'Lost': Unhappy Jack

And so it went that ''Something Nice Back Home'' began with Jack's iconic eyeball flittering awake, an ironic wink at the first scene of Lost's very first episode, in which the good doctor, having just fallen from the sky, pops awake and springs into life-saving Hero of the Beach mode. He staggered out of his tent and into a squabble between his castaway friends and Faraday and Charlotte; apparently, the sat-phone-turned-telegraph wasn't working as it did last episode, when Camp Jack came to grips with the hard truth that the freighter folk have exactly zero interest in taking them off the Island. Despite being sick as a dog (''Food poisoning,'' he said), Jack tried to play his elected part of commander in chief: He vowed to vanquish those freighter evildoers should they attack, and he renewed his pledge to formulate an exit strategy out of their tropical, possibly quantum quagmire. ''I've gotten us this far,'' he said, groggy and pale. ''I said I was gonna get us off the Island, all of us. I promised that I would....'' Then he fell flat on his face.

As it turned out, Jack didn't have a stomach bug but appendicitis — the kind of hardcore castaway survival plotline we haven't really seen since season 1. Combined with a strong character-driven ''flash'' story, it was very old school Lost. (Cut to the chase: Juliet performed surgery; Jack's okay, though that sloppy stitch looks like it could easily bust open in any freighter skirmishing to come.) The appendix is a weird thing. It's an utterly useless organ that, paradoxically, turns deadly when inflamed. If I were smart enough, I might be able to explicate a theory that suggests Jack's toxic appendix was a symbol of his seemingly dormant psychological baggage, which catastrophically ruptured in his flash-forward story. So I'll just leave it at that. We learned that shortly after Kate's trial, Jack got over his aversion to Aaron (though it wasn't explained how or why he was so anti-Aaron to begin with) and shacked up with the former fugitive. ''Something Nice at Home'' sure offered a lot of nice things for all the Jate 'shippers out there — rumpled sheets and red panties, a sexy post-shower smooch, and even a marriage proposal. But the omens of relationship collapse — caused by Jack's backslide into old, self-destructive patterns (jealousy, paranoia, insecurity) — were planted early. There was Jack stepping on a toy Millennium Falcon and grumbling ''son of a bitch!'' (Not a fatherly thing to say, and certainly not a nice way to talk about your half sister.) There was also the sports news of the day: Jack's beloved Red Sox had just been swept by those damn Yankees. So much for reversing the curse...

...and so much for Jack reversing the destructive influence of his accursed father issues. Initially, he appeared to have made peace with his past. He actually spoke nice of Christian, warmly recalling to Kate that he had been a great storyteller. But he was also nagged by doubts that he could ever be a decent dad himself, much in the same way that he was nagged by doubts that he could be a good husband to Sarah. Alas, he was given reason to indulge these anxieties after being summoned to the Santa Rosa Mental Health Facility for an emergency meeting with Hurley. Talk about Alice in Wonderland links: We learned Hurley had become as mad as the Hatter — a character, intriguingly enough, who believed he had literally murdered time. More to the point of the episode's cited passage, Hurley had become like Alice: despairing over how he fit into the post-Island world, puzzling over the man he was — or wasn't. Off his meds, Hurley had come to believe that he was dead, that his after-Island life was actually the afterlife, that his doctor wasn't real, and that Ghost Charlie was visiting him and imparting important intel intended for Jack. The messages: (1) that Jack ''wasn't meant to raise him'' (presumably, '' him'' means Aaron) and (2) that Jack himself was about to get haunted. Jack — not courageous enough to engage in Hurley's kind of self-reflection (and all the worse for it) — tersely told his friend to get back on his meds and left, trying hard not be spooked. But he was.

NEXT: Cause for alarm

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