You know it's going to be a packed episode when there's no time for a "previously on" montage at the start of the show.

My entire Twitter reaction to tonight's episode:  "Oh, my.  OH, MY.  You hear me, 'Lost'?  I SAID OH, MY."

The show started cold this week with Locke in TIMELINE A waking up in recovery after being operated on to repair the damage done when Desmond ran him down.  The first thing Locke sees after waking up is Jack, who wants to discuss the emergency surgery with him and to inform him that there's a good chance another surgery might restore his ability to walk. "You're a candidate," he tells him, and Jack's excited to share the news, which makes it more confusing when Locke tells him that he doesn't want any more help from Jack.

Helen shows up, emotional about Locke's close call, and she starts to profusely thank Jack for saving Locke.  As she does, we jump to TIMELINE B, where Jack wakes up on Hydra Island, having been saved in this timeline by AlternaLocke and Sayid.

Meanwhile, in Widmore's camp, the rest of the Lostaways are being herded into the polar bear cages, and Sawyer decides he's not getting back in one of those cages, no matter what.  He snatches the gun away from Babyface and tells him he's not doing it.  Widmore walks out and puts a gun to Kate's head.  When Sawyer tries to call Widmore's bluff, Widmore explains, "I have a list of four names.  Kate Austin is not on it."  That does it.  Sawyer backs down.  As they're all being locked into the polar bear cages, Widmore asks his people about the fence and when it will be ready.  They tell him it'll be about an hour.  "We haven't got an hour," Widmore responds.  "He's coming."

Indeed he is.

This is the week where the Man In Black/AlternaLocke/Smokey finally drops the disguise and reveals that he isn't terribly interested in helping any of the candidates off of the Island after all.  Instead, he's got different plans for them, and once those plans are finished, he should be free to go.  And every single person on the Island is a puzzle piece for him.  They mean nothing to him.  He's a suit.  He's not really who he looks like, and because of that, it's easy to take him at face value and underestimate him.  He reveals more of his power this week, he gets in a good Smokey rampage, and he makes some cold-blooded decisions without blinking.  He is an awesome pulp villain revealed, and he's already planning how he's going to kill everybody else.  He's coming.  And all season long, he's been coming, killing his way towards the final group of people he needs to eliminate.  I've read some complaints now that we've been spinning wheels in the on-Island chronology this year, what I call TIMELINE B in my recaps.  I think it's been fun seeing all of the stopguards that were put in place and hinted at revealed, and first up is a sort of a hippie cult in a not-terribly-secure temple, and when it's time, Smokey schools them in about thirty seconds flat.  Then there's the kids that Widmore's brought along to help him out, and Smokey doesn't seem remotely afraid of them.  And even the Candidates seem to be clay in his hands.  Pliable.  Expendable.  Smokey is unleashed wrath at this point.

Jack had an interesting week in TIMELINE A, one of the best he's had in a season that's seen him finally become a hero and not a hindrance. He's making connections in TIMELINE A that seem to call into question the coincidental nature of everything, of all these people from his flight suddenly showing up in his life.  There's a growing sense that there's something wrong with the plane ride.  That's when things got weird. This week, Jack meets Bernard, who turns out to be a doctor who did emergency dental surgery on both John Locke and someone else who was in the same accident.  A man named Anthony Cooper.  When Jack realizes that Bernard was on the Oceanic flight, it's a great creepy "how is that possible?" moment for both of them.  Later, he runs into Claire, who he met in the lawyer's office at the reading of the will, and they realize they were both on Oceanic as well.  That's enough to really set off the alarms for Jack, and by the time he has a strange encounter with a half-away Locke saying "Push the button," you can tell that he knows there's a game being played.

