Well, there we go.  All that's left at this point is the proverbial fat lady.

I find myself of very mixed emotion as we reach this next-to-last episode of one of the only shows I actually bother to watch while it's airing.  There are absolutely other great shows on TV right now.  I recently watched the first two seasons of "Breaking Bad" in a day and a half, and I love catching up with "Mad Men" all at once when the Blu-ray sets are released.  "Justified" is building a real head of steam as it goes this year, and I try to catch up every few weeks via Hulu, which is the same way I watched pretty much all of "Archer" in one fell swoop.  TV continues to offer up all sorts of varied and fascinating entertainment.  But as far as actual appointment television, "Lost" was pretty much the last one for me.

There's something special about certain shows, where they become more than just stories you're watching.  There have been several shows over the years that have become full-blown social events for me and for my friends.  I remember the heyday of "The X-Files," when a group of us would get together each week to watch together, and there was a time when every Saturday night would kick off with a "MST3K" party for me and my roommates.  Even though it's harder these days to plan a big group get-together for any show, "Lost" has been a show that I've watched each and every week on the night that it aired for the full six seasons, and tonight was the last regularly scheduled episode ever.  It's a strange feeling.  I'm excited to see the ending on Sunday night, but I'm already missing this series that has been such a pleasant and rewarding habit for the better part of this decade.

The 'previously on' segment this week was fairly short and specific, all callbacks to the last Timeline B episode, the rousing "The Candidate," which was one of the bloodiest of the entire series.  Three major characters gone in one terrible accident.  One rotten turn of fate, set in motion by one rotten "sonnnnofabitch," as Sawyer would say.  Only... after last week... it appears that rotten sonnnnofabitch was actually set in motion by another sonnnnofabitch, that this whole thing was set in motion because of terrible choices made thousands of years ago.

In fact, it's Sawyer who says it tonight, directly to Jacob, what most of us were thinking after last week.  He's the one who can't believe they had to get dragged into something that absolutely didn't concern or involve them at all.  And Jacob... who makes an interesting final appearance tonight... confirms something that's been fairly evident since the end of the first round of flashbacks in the first season of the show.

"I was doing just fine till you dragged my ass to this rock."

"No.  You weren't.  None of you were.  You were all flawed."  Jacob says that like it justifies involving anyone in his fight with his brother.  He seems irritated to have to explain it.

Which reminds me... have I mentioned my new theory?

Jacob is a dick.

Straight up.  He's not an angel.  He's not good.  He's not fighting for the side of right.  He's part of a supernatural cult that protects a power source of some sort of magical energy, and he's locked in a near-eternal struggle with his equally supernatural brother.  Over mommy issues.  And the Man In Black may be a bastard in his own right, a vindictive creep, but no more so in my opinion than Jacob at this point.

Jacob knows that his brother is insane and dangerous.  And that by comparison, Jacob appears saintly.  So he plays that up.  But I'm not buying his act.  Not anymore.  Not after the campfire scene.

He justifies his behavior.  He explains it.  But he can't convincingly sell it to anyone except, evidently, Jack.  Jack wants a reason for his life.  He wants to believe in meaning and order.  He is the show's great man of faith. So he steps up tonight, and he accepts the mantle from Jacob.  He chooses to believe that he was brought to the Island for a reason, and that replacing Jacob as the Island's protector is that reason.

I really like the way it came down to Kate, Jack, Hurley, and Sawyer tonight.  I mean, I genuinely felt the deaths in "The Candidate."  It was rough to watch Sayid go out like that, to see Jin and Sun go down together.  It was upsetting to see them cut short so close to the finish line.  But this week, to see these four together at the end, ready to stand up to Alterna-Locke/Smokey/Man In Black, was deeply satisfying for someone looking to see the iconography of "Lost" finally pay itself off in the end.  The opening scene with them on the beach, the next morning, early Hawaiian sunlight as a backdrop... I thought it was simple and impressive.  Jack working on Kate's arm.  Sewing her up as she tells him about Jin and Sun's daughter.  Simmering.  Furious.

"He did this to them.  We have to kill him, Jack."

"I know."

BOOM.  LOST.  Yes.  One of the last four times we'll get a hard cut to that word.  A great cold opening.

The TIMELINE A story this week is actually fairly concise.  Jack gets up, starts his day with a family breakfast.  His family at this point consists of David, his son, and Claire, his pregnant half-sister who he never knew about.  Desmond visits Locke at his school on his first day back, and when Dr. Linus confronts Desmond, Des throws him a savage beating that seems to  wake Ben up a bit.  Because of Ben's beating, Locke realizes he's going to get that operation on his spine and Ben finds what seems to be the beginning of love in the arms of Alex's mother, who is indeed Rousseau.  Desmond hands himself over to police for the hit-and-run, only so he can get to the holding cells where they have Sayid and Kate.  When the three of them are transferred, Des plans and executes a jail break with Hurley and (surprise!) Ana Lucia.  Des has even more of a plan.  The end.

TIMELINE B is just as simple.  Jack, Kate, Hurley and Sawyer decide to go get Desmond.  They talk a bit as they walk.  They get distracted when they run into Jacob and he answers a whooooole bunch of questions.  Jack says he'll do it.  He does it.  And then Ben and Smokey get ugly and kill Widmore and Zoe and Smokey appears to kill Richard (although I wouldn't bet on it) and then when Ben and Smokey go to get Desmond, he's already gone.  Again... simple.

But what really made this episode great was the way things unfolded with an awful locomotion, a sort of mounting hope on one side of the equation and mounting dread on the other.  All of it building... building... towards Smokey's declaration of the episode's final moments.

WHAT WE WILL SEE ON SUNDAY

I'm not going to pretend I've got it all figured out.  I don't.

But I am fairly sure that as storytellers, these guys know their jobs.  I have faith in at least that much.  We can all argue once that last shot is fired on Sunday night for the next week and a half about what we saw.  It'll be interesting.

I'm fairly certain we're going to see key things play out that are already in motion.

THE CONCERT

This is going to be a fulcrum in TIMELINE A.  One of two sequences we know we'll see in this timeline.

The other?

JOHN LOCKE'S OPERATION/ FIRST STEPS

You know it.  This is Jack's chance to heal Locke, who he has to destroy in the other reality. I got it wrong a few weeks back when I said that Jack's successful operation in one reality would give Locke back control of his body, pushing Smokey out once and for all.  I think I called that incorrectly.  But I was close.

The operation is key.  It is Jack's reason.  Just as his reason is to kill John Locke in TIMELINE B.  And that's such a great dichotomy that I find myself really   And speaking of TIMELINE B, there are scenes there that we absolutely have to see.

JACK VS LOCKE

I know that's going to happen.

How it's going to happen, I have no clue.

They're not just going to run at each other and wrassle, right?

And Jack doesn't have magic powers.

Does he?  He did drink the water this week.  Jacob did say, "You're like me now," just as his mother said to him.  Is the truth that Jack now has powers that we have not yet fully seen?

If so... WHAT THE HELL ARE JACK'S POWERS?

And if not... then does Jack harness someone else's magic powers?

Like... say... those of one DESMOND FREAKIN' HUME?

Another scene I'm fairly sure we're getting...

JACK VISITS THE CAVE OF MAGIC PEE

I'm amused by how angry the cave of light seems to get some people.  I assume we're going to see inside it at some point this week.  How can the show introduce the phrase "the heart of the Island" and then not go there in the finale?

And whatever we see in there will depend on what we take in with us.  We might be fighting Vader in there, y'know?  Does Jack go here first and then go defend it from Smokey?

Or does Jack beat Smokey, get hurt, and then go to the magic cave looking for a little help, and to see what he's fighting for?

Or am I just wildly off-base?

I love that I'm really not sure what Sunday's going to be.  I've got some basic stuff.  I still don't get the flash-sideways structure, and the explanation's going to end up being next week's big card to play.

God... I'm tense for them.  I hope it is genuinely memorable television.  And that enough people feel ike it was worth the ride.  The WHOLE ride.  Not just the last 125 minutes or so.  But the whole thing.

It would have to be a disastrous episode on Sunday night for me not to feel like it was worth it.  I've enjoyed playing this game with the makers of the show for six seasons now, and I love the cast, and it has made me swear at my TV in shock more times than I can count.  And tonight, as Smokey looks at Ben and says, "Desmond is going to help me do the one thing I could never do myself.  I'm going to destroy the Island," there was one of the last three times there will be a hard cut to "LOST."

Who would have ever thought a show's transitions could carry a nostalgic charm?

See you Sunday night for the main event.

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