“I guess we’re all different now,” Jack mused last night—all of us except Lost that is. After six seasons, the show’s formulae have become easily predictable. “The Last Recruit” was your classic late-season, moving-into-end-game pieces-mover—let’s get these people over here and the rest of them over here. It's the sort of episode you zip through and then forget when watching the series on DVD. But, when you're watching week-to-week, it just keeps your palms rubbed red with anticipation, proving neither quite fulfilling nor disappointing.
It seemed like every scene last night, laden with a “shit’s gonna go down!” urgency, was intended to titillate, finishing off with a promise of excitement in the dialogue: “here we go,” “he’s gonna be mad,” “let’s go!” and so forth. And yet the big cliffhanger I’d been anticipating—particularly since the show takes off next week with a repeat of “Ab Aeterno”—never came exactly. Well, most of our Lostie heroes are at the end of Widmore’s goons’ guns, while across the narrows Jack is cuddled with Flocke in the wake of Widmore bombs, but I wasn’t really convinced, even with only four episodes/five hours of Lost left, that the sides had finally been drawn. I wouldn’t be surprised, knowing this show, if there were still a little more realigning to come—a few more chess pieces to get into position before the Final Showdown.
The nice thing about the show at this point is that the writers are at pains to provide a few direct answers per episode. Last week it was the whispers; this week's had to do with Smokey: yes, he was the one posing as Christian all along, which in hindsight seems obvious—oh, that’s why he was with Claire, and why he sent Locke back to get everybody—but had confounded me up until last night. (Going back over all the Christian’s ghost episodes now, or at least the Lostpedia page, would be an educational undertaking, I’m sure.) We also learned that Smokey has just been trying to get everybody off the Island this whole time! Oh, by killing the pilot? And bringing everyone back once they’d left? If “the Island brought [them] here for a reason” that reason seems to be that Smokey needs them to escape. It’s not “The Island”—it’s the Monster! That Man in Black is so full of shit! Even if he helped them all find water.
Speaking of the pilot (from way back in “Pilot”), last night’s episode was especially, for a season that's been heavy with them, full of references to past seasons, whether through direct parallel or subtle evocation: there was something very “Lostie visiting the Others circa season two” about Zoe’s arrival at Locke’s camp; the ear-ringing kaboom at Locke’s camp brought to mind the original 815 crash; and obviously Jack’s aquatic “leap” of faith recalled Sawyer’s similar helicopter splash, followed by Kate delivering the Jackian line “we have to go back!” “We’re done going back,” Sawyer answered. Nice. Season six!
Oh, but with season six come flashsidewayses. "The Last Recruit" is what Lostpedia might call a “various”-centric episode; the characters were brought together in Reality X as they were in Reality—many of them in Los Angeles’ only hospital (the one where Jack works), as well as in the offices of Ilana, Esq. (Note Jack was the bridge between those two locations. I really think he’s gonna be the new Jack[ob].) The flashsidewayses, moving the pieces around just like in the present action, should have been this snappy all along, rather than spending entire episodes mired in, say, Sawyer’s police escapades. “LAX” was among the strongest episodes of the season up to recently for a reason.
The “The Last Recruit”'s biggest (emotional, anyway) moment—aside from another halfhearted “Desmond’s dead!” fake-out—came off like kind of an afterthought: Jin and Sun’s reunion was oddly unaffecting, unless I’ve simply come down with whatever Sayid’s got. (“Looks like someone’s got their voice back,” Lapidus muttered in Lost’s most shameless series of crassly manipulative smiling cutaway shots. It also looked like a writer was trying to get away with some serious bullshit.) “It’s all over now,” Jin told Sun (I’m paraphrasing), “We’re going to be OK.” Uhhhhh...not so fast there, buddy. Give it another four episodes.