In TIMELINE B, he has an equally interesting and central storyling.  He's open wth Smokey, telling him he's not going to leave with them.  He's willing to help them get to the plane, but he's not willing to go.  He's convinced that he's got a role on the Island.  He's become a man of faith since "The Lighthouse," and he's getting more and more evangelical.  He's keeping Locke's original POV alive, and he's having to face down Locke to do it.  Jack and Sawyer have a plan to somehow contain Smokey, and Sawyer and Jack have one of their best showdowns ever standing on opposite sides of a ticking time bomb.  It's a big week for our doctor, and he rises to the occasion, I think.

Okay... about that bomb...

This is the week where they let you know that everyone's fair game.  I think Frank Lapidus dying is a "shame" from a fan point of view just because I love Jeff Fahey.  Still... makes sense.  I think Sayid dying is sort of awesome.  I like that whatever Desmond said or did to him reversed the evil that had Dogen so worried earlier this season.  Sayid goes out a hero, knowing he can't have Nadia... that it wouldn't be real.  And he's determined to save as many people as he can, including the one person he's convinced will be able to stand against Smokey.

"It will be you, Jack."

Will it?  Is that the battle we're gearing up for?

And, yes, Sun and Jin are gone.  Taken down in Smokey's brilliant "bomb on a submarine" plan, which he appears to improvise on the fly, Sun and Jin have been scratched off the list of candidates, one fell stroke.  I'm sure some people will criticize Jin for not escaping while he could for his daughter's sake.  I don't mean to sound callous to defend the scene the way it played out tonight, but Jin had never met his daughter, while he'd been looking for his wife, desparate to reunite with her, for years.  YEARS.  And he'd finally found her again.  I get Jin's response here.  And I thought it was played just sad enough.  The scene itself didn't get me... it was actually afterwards, with Hurley on the beach.  His sobbing at the news of Sun and Jin's death was something you're just not used to.

Locke's final moment on the dock with Crazy Claire was a winner.  He can feel the submarine as it sinks.  He knows it's gone.  And he knows that some of the candidates weren't onboard.

"They're dead?" Claire asks.

"Not all of them."

"Where are you going?" even as she follows.

"To finish what I started."

It was a rough week.  And I have a feeling it's going to get tougher before things are done.

By the way, did you watch the clips from next week's show?

Did the backgammon clip blow your mind?  Because I really hadn't made that explicit a connection with that conversation.  Seeing it like that... Locke laying it out... creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepy.  Add more e's as necessary.  If you're complaining that the show has changed focus, that one moment suggests that they called their shot right up front.  "This is where we're going.  But it'll be a long road to get there."

Here's something to chew on.  When "Lost" was picked up but hadn't started to air yet, I went with a bunch of my friends to a drive-in theater here in LA.  One of them was a guy who was working on the show as a writer, and he told me a bit about the premise.  I asked him how you avoided making the show "Gilligan's Island with monsters," and he explained that there was a long game they were going to play, and in it, they were going to split the characters up, and half of them were going to follow one character, and half were goign to follow the other, and they'd be going to war.  "And the bad guy is going to be the dude from 'The Stepfather,'" he told me.  Terry O'Quinn.  And for the entire run of the show, I was sure that they had dumped that idea, that Locke was one of the show's heroes.  But now, seeing them set up the idea that everything comes down to "a battle, one side light, one side dark," what seems likely is they threw that out there in the broadest possible terms, knowing in general what they were planning to do, leaving it loose enough that they could build that final showdown any way they wanted, but specific enough that when they finally drop the other half of that set-up/pay-off, it feels sort of brain-bending.  I'm just starting to realize that way back before the show went on the air even, my friend knew that certain things were going to happen, and they're just now finally getting around to them.  Impressive.

I'd like to welcome Alan Sepinwall, our newest editorial member of the HitFix team.  He also recaps "Lost," and by the evidence of how many comments he's had since the episode aired, he's got a lively following for those recaps.  I'm not going to do much TV.  It's just not my thing.  So recapping this show side-by-side with Sepinwall here in the home stretch is exciting.  I think there's a lot of "Lost" to chew on at the moment.

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