Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Or, if we get to use an alternate title, Rocky-and-Bullwinkle style, “We’re Not in Kansas Anymore.” Let me catch my breath from one of the series’ best episodes yet, and then join me after the jump for spoilers from tonight’s episode, as well as other random diversions.
Links and miscellanea
- The official podcast was rather uninformative this week. Not a lot of notable comments. Cuse and Lindelof mentioned how they thought the Anthony Cooper/Tom Sawyer cross was rather obvious and that they were surprised that so many people didn’t see it coming. (Yeah, me too.) Cuse said that Richard Alpert is an “Iago-like” character, attempting to manipulate the Others’ power structure from the inside. This may have been misdirection though. We’ll see.
- The big news this week was that LOST now has an end date. The show will not follow the usual trajectory of TV shows that linger until their ratings drop off and are canceled, but will continue for three more seasons of 16 episodes each, with the episodes running consecutively from February through May, with the final episode to air sometime in May 2010. The reaction seems to be mostly positive among fans. Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse appeared in various media outlets to assure everyone that the series’ mythology has largely been mapped out according to this time table and that all the important questions will be answered by the end.
- Here’s a LOST vs. Heroes comparison I hadn’t seen before: Which show is weirder. (†Lost TV.)
- Looking for some chic LOST accessories? Here’s a Hydra station tote that will go well with that DHARMA jumpsuit hanging in your closet.
- Michael Emerson’s (Ben Linus) wife, Carrie Preston, played Ben’s mother, Emily in tonight’s episode. (†Lost-Media)
- Apparently, some Korean viewers aren’t very impressed with some of the Hawaii-for-Korea shooting locations.
- I think I may have linked to something similar in the past, but here is a recent article about speculation regarding LOST geography using Google Earth.
- Proving that some Ivy League students are even more arrogant than everyone assumes they are, this reaction to the news that Matthew Fox (Jack) was scheduled to speak at Columbia University’s Class Day: “‘He must have been like the 29th choice,’ one student told the campus paper, the Columbia Daily Spectator. ‘This is an insult and an embarrassment to the students who have put in four years of hard work and the parents who each have put in enough money for the speaking fees of a whole slew of respectable choices.'”
Observations and speculation
- The episode’s title, of course, is a reference to the “Wizard of Oz” and that scene where Toto sniffs out the Wizard, who isn’t nearly as Great or Powerful he appears. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” He’s the one off stage pulling the levers and turning the knobs. Other Wizard of Oz references from LOST: Henry Gale, Ben’s alias, was Dorothy’s uncle; the real Henry Gale arrived at the island by balloon, which is how the wizard got to Oz; and a man wearing red shoes is crushed during Desmond’s flashbacks in “Flashes Before Your Eyes” (episode 3.x) just like the Wicked Witch of the East at the first of the movie.
- The “man behind the curtain” also begs the question: is Ben still faking it with theatrics and spiritualism, or is Jacob the wizard who rules the island? I’m going to state for the record that right now, the situation is still a little bit ambiguous, but I lean toward the existence of Jacob. But more on that later.
- The opening scene got me. That temperate rainforest outside Portland looked an awful lot like the island jungle we know and love. As noted above, Ben’s mom is played by Carrie Preston, Michael Emerson’s wife. His dad is played by Jon Gries, better known as “Uncle Rico” in Napoleon Dynamite.
- Add Ben to the long list of people on the island with daddy issues (including, at least, Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke, Hurley, and Sun.) As far as I know, Ben and Kate (and, I guess, Locke) are the only one’s who have killed their own fathers.
- When Ben asks Richard, “You do remember birthdays, don’t you Richard?,” it infers something that we couldn’t have picked up on when Ben says it. Richard is much, much older than he seems. He appears to benefit from little or no aging. No doubt, this has something to do with the island’s mysterious properties.
- Why does Ben lie and tell his people that he is “one of the last” that was born on the island? Clearly, Richard knows he wasn’t born there. Ben says that this is why Jacob talks only to Ben—he’s sort of a shaman for the otherworldly Jacob, if we take him at his word.
- Once again, I have to pause and state that watching Terry O’Quinn and Michael Emerson face off is pure dramatic bliss.
- Ben arrived on the island like Juliet—via the sub. He and his father arrived with a group of DHARMA recruits, none of which seemed to understand what they were in for.
- Knowing that LOST doesn’t name it’s characters randomly, I have to wonder about the significance of “Horace Goodspeed,” the DHARMA initiative person who brought Roger Linus and his son to the island. Horace might refer to the classical Roman poet. Or maybe not.
- Annie, Ben’s cute girlfriend, gives Ben an Apollo candy bar, which you might remember from the Hatch’s pantry. It’s one of the few DHARMA foods (perhaps the only one) that isn’t branded generically as “DHARMA.”
- How unexpected was it that Roger “Work Man” was Ben’s father? And now Hurley has driven his van and listened to his 8-track.
- Ben’s plans are beginning to unravel because he doesn’t know everything. He didn’t know that Mikhail wasn’t dead. He doesn’t know what happened to his tape recorder. He doesn’t know anything about the parachute woman, Naomi, or her rescue ship. And he can’t understand why Locke is able to commune with the island. (As an aside, I guess we can put to bed any theory that Naomi is another Other planted with the Losties.)
- Mikhail’s demise has now been explained: the “pylons were not set to a lethal level.” Okay, then. That makes sense, I guess.
- It’s satisfying to see Locke kick some butt. It’s also interesting to see the Others defer to his decision to “beat Mikhail senseless.” They seem to believe that Locke really might be “special.” And Locke seems to have learned how to gain their admiration.
- Olivia, the woman teaching young Ben and Annie about volcanoes, appears to be the same woman who was with Horace when Roger and Emily Linus emerged from the woods outside Portland with newborn Ben. Just fyi.
- There are few “gotcha” scares as creepy to me as a face staring back outside a darkened window. Between that and the ghost shack, this episode is by far the creepiest of season 3. In fact, it might be the creepiest of the series so far.
- Annie and Ben seem to be sitting on the same swingset that Sayid later finds himself handcuffed to. Othersville used to be DHARMA village.
- The “whispers” seem to be associated with the hostiles/Others/Jacob. Also, it seems that the Black Smoke manifestations are controlled by Jacob (or whatever force is calling Ben out). For young Ben, it manifests as his mother, who he only knew from photographs. (To review, some manifestations we’ve likely seen in the past include Eko’s brother Yemi, Kate’s horse, Sayid’s victim’s cat, and Christian Shepherd.)
- I’ve no idea what the substance is that Locke stoops down to pick up as he approaches Jacob’s ghost shack. It looks like it might be gun powder, and it seems to run in a line around the perimeter of the ghost shack.
- The drama at the beach really took a back seat. I guess Jack is absolved because he was working on his plan all along, with Juliet’s help. That’s so like Jack to make all the decisions without consulting with anyone else. Jerk.
- Kate is indeed suspected by the Others to be pregnant, and is therefore a target.
- The code that Ben enters into the security fence is “54439,” which seems random and not related to “the numbers.” Strange. The white rabbit he brings with him to test out the fence is part of a rabbit motif: the “White Rabbit” episode from season 1, the rabbit used to con Sawyer on Hydra island, and Watership Down.
- When young Ben meets same-age Richard in the jungle, Richard seems impressed that Ben has seen and spoken with his dead mother on the island. This may be because he suspects that Ben is “special” and can commune with “Jacob.”
- Ben tells Locke that Jacob feels like Locke does about technology. Is this legitimate, or is this a part of a ruse to set up the scene for some seance-style theatrics: dim lighting, shaking, objects seeming to fly around the room? I think it’s at best ambiguous. Ben didn’t want to take Locke to Jacob’s ghost shack during the day, and may not have wanted Locke to look around carefully.
- I went through the ghost shack seen frame-by-frame and here are some of my observations: the chair appears to be moving though we don’t see anyone in it; the lantern is knocked off the table and starts a fire, which later seems to just go out; some colorful object—green and blue and yellow, almost like a butterfly— comes in through a broken window; after Ben says “that’s enough” and is pushed back against the wall, we finally do see a figure sitting in the chair, almost apparition-like, but it’s unclear whether Locke sees it. Overall impression of the scene: That. Was. Awesome!
- Incidentally, the voice of Jacob sounded an awful lot like Executive Producer Carlton Cuse, who has done voice cameos on the show previously.
- Now we’ve seen the “purge.” That much of what Mikhail told Kate, Sayid and Locke was true. Why did the Hostiles take Ben in? Were they attracted to him because he was a psychopath? Perhaps.
- The DHARMA mass grave really capped of the episode in terms of creepiness.
- I was glad to see that Locke was at least quick enough to unsheathe his knife when he realized that he was being threatened by Ben. The fact that he insisted on hearing what Jacob said suggests that Jacob is real, and not a parlor trick.
- While Locke’s certainly not in a very advantageous position, I don’t think he’s a goner quite yet. A bullet wound to the gut isn’t enough to kill you on LOST island if the island decides it’s not your time to go.
Wow. Just wow. I, for one, am glad to see LOST go back to the scary stuff. It’s been a while. I was mesmerized and delighted by tonight’s episode. I’m interested to hear what other people think. As different as this episode was, I think the more steeped one is in the show’s mythology, the more rewarding it was. I think this was my favorite episode of the season, even though we’ve had at least a half dozen almost perfect episodes in season 3.
I’m happy, I’ve finally caught my breath, now it’s off to bed, where I’m sure I’ll get the chills again thinking about the ghost shack. Great stuff.