that's the case, the whole "really really important" thing now plays as way overblown.
Up by the Dharma bus, Sayid lies nears death. This scene introduces his season long arc of deciding whether he is a fundamentally good or bad man. Here he says to Hugo that he suspects he's headed to an unpleasant place when he dies because of all the bad things he's done. As the season plays on, Sayid will be told by Dogen in the temple that he is "infected" as a result of his resurrection from the dead. Dogen even tries to poison him because of this belief. Sayid eventually gives in to the accusations, embracing himself as an evil man and joining forces with Flocke. I think it's safe to say now that the infection Dogen talked about was non-existent. Sayid didn't embrace darkness because he was infected with anything. He did so because Dogen told him over and over that he was. Desmond, however, convinces him later in the season that he has a choice. That he's always had a choice, and Sayid chooses in that moment to be a good man, ultimately sacrificing himself to protect his friends. (The fictional nature of the infection is further backed up by Claire, who through no cure other than Kate's words, returns home to be a mother to Aaron. I repeat: there is no infection.) Sayid's scene here with Hurley offers our first look at a wishy washy year of good and evil for the Iraqi.
Also at the VW bus, Jacob pays a visit to Hugo. Granted, given that he's dead, Jacob can't really chat with any of the other candidates at this point, making Hurley his only choice, but the exchange the men have here really reiterates the unique relationship Hurley already had with the island protector by this point (at least among the candidates) and helps support the argument that Darlton knew from very early on that he was going to be Jacob's successor at series end. Think about it. Hurley and Locke were the only candidate to see Jacob's cabin. They were also the only one's who knew his role as the unseen leader of The Others. Hurley's taxi conversation with Jacob in LA marked the only time in his life (that we know of) that Jacob discussed the island directly with a candidate. (All the other visits were superficial by comparison, mainly an excuse for the all important "touch.") Compare this with Jack, who upon hearing Hugo mention the island protector can only say, "Who's Jacob?" And in a twisted nod to how roles played out at series end, Hurley says to a hesitant Jack:
Can you fix Sayid, Jack? Then you're going to have to let me do it.
(Jacob's visit to Hugo seems to back up my belief that there isn't an infection. Jacob himself tells Hugo to take Sayid to the temple. If his death and the brown water flowing through the temple were going to render the water ineffective, opening Sayid up to an infection of evil, why would he send them there?)
Back in Sideways World, Jack saves Charlie's life by pulling a bag of heroin out of his throat. Charlie's lack of gratitude played out the first time around as a suicide wish, but as we learned in "Happily Ever After," it wasn't that at all. While choking on a baggie he was only trying to hide from the flight crew, he had a vision of Claire and his island reality that he didn't want to leave behind.
Which raises a question: what the hell would've happened if he had died here? Is it possible for any of the survivors to die in the Sideways World? If they do, are they instantly transported into the doorway of light and into the next world? Or could Charlie have lain there not breathing for a couple of hours and still been revivable? Seems like it would've been a major crack in the construct of the world if any of them could die.
The episode ends with Oceanic 815 landing at LAX. This non-dialogue sequence set to Michael Giaccino's swelling musical soundtrack, was pretty moving the first time through, but knowing now that everyone is coming home to LA to begin their final journey into the afterlife actually makes it more powerful. I actually had some tears in my eyes the second time around. And as the flight crew helps Locke into a wheelchair to deplane, Jack and he meet eyes for the first time. I didn't realize it the first time I watched "LA X," but this marks the first time that spinal surgeon Jack learns that Locke is a paraplegic. At no time in the original timeline does Jack know that John Locke was ever in a wheelchair.
A few random thoughts...
- There's not a lot to discuss about the scenes involving Flocke, Ben, Richard and the others at the statue in the aftermath of Jacob's death. Everything plays out pretty straightforwardly. We, of course, have the big reveal of Flocke as the smoke monster, but this was a strong theory making the rounds during the hiatus, and it really doesn't change in perception based upon any knowledge gained through the rest of the season.
- So did anyone ever come to a definitive theory as to why the episode was titled "LA X" with the space between the A and X? I don't think I ever heard one. The best I can do right now is incorporate the old cartoon technique of using an X as an eye to signal that someone is dead. So then "LA Dead," because they're all dead? Lame. There's got to be something better out there.
- The whole thing with Jack's missing pen is established nicely here. Kate bumps into Jack coming out of the restroom, then when he's trying to save Charlie, Jack complains that his pen is missing. We won't get to see Kate using the pen until part two, and she'll mention it to Jack in the finale.
- Since I'm following the reruns of season six on Saturday nights at 2:30am on KABC in Los Angeles, these Rewind posts will be a weekly affair. I realize Hulu has the entire series up right now, but the Saturday night reruns are a long-running tradition for me. I've re-watched seasons three through five this way already (though without the accompanying Rewind posts).
- Boone to Locke: "This thing goes down, I'm sticking with you." Yeah, great idea.