"We're going to ditch Locke.  You, me, Jack, Sun, Hurley, and that pilot who looks like he stepped off the set of a Burt Reynolds movie."

Ditching the character-centric episodes we're used to, "Lost" kicked things into high gear tonight, moving quickly from commercial break to commercial break, offering up at least one major moment of catharsis, and finally brought almost all of the characters together in both timelines.  Even with that much going on, it managed to feel almost like the one last deep breath before everything kicks into overdrive, a final adjustment before the big finish.

Paul ZbyszewskiGraham Roland contributed the script tonight, and it must have been a tough one to put together.  Essentially, all this episode did was move chess pieces around the board a bit, getting everything ready for the war that is obviously coming.  In both of the timelines, major things are afoot, and characters are being drawn together, and purpose is coming into focus.  It's time for the endgame now, and this was the episode that had to happen to get us there.

The "previously on" montage was split equally between TIMELINE A and TIMELINE B this week, showing Sawyer as the cop catching Kate in the alley, then Sayid rescuing Jin, Sun getting shot, and Des running Locke down with his car.  We saw Locke throw Desmond down the well again, and then the moment at the end of last week's episode where Jack and Alterna-Locke finally came face-to-face.

Picking up about two seconds later, this week began with the conversation that the whole season's been building to so far, Jack and AL testing each other a bit.  Jack asks if AL appeared to him as his father on the third day they were on the Island, and AL finally confirms that it was indeed him.  He says he did it just so he could lead Jack to the fresh water source he needed, and that he's only ever tried to help Jack and the others.  He says he would have gotten them all off of the Island long ago if not for Jacob, and that now that he's dead, they are all free to go, as long as they go together.  Jack tells him that the real John Locke was one of the few believers in the Island, and AL scoffs.  "John Locke was not a believer.  He was a sucker."

In TIMELINE A, Locke's in the back of an ambulance, on his way to the hospital, with Ben riding along.  They get to the hospital at the same time as the ambulance that's carrying Sun.  As they're both being wheeled into the hospital, she catches sight of Locke and she freaks out.  "No!" she cries.  "It's him! It's him!"

Back in TIMELINE B, Jack and Locke are walking back from their conversation when Locke hears Claire following them.  He calls her out of the bushes, and then leaves her to talk to Jack.  They discuss their shared parentage, and she tells him that it's nice to finally have him on the team.  Jack tells her that he hasn't decided yet, but she tells him, "You decided the moment you let him talk to you.  Whether you like it or not, you're with him now."  Boom.  LOST.

After the first commercial, Sawyer catches Hurley up on the plan to steal the submarine and escape.  Claire interrupts as she returns to camp with Jack and Alterna-Locke, and AL tells them all, "It's so nice to have everyone back together again."

In TIMELINE A, Sawyer's got Kate in custody, questioning her, and she sort of nails him about why he let her escape at LAX.  Before he can deal with it, a call comes in and Miles tells Sawyer about the massacre at Keamey's restaurant.  They've got a surveillance photo of Sayid as he left the restaurant, too, and they head out to pick him up.

In TIMELINE B, Kate and Jack are talking when Zoe comes strolling into camp.  Everyone pulls a gun on her, but she seems completely unconcerned about it.  She tells Alterna-Locke that she wants back what he took from them, and when he tries to play coy, she jumps on the radio and calls in an air strike, which explodes about fifteen feet from where they're standing.  She says they have until nightfall to return Desmond to Widmore's camp or the next time, they won't miss.  She gives AL a radio to use to call them when he's ready, then leaves.  AL smashes the radio and tells everyone that he has no intention of calling Widmore or handing over what he took.

And as everyone freaks out a little, AL shrugs it off with "Oh, well... here we go."

Indeed.  See, Smokey's plan is pretty simple.  It appears to be "Get in a boat, go over to Hydra Island, kick Widmore's silly ass up and down the beach a little, get in the plane, fly away."

What then?

What happens to reality and the world if Widmore loses and Smokey leaves the Island once and for all?

What happens to our characters?

Here's the magic trick.  Here's where the show is telling you EXACTLY what happens.

How?  Because it's telling you what happened.

I think the bomb broke the Island.  I think when the bomb went off, it broke whatever the security system was on the Island.  And as a result, Smokey made his move.  He got Ben to kill Jacob.  He took Locke's body.  He wiped out the Others.  He's gathered the Candidates.  And he's taking off in that plane.




And once he does, he's going to give everyone who's with him exactly what they want.  How he does that is still unclear, but he is going to give them all a chance to have something that they lost.  He did give them all that chance.  Future tense and past tense.

Because that's what timeline A and timeline B really are.  It's a loop.  It's not a flash-sideways.  It's not a parallel world at all.  The Island broke, but it didn't break into half.  Instead, we're going to see everyone who's on the Island and still intact get a shot at something, but it's not real.  It's illusory.  It's wrong.  It's not the life they really lived.  It's a deal.  It's a wonderful life, you might say, but it's not genuine.

They have to reject it.  And if they do, then they'll stop Smokey somehow.  Someone's got to wake up and take their place on the Island.  And once that happens, we'll see TIMELINE B, TIMELINE A, and then finally, TIMELINE C, which we haven't seen yet.  We haven't seen the place where the loop closes.

But we will.  And when we do, I think Locke's going to be there.

Is John Locke, in fact, Neo?

If he wakes up on the Island when Jack saves his life... and if Jack can give John Locke back his legs, so to speak... if Jack's ROLE ON THE ISLAND is to be the thing that saves Locke... if his entire purpose boils down to one minute, and one act, and the entire rest of the show was a build to that act... then I think that's sort of fantastic.  I think that's something that would pay off "Lost."  And once he does it, John Locke is going to have to battle Smokey for possession of his body.

And if he gets it, does John Locke finally become the new Jacob?  Is he rewarded for his faith this whole time?  Is the reason Smokey manipulated Locke's death because he was afraid of Locke all along?

Maybe I'm totally wrong.  But I'm starting to get a feeling. 

Desmond has a role.  Charlie has a role.  Sawyer has a role.  Kate has a role.  Sun and Jin have a role.  Hurley absolutely has a role.  Widmore wants a role in it, but he's an intruder.  All the people who are dead who still play parts, like Michael or Ana Lucia or Libby or anyone, are dead.  They're part of the illusion of TIMELINE A, familiar faces cast in a play, as it were.  Cracks in the reality of TIMELINE A. 

If the main living characters, the Candidates, all pay off somehow, if they all play some part in this showdown... if they all are so particular in the way things unfold... then I think that would be satisfying.  It's starting to feel like people are fated to certain parts, and some of them will be heartbreaking, sure.  But I'm betting we see some moments of heroic uplift, too.  There's no way Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse are going to write something designed just to deny or upset you right at the finish line.  They're looking to pay off the investment you have in the specific characters, I think, and seeing Locke and Jack sort of drop into place this week was worth everything I have invested in them. 

When Jack finally turns down Sawyer's escape plan late in the episode, it's important.  But Sawyer's role is somewhere else.  He has to go wherever he's going.  It's time.  He's in motion.  And his path is not Jack's path.

The alternating storylines this week really seemed to be paying off in interesting ways.  Because in both stories, at the end of the week, Jack is about to be tested directly.  In TIMELINE A, he's about to operate on John Locke to save his life.  In TIMELINE B, he's just been hit by an artillery shell, and Smokey saved his life.  Smokey's last line is a doozy, too.

"Jack, don't worry.  It's going to be okay.  You're with me now."

If Jack chooses wrong in one timeline, will he fail in the other timeline?  Is that how it works?  He has to get them both right, or he fails them both?  Or do we have to assume that he gets it right in TIMELINE B because TIMELINE A takes place after?  Should we just assume that he ends the TIMELINE B storyline with a fresh cut on his neck, the same cut we see in TIMELINE A in the first scenes of this season?

Did I mention that Sun and Jin were reunited finally in both timelines?  And that it was awesome?

Widmore's dropping bombs right in Smokey's lap now.  And Sawyer and Kate and Frank and Hurley and Claire are all kneeling on a beach, guns to their heads.

And Desmond?  Well, he's dead, right?  He's at the bottom of that well where Sayid shot him.  Right?

Well... is he?  Or did he talk Sayid out of it?  Did he poke Sayid just the right way?  Is that the whole reason Desmond let himself be carried out to the well and thrown into it in the first place?  Because that's how I read him last week.  I don't think he was remotely surprised.  I think Desmond has a vision of how things have to go.  And that's what makes him the Constant.  Did he talk Sayid out of it, and is he going to somehow affect the outcome of Jack's decision?

That's my guess.

So.  Yeah.  You could say I liked this week's episode.  How about you?

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You can e-mail me at drew@hitfix.com or follow me on Twitter, where I'm DrewAtHitFix.

A respected critic and commentator for fifteen years, Drew McWeeny helped create the online film community as "Moriarty" at Ain't It Cool News, and now proudly leads two budding Film Nerds in their ongoing movie education.