Next season starts when?  January?  Okay, all I need is enough Ambien to keep me knocked out from now until "Avatar" comes out.  A month of that will keep me busy until "Lost" returns, smack dab in the middle of Sundance next year.  And frankly, after the enormous punch in the groin that was the last minute of this year's season finale, that might be the only way I am able to handle the wait until the show's final run of episodes finally begins.

This week started huge and then just got bigger with each scene.  The first thing we see is the distant past.  Is that the Black Rock we see out there on the ocean?  I think it is.  But more importantly, we see the entire statue, complete with Osiris head, and we meet Jacob, who apears to be locked in a war of the wills with another "person" like him.

And I say "person" because I have a strong feeling that Jacob and his not-remotely-a-friend can't really be called people in any conventional sense.  And while I think Richard Alpert was human at one point, he's not anymore.  He's whatever they are, or he's closer to them at least.  They've obviously done something to him that has permanently altered him, and it appears to be something they can do to anyone.  And what's all this talk of "a loophole"?  Are we hearing that there are indeed ways to break the rules?  And if so... which rules are we talking about again?

We're getting ahead of the show, though.  And in an episode that is as jammed full of information as this one was, it doesn't pay to skip around.  We should discuss what happened, and in some sort of order, or we're never going to get through this one.  There are things that run through the entire episode, like Jacob appearing in the lives of many of the 815 survivors when they were younger.  The first one with Kate is intriguing, and it sets up some major implications.  The idea that Jacob had picked these people in their youth suggests that there are no accidents, that nothing was random about those people being involved in filght 815.  Or maybe it just means that Jacob, who is unstuck in time, used his knowledge of the future to pick out the people who would play such a large role in the life of the Island, just to see who they were.

[more after the jump]

As they're leaving the Island in the submarine, Kate tries to talk Sawyer into getting off and going back to stop Jack, and he brushes her off.  He tells her he doesn't care anymore.  All he wants is to leave with Juliet.  He was happy.  He doesn't want to go chasing Jack around anymore.  He's making the right choice in this early scene, and it just makes me sad, even as I'm watching the scene, because you know Sawyer and the others will go back, and you know it won't go well.  This is pretty much the last moment where they really do have a choice.

We flash-forward to Locke and his people, on their way to see Jacob now.  Locke's a wild man on the episode tonight, driven.  He seems totally different than the Locke who was so wracked by doubt in the second season, and I love seeing how far he's come, how much he's changed.

The Shadow of the Statue cult, or whatever they end up being called, are frustrating this week, with their big giant box and whatever the hell's inside.  Whatever it is, it has a real impact on Frank when he sees it.  And we don't get to see it when he does, which leads into the first big commercial break of the night, as annoying a place for a commercial as I can imagine.

I noticed something strange in the first group of scenes after the commercial break.  Jack's got Sayid and Eloise and Richard with him at the bomb in the temple.  Meanwhile, 30 years away, Locke has Ben and Richard with him on the way to Jacob.  Richard's the same in both time frames, the only character who shows up in two sequences happening at the same time this week.  That's just freaky.  It's also one of the reasons my wife will stop the Tivo seven or eight times an episode and say, "What the hell are they talking about?"

It's strange watching this in a hotel by myself instead of at home with my wife.  This is one of the few shows we make time to watch together, and it feels wrong watching this without her. like I checked into a hotel so I could cheat with a TV show.  And I hate that I can't pause or rewind as I normally do when writing a recap.

On the other hand, they have room service pizza.

How about that scene with Jacob approaching young Sawyer, and young Sawyer's busy working on his letter?  Remember the letter?  I hadn't thought about it in a while, and I like how it's important, but it's not all-consuming, especially now that so much has changed for him.  It doesn't define him anymore.  But when Jacob approached him, it was just at the start of things.

I'm really glad this is a two hour episode tonight, because there's so much going on that I don't think there's any way they could have wrapped this up in an hour.

Boy, Sawyer likes strong ladies, doesn't he?

I think it's interesting that both Julie and Kate have become very angry and very sad over similar issues in the last two weeks.  Kate got furious at Jack for saying that he wanted to erase "all the misery" of the last few years.  Since the last few years also saw Kate and Jack together, his desire to erase that time hurt her very deeply.  Likewise, I can tell that Juliet is damaged now, knowing that she no longer has Sawyer's heart.  Not the way she did.  Now there's room for Kate in there, too, and Juliet's reaction is to pull away, to try and protect herself.  These women aren't planning to be accessories to anyone anymore.

The moment where Locke tells Ben what he expects of him, and when Ben tells Locke why he's willing to do whatever he says... great moment.  The first cut to commercial may have been a positively brutal tease, but I like the second one a lot.

"I'm not going to kill Jacob, Ben.  You are."  Oh, my.

After the commercials, the hits just keep on coming.  Seeing Nadia's death, seeing Jacob there in the middle of it, it's obvious that there's a larger game going on, and Jacob's not just some passive observer.

I love how Sayid's so badass he can just walk around the jungle with a hydrogen bomb slung over his shoulder in a bag.

And for a badass, he sure does step into the line of fire quickly, doesn't he?

Sayid's been shot! Shit! I'm curious if they're going to heal him or if that's it for Sayid on the show.  It feels to me like they could write him out and he would have played his whole role.

Hurley and Jin come racing in to save the day, and it's out to another commercial.  I don't watch live broadcasts anymore, so I'd forgotten what it's like when you don't have a choice, and you have to sit through all the ads.  All I know is, by the time of that third commercial break, I was stuffed full of hotel pizza, and I was getting a wicked case of the sleepies.  Not acceptable.

Thankfully, the show refuses to slow down, and the sheer "OHMYGOD!" factor of this whole episode worked to wake me up as soon as the commercials were done.  I thought the scene with Bernard and Rose and Vincent was just wonderful, and I hope that whatever happens next season, theose characters are left alone to live their lives "in retirement" as they wish.  They've earned it, and their acceptance of their situation and their attitude towards it suggests that they are what Jacob was hoping for in that opening scene, people who could experience the wonder of the Island without exploiting it or each other.

By now, it's apparent that the show is no longer about faith or science.  Instead, we're looking now at two camps of thought at war, in scene after scene, character after character, conflict after conflict.  Do you act, or do you abstain?  And will the end result change either way?  That's the big idea that's playing out across the entire two hours, and the way they keep writing to that idea, they way they're examining it completely, is the reason I love this series.

For example, we find Locke and Ben together on the beach near the old camp of the survivors, and Locke is trying to psyche Ben up to kill Jacob.  He reminds him of all the petty humiliations, of having to pretend to see him.  He rubs Ben's nose in it until Ben acknowledges his own weakness ("I lied, John... that's what I do.") and it's obvious that Locke's goads are starting to get to Ben.  I can't believe how pathetic Ben seems.  I don't even think of him a s the bad guy at this point... I think he's just a dumb pawn, at play in a larger game he doesn't fully understand.

We see a few more moments where Jacob intersected with the survivors, including the actual moment Locke went out a window and the day of Sun and Jin's wedding.  I laughed out loud at the way they handled the Locke scene in the background, not least because of the book Jacob's reading (Flannery O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge) and the way his fall's just one of those details, sort of thrown away.  But did it look to you like Jacob actually revived John when he was on the ground out cold?

Finally, we're back on the island with Jack and Jin and Hurley and the rapidly-bleeding-out Sayid.

And then comes the best roadblock ever.

The last two encounters with Jacob that we see are with Jack (at a pivotal moment in his relationship with his father) and Hurley (just after he got out of jail), and they're very different.  But by now, it's apparent that Jacob touches each of them.  That's got to be significant.  It must mean something.

It's strange the way this week makes the Chrisian symbology of the show overt (Jacob's buddy wouldn't happen to be named Esau, would he?), even as it introduces more Egyptian symbolism and the speaking of Latin and a number of other influences.  I have a feeling I know some of the big secrets of the show for next year, but I'm not going to spill because if I'm right, I'd feel like an asshole revealing things too soon.  I'll just say this... there may well be a reason that no one faith is represented on the Island, and it may well have to do with the origin of Jacob and his "friend' and the Island itself.

That Jack and Sawyer fight only underlined my thesis this week, that the entire episode is about the choice to either do something or do nothing.

Did the second half of the show feel like a series finale more than a season finale to everyone else?

When the incident finally starts, it's just as crazy as you'd expect, and Jack tries to help but only manages to lose Juliet, much to Sawyer's heartbreak.  Jack tried to ignite the bomb, but to no avail.

Meanwhile, Ben and Locke go to see Jacob, and as they're inside the building at the base of the foot of the giant statue, Ilana and her team show up outside.  For the first time, Richard answers back correctly, so they show him what they've got in the box...

... John Locke's still-dead body.

Best mind-game of the show so far, if you ask me.  Realizing Locke isn't Locke at all, it casts a shadow over the entire rest of what we saw going on this week.  It certainly explains his new confidence.

As the Incident kicks into high gear at the Swan site, we finally see what Sawyer's breaking point looks like.  He can act like a badass all he wants, but tonight, they finally laid bare Sawyer's soft gooey center, and then they broke him.  He's going to be dangerous next year, because he's going to have lost something very important to him.  It would not surprise me to see Sawyer far darker than he's ever been before.

If anyone's left, that is.  That fade-to-white at the end of the episode was sort of stunning, especially after the great confrontation scene with Ben and Not-Locke and Jacob, who didn't seem particularly upset or surprised to see Ben and Not-Locke when they arrived.

His cryptic "They're coming" does not bode well for anyone still on the island.

That ending is unacceptable considering I have eight months until new episodes begin.  But what a cliffhanger.  And what a season.  I would be the first one to admit that the show really lost its way at one point, but at the end of its fifth season, as we look ahead to the show's final episodes, I think it can safely be argued that "Lost" stands unique among SF on television.  There's never been a show like it, and I doubt that sort of magic would ever happen twice.  So enjoy.  Enjoy the show.  Enjoy the speculation.  Enjoy the wait.  And, finally, enjoy the wait for next year.  We only get to go round with a show like this once, and I'm so pleased to have spent the last few months recapping these episodes for you.  I'll be back to do it again next year, but until then, you'll find me over at my own blog, Motion/Captured.

Thanks for having me here in TV-land, Dan.  Hope the recaps were useful and to your liking.  If anything, writing these has made me appreciate and consider the show even more than I already did, and I dig that.

Can't get enough of Motion/Captured? Don't miss a post with daily HitFix Blog Alerts. Sign up now.

Don't miss out. Add Motion/Captured to your iGoogle, My Yahoo or My MSN experience by clicking here.

Not part of the HitFix Nation yet? Take 90 seconds and sign up today.