''Lost'': Charlie risks his life
I wouldn't be surprised if my grandmother had a heart attack last night. See, my mom's mom is a Lost fan, too, and she's taken quite a shine to the star of last night's installment, Charlie Pace, the former smack-injecting British rocker whose famed question still haunts us nearly three years later: ''Guys...where are we?'' For most of the episode, titled ''Greatest Hits,'' it appeared that Charlie would never get an answer to his inquiry this side of heaven. (Or hell, or limbo, or wherever the heck the Island is not.) Yep: Desmond had another one of his precognitive ''You're gonna die, bruthah'' brain farts. And like ''Catch-22'' a couple weeks ago, the season's penultimate outing toyed wickedly with Charlie's fate and my grandmother's nervous system with a story that seemed to be barreling toward tragedy. Hopefully she survived long enough to see the breathtaking (literally) final scene, though I should probably warn her to have paramedics and shock paddles ready for next weeks' two-hour season finale. Yes, Charlie ducked the reaper's scythe yet again. But Desmond's prophecy is still very much in play. Grandmother, may I suggest some tranquilizers?
As for me, ''Greatest Hits'' rocked my face like a Pete Townsend guitar solo blasting a front-row groupie at a Who reunion concert. It was kind of a reunion show, wasn't it? Lost's curiously mixed third season has inspired a great deal of whining from those bothered by the way it split the castaways into separate subplots. Despite the absence of John Locke currently pursuing a solo career as a dying holy man in a mass grave of gassed Dharma bums (maddeningly for some, I'm sure, that story line wasn't addressed last night) the gang has been back on the beach for a few weeks now, albeit splintered into bickering, suspicious, secret-keeping factions. ''Greatest Hits'' finally collected them into a dynamic unit you know, just like an actual ''greatest hits'' album. There they were in the opening sequence, the entire frayed Fellowship trekking out into the valley of the foreshadowing of war, led by Jack, their grim Aragorn. Bringing up the rear of this ragtag parade was Charlie, our cheery Frodo, soon to be saddled with an awful ringbearer's task. In fact, ''Greatest Hits,'' heavy with power-chord riffs on friendship, heroism, and weighty responsibilities, was downright Tolkienesque, minus the turgid prose. (My mailbox is ready for your flaming arrows.)
The episode was all about the Oceanic 815 castaways' preparation for the mother of all battles with Ben and his barren, baby-hungry Others a battle over mothers, actually. In the valley, Jack explained the gory game plan: Let the Others storm the beach, let them raid the tents that Juliet will mark with white stones and then let them find Black Rock dynamite instead of Sun, Kate, or any of the women. It seems Jack and Juliet have been hatching this scheme for days, even enlisting Danielle Rousseau's help in gathering the explosives out of the old slave ship. (Finally, the loony French castaway's actions in ''The Brig'' are explained.) As he raved about no more running and no more hiding, about one irresistible opportunity to beat Ben at his own 15-moves-ahead chess-playing games, about the chance to expunge once and for all the evildoing terrorists of Quagmire Island, Jack's intensity was more terrifying than inspiring, more obsessive Captain Ahab than cool-headed Captain Picard. ''We're going to blow them all to hell,'' he said, nearly spitting with bloodlust. (Clearly, Jack's Hydra-station character rehabilitation didn't totally stick.)
Here's a question for you: Do you like Jack? I know my wife doesn't. ''He's such a pompous ass,'' she said. I tried to argue the merits of deeply flawed heroes on prime-time television. Amy just rolled her eyes. (Believe me, those brown orbs get plenty of exercise, especially when her husband is in Doc Jensen nuthouse mode.)
Later in the episode, Sayid diagnosed the doctor's problem: Consumed by anger and fear, Jack was more interested in taking down the Others than in getting the castaways off the Island. And the prospect of honest-to-goodness rescue seems to be legit: Sayid believed that Danielle's looping SOS signal was interfering with Naomi's satellite phone; if he could disable the signal, maybe they could make contact with Naomi's ship. But Juliet revealed an additional complication. Apparently, Ben's been jamming the radio tower's frequencies via another Dharma station, this one offshore and underwater, connected at the end of the Cable of Fate that runs into the ocean. (The radio tower, Rousseau's transmission, the cable, black and white motifs, and the sight-for-sore-eyes return of Bernard and Rose and even Nadia ''Greatest Hits'' was also a proverbial box set of rare but beloved B-side Lost mysteries and arcana.) Our latest Dharma hatch has the most loaded, imagination-firing name: the Looking Glass. Its logo? A white rabbit, of course! At that moment of revelation, a nation of Lost obsessives paused their DVRs and began rummaging for their copies of the Alice books. But ''Greatest Hits'' also pointed toward another fantasy text that's worthy of investigation, one not as famous yet more explicitly Lost-esque. More on that in a second.
NEXT PAGE: The ''greatest hits'' of Charlie's life