Let’s pretend for a second that you are a Harry Potter fan who endured the lengthy wait and picked up your copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at the midnight release party. But instead of getting to tear into the book and read it at your own pace, you were only allowed to read one chapter per week. Sure, some weeks you’d get chapters like the awesome Snape origin story, but you’d have a lot of weeks where you only got Harry and Hermione bitching at each other in the forest and looking for horcruxes. Would that have meant the book sucked? You couldn’t really say for sure either way, until you finish the whole thing.
The point I’m trying to make is that Lost, for better or worse, is operating on a totally different level from any other television show. It has cast aside the notion of telling a relatively complete story within an hour and instead is treating each episode like a chapter in a book. The plot moves along, and we get glimpses of character development, but there isn’t really a beginning, middle, and end. Contrast this with even a show like The Wire or Mad Men (or seasons 1-4 of Lost). Sure, both of them engage in long-term (in the case of The Wire, veeeeery long-term), novelistic storytelling, but their episodes still generally function like we’d expect a normal episode of television to. Its useful to evaluate those shows on an episodic basis because these episodes tell an emotional satisfying tale with a beginning, middle, and end (even as they also meet the long-term needs of their season’s story arc). I’m not convinced its as useful to do so with Lost.
I realized all this after “Recon,” but didn’t mention it last week because “Ab Aeterno” was so awesome that it didn’t really matter. But with an episode like “The Package” it kind of does. As an hour of television, it wasn’t exactly the best. But as a chapter of the sixth season of Lost, it did everything it needed to do. And for those of you who complain about not getting enough answers, you should probably clarify what it is you mean by that. Because a whole lot of questions were answered tonight. They just probably weren’t the ones you were hoping for. To wit:
Q: Is Jin actually with Team Smokey? What does he think of that whole thing?
A: He’s not on-board, that’s for sure. He chastises Sawyer for throwing in with Smokey and wants a way out. He’s intrigued by Smokey’s offer to reunite him with Sun, but would rather set off on his own and look for her at the Temple and/or the Beach. Either way, its a moot point since Widmore’s commando squad busts into the camp (as hinted at by that green, Paranormal Activity-esque surveillance shot in the first scene), subdues everyone, and whisks Jin to Hydra Island.
Q: What about Sun?
A: She’s still on Team Jacob, but barely. With Richard gone – possibly forever – and no one knowing what to do, Sun is getting increasingly frustrated. She heads to her old garden, where Jack tries to tell her about the lighthouse, but Sun is even less into it than he was. Smokey shows up, offering to reunite Sun with Jin, but unlike most of the other people so far, Sun has the sense not to trust him and she runs away. Smokey chases her, but it comes to an abrupt end when she hits her head on the branch.
Q: Oh no! I hope that doesn’t cause any sort of brain damage.
A: Actually, Sun loses the ability to speak English. She still understands it though. This doesn’t really lead to much, other than some stalling and some amusing moments from everyone. Richard comes back to camp and tells everyone they need to go to Hydra Island and destroy the Ajira plane but, thanks to the concept of dramatic irony, Sun insists (in Korean) that Hydra Island is the one place where she will never, ever go no matter what. Because she needs to find Jin.
Q: Does Ilana trust Ben?
A: This is probably not a question many of us had, but I just wanted to mention the awesome moment where Ilana suspects Ben of knocking out Sun and Ben tries to convince her otherwise, despite the fact that everyone knows what a liar he is. Well played!
Q: Hey, remember that brainwashing room from Season 3. Is that ever going to come back?
A: Yes it is! When Team Widmore grabs Jin, they end up locking him back in there, where he accidentally triggers all the brainwashing stuff. Zoe confirms the room existed because the Dharma Intiative was experimenting with brainwashing.
Q: Speaking of Zoe, how did she get time off from TGS with Tracy Jordan to accompany Widmore to the island?
A: We’ll have to wait on that one, but we did learn that Zoe is a geo-physicist who is woefully under-prepared to lead any sort of assault against a homicidal pillar of black smoke. She’s more concerned about the pockets of electromagnetic energy that Jin mapped out when he was in the 1970s.
Q: What about Widmore?
A: Widmore’s hanging around Hydra Island with his team.
Q: How much does he actually know about Smokey?
A: Actually not too much more than you or I did before “The Incident” if you believe him. Smokey gets mad when Jin is abducted and heads to Hydra Island with Sayid to get Jin back. Smokey gets held up behind Widmore’s sonic pylons (although a couple of foolhardy mercenaries try to shoot him, even though that seems to be a bad idea) and there he has a little chat with Widmore. Widmore reveals that, while he knows Smokey isn’t Locke, the rest of his information comes from ghost stories and spooky noises. Smokey, however, seems to think Widmore knows more than he’s letting on. After a few tense moments, Smokey bails.
Q: Why does Smokey need Jin so badly anyway?
A: He tells Claire that he can’t leave the island unless all the candidates go with him.
Q: What else is happening with Team Smokey?
A: Claire is feeling a little left-out of the whole candidate thing, but Smokey assures her that she’s just as important to him as they are. He also tells her that Kate isn’t a candidate (her name was crossed off in the cave, but not the lighthouse), but he needs her to rally the remaining ones. After that, though, if something were to happen to her, he probably wouldn’t care too much (neither would I, Smokey!).
Q: What about Sayid?
A: We’ll come back to him at the end, but for now, its worth noting that Sayid “feels nothing.” Not happiness, not anger, nothing.
Q: What does Widmore want with Jin anyway?
A: Its still not quite clear, but he goes to talk to Jin and shows him pictures of Sun with Ji Yeon. It is the first time Jin has ever seen his kid and its a pretty powerful moment. Widmore then says that if Smokey gets off the island, everyone will die. Jin seems kind of intrigued, and I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I got the sense that he may be kind of onboard with Team Widmore. Widmore then ups the ante by offering to show Jin “the package.”
Q: And Sun?
A: She’s moping on the beach when Jack thinks to have her write down what she wants to say. They have a nice moment where Jack promises to help Sun reunite with Jin and get off the island, even if Richard is trying to blow up the plane. Sun says she trusts him.
Q: Before we get to the cliffhanger, do you think you could explain why Jin was in that meat locker in Sayid’s flash-sideways?
A: Sure thing! In AlternaLAX, AlternaJin gets out of custody and goes to a hotel, where we learn that he and AlternaSun are not married (????). They are, however, sleeping together and, indeed, they seem way more passionate than they did in the original 2004. Rather than running away from Jin, Sun has saved up a bunch of money to run away with him. But, unfortunately, Keamy and Omar show up looking for the money Jin was supposed to have. TSA confiscated it, so Sun (through AlternaMikhail, better known to viewers as Patchy or the Bastard Who Killed Charlie) offers to use the money she was saving up for her and Jin to pay him.
Keamy takes Jin as a hostage and locks him in the meat locker where he tells him that the money Paik sent with Jin was a bounty for Keamy to kill Jin for sleeping with Sun. At the bank, Sun finds out all her money is gone (Paik took it all). She and Mikhail come back to the restaurant where Sayid has killed Keamy and his goons and left Jin alive (but didn’t help him more than just giving him a box cutter). Jin shoots Mikhail (in the eye, natch) but a stray bullet catches Sun, who is also pregnant (sounds like somebody needs a fertility doctor!).
Q: What was behind that locked door?
A: While it’s within the realm of possibility that we didn’t learn this tonight (we never actually saw someone unlock the door and take you-kn0w-who out from behind it), we did learn that Widmore has brought a special package to the island as their only hope of beating Smokey. And that package isn’t a what, but a who. Meanwhile, Smokey sent Sayid to go spy on the sub and, in the episode’s closing moments, he sees Desmond, all spacey and probably drugged out, being taken out onto the dock. See you in another life, brutha!
So, as I touched on at the top of this unnecessarily long recap, this was not a great hour of television. But there was a lot of interesting plot movement, a couple of really touching moments, and the triumphant return of a fan favorite. Unlike “Ab Aeterno” (or many of the best episodes from the first four seasons of Lost), “The Package” didn’t really succeed at telling a single, self-contained story. But Lost isn’t really working in that way anymore. Characters like Jack and Sayid, who only had brief moments this week, are moving along arcs that will track all season instead of just over an episode or two. Jin and Sun, meanwhile, each had some strong moments (keep in mind, this will likely be the last Sun and Jin episode ever). And the show continued to move this season’s story forward.
If it sounds like I’m simply going to extreme lengths to justify not particularly caring for an episode of Lost, fine. But I honestly think that judging these episodes as “good” or “bad” is an waste of time until this season wraps and we see where its going. I don’t mean to say that it is impossible for Lost to make a bad episode, but that hours like this, which move the plot along and continue to develop whatever the hell is going on with the flash sideways, can only be evaluated once we know how they fit into the larger picture. This is the last time anyone is going to be watching Lost on a weekly basis and, honestly, I don’t think this story is meant to be consumed that way. If I may use another cross-media reference, it would be kind of like listening to The White Album one track per week. Some weeks you would get “Mother Nature’s Son” but other weeks you’d get “Piggies.” In the end, though, it’s only The White Album with all 30 songs.
Jonah’s Score: 66
TUIW Grade: B
-V: They Return
-Now that Desmond is back in play (hooray!) why do you think he’s so important? My theory is that he has the ability to shift between the two timelines, so he’s the only person who can call in the AlternaLostie cavalry to stop Smokey.
-And, not to toot my own horn, but I totally called it!
-Does everyone else think Widmore was withholding a little from Smokey? I’m sure he knows more than he was letting on.
-I’m too tired to speculate on the Sayid-related developments. Anyone have any ideas?
-Also, its worth noting that AlternaJin and AlternaSayid seemed to have no moment or even glimpse of recognition at all. They might as well have been strangers.
-Why is Zoe so interested in the electromagnetic energy? Remember that it was the release of that energy from The Swan that first caused Desmond to skip through time, so maybe Team Widmore is hoping that more of that energy will cause him to skip through dimensions?
-So Smokey really does want to use the plane to get off the island? Richard seemed to think so and it explains why Widmore set up so close to it. But there’s something a little mundane about all the evil and darkness in the world using an airplane to leave a magic island.
-A couple weeks ago, Smokey seemed to be planting the seed with Kate that Aaron would be better off without Claire. This week he did the opposite with Claire. I like the parallel between this and Sawyer’s plan to turn Smokey and Widmore against each other. Maybe Smokey is hoping to distract Sawyer enough that he won’t be able to sneak off the island.
-Smokey needs all the candidates to leave the island with him. Maybe being the island protector isn’t even a choice. As long as there’s a candidate around on the island, Smokey can’t leave (and, presumably, he can’t kill or harm any of the candidates either; notice he couldn’t even take Sun with him against her will).
-Hope any West Coasters weren’t killing time before Lost on Twitter, since “Desmond” was a trending topic.
-While we’re talking about Twitter, Damon Lindelof had a very interesting tweet. “In one week, the conversation is going to change.”
-SLIGHT SPOILERS FOR NEXT WEEK: As you might expect, next week is a Desmond episode, but will it be a flashback or a flashsideways?
-And finally, here’s our weekly reminder that Michael and I will be back in this space on Thursday for a TUIW Conversation where we break down “The Package” a little more. Hopefully that discussion will be much less theoretical than this one.