''Lost'': A custody battle from hell
Let me begin by saying it's especially nice to write this column on nights when there's so very, very much to write about: the long-awaited story of what happened to Claire during her two-week abduction, a significant advancement of the Dharma mythology (including the discovery of a brand new hatch, the Caduceus), an illuminating look at Rousseau, and a heart-to-heart with Mister Eko. Not to mention some of the best dialogue in a while. For example, when Locke allowed Eko to question their captive, suspected Other Henry Gale:
Locke: Don't tell him what the alarm is for.
Eko: What is the alarm for?
This is inarguably the best-written episode in some time: excellent use of the plot groundwork laid last season (Claire's disappearance, Rousseau's involvement, the mystery illness, and Desmond's lotto-numbered injections), as well as excellent teases for future developments. So let's begin, to the tune of the Perry Como classic, ''Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket....''
My friend Liz called to remind me that this little ditty the one played by the airplane mobile over Future Aaron's crib was, in fact, the same song Claire, in last year's flashback, hoped that her child's adoptive parents would know. So how'd the Others know it, when they were preparing a nursery for the baby they planned to harvest from Claire? Well, there's the psychic explanation increasingly popular round these parts, especially with my colleague, the esteemed theorist Jeff Jensen.
The other explanation, of course, is that Claire's creepy Australian psychic (the one whose advice she sought on her unexpected pregnancy) was nothing of the sort just a Dharma Other in civvies, sending his cohorts on the island fresh meat. He could've given them the full dossier on Claire. Of course, he's also the one who told Claire she must, must, must raise the baby herself otherwise it'd turn out all (shudder) wrong. This advice, and Claire's shifting maternal instincts, might all be part of the big Dharma mind game.
Which brings us to the blue-eyed, raven-haired young lady we're assuming to be Rousseau's daughter, Alex. Clearly, the Others have their own insubordination problems. Evil baby injectors they may be, but as Alex and (to a lesser extent) Ethan have shown us, they're not a Hive Mind. (Ethan never should've taken Claire outside that was a stupid risk, from the Others' perspective. He'd clearly developed an affinity for her, which she, in her drugged state, returned sunnily.)
They're also not a collection of spooky old fishermen and scruffy castaways. Nope, those Scooby-Doo beards conceal well-shorn, well-equipped lab-coat types, with the best technology 1975 dollars can buy. As Zeke (the gruff-voiced Other last seen in fake whiskers) indicated in his argument with Ethan, these Dharma holdouts serve a mysterious Him. And who might Him be, do you wonder? Speculation is rife: Walt? Industrialist and Dharma founder Alvar Hanso? Fyodor Dostoyevsky?
Yes, we have another literary mystery. Head Hatch librarian Locke has pulled yet another book off the shelf, and it's The Brothers Karamazov, a tale of patricide and fraternal rivalry. (Gale requested Stephen King: Intertextual theorists, start your engines.) There is, perhaps, no better way to introduce the final stage of the Jack-Locke showdown except, golly, does anyone really buy that Locke would be so easily manipulated by Gale? All the battered Gale has to do is tease Locke crudely about his second-banana status to Dr. Jack, and our favorite uni-kidneyed boar hunter throws a tantrum. Let's briefly review what made Locke such a fantastic character in season 1: He marched to the beat of his own drummer. He didn't want to be king of the island; he wanted to be its friend. He thought he had a rapport with the ineffable. To bring him down to a king-of-the-Hatch battle with Jack seems an awful waste. A schoolyard tussle seems beneath Locke. What happened to his mysticism? He's in a father-son struggle with God, not a brother-against-brother one with Jack. In the writers' haste to pit science against religion (and thus, Jack against Locke), they may have written their best character into a corner.
But that's neither here nor there. Let's celebrate what we've got, which is a glorious return to the elements that made Lost great from minute one: sharp, spare dialogue, (mostly) excellent character work, and genuine dread. (Between Ethan's creepy smile, Dharma keychain, rotating retro shirts, and big squirty amnio needle, I was certainly goose-pimpled.) Things have been too damned comfortable on the island lately, and crazy Charlie just isn't enough to stir the pot all by himself. We're now returning to the archetypal fears that animated the show in the first season, and the continued visibility of Libby (who I'm absolutely convinced is an Other) promises even more intrigue. She and Henry Gale are both clearly on an infiltration and subversion mission, putting worms in the mental apples of our castaways.
Oh, and there's also the matter of the ''infection.'' Desmond took most but not all of the supposed vaccine. But is the vaccine the cure or the disease itself? Do the Others want the baby ''sick,'' so it's like them? Do they share some communal malady? And the biggest question: What if they switched the kids...and Claire's raising Baby Bob? We'll know when it starts croaking its craving for Quiznos in a 40-year-old baritone. Stay tuned.
What do you think?