Lost: 4.09 “The Shape of Things to Come”
Mental note: When playing with Ben, don’t change the rules.
Whoa. I feel like I just ran a marathon watching that episode. If this one doesn’t spark discussion, nothing will. What a provocative return! Keamy and the freighter folk turn out to be cold-blooded assassins, the freighter doc is dead, Claire almost dies, Jack’s got an upset tummy, the freighter knows nothing about the dead doctor, Sayid gets married (to Nadia! Sniffle...), Smokey makes his triumphant return... and we see what happens when you take away the loved ones of Ben and Sayid. Whew!!
“On Top of Old Smokey! All Covered in Rage...”
Without a doubt, the most amazing visual effect of the season is the return of Old Smokey, who hurtles into the camp like a gigantic angry pitbull to exact some serious revenge. So what the heck happened there? Ben insinuates that Jacob was the one who summoned the smoke monster, but we saw Ben enter an underground lair that looked very sarcophagal (yes, I just made that word up) and the next thing you know, he goes all medieval on their asses.
Damon and Carlton have said that with every appearance of the smoke monster, we learn more about it. It seems to attack the believers, like Eko and Locke. It allowed itself to be seen by Charlie, also a religious type. It can be scared away by sudden attacks like dynamite or the sonic fence, yet in this episode it runs headlong into battle and isn’t scared off by the machine guns at all. It can be called forth by someone, as it clearly was here... does that mean Jacob or Ben called it forth to kill Eko and the pilot? Who made it chase Juliet and Kate? Does it ever act of its own accord? Is the smoke monster the key between the true island believers – Jacob and Ben – and the ones who THINK they are – Locke and Eko?
• Ben overpowering the two Arabs.
• Sawyer referring to Rousseau, Karl, and Alex as “Frenchie and the Kids.”
• The look on Miles’ face when Ben tells him he won’t be collecting the $3.2 million.
• Ben “saying goodbye” to Alex... a rare moment of tenderness from him.
• Sawyer threatening Locke if he touches one curly hair on Hurley’s head. We’ve come a long way from Sawyer calling Hurley cruel nicknames.
Biggest “GASP!” Moments:
• Sayid and Nadia were married!! I hope we see more of what happened here, because that has got to be one of the saddest stories on the show yet. Poor Sayid... no wonder he seemed like an empty shell in “The Economist.”
• Keamy shooting Alex in the head. The moment is so heartbreaking because of the final words Alex hears Ben say: that she’s not his daughter, she’s just a pawn, and she means nothing to him.
• The final scene between Ben and Widmore. ACK! Does this mean we’ll see Desmond in the future when Ben begins hunting Penny?? I hope so!! (Desmond could have made it off the island, but wouldn’t be one of the Oceanic Six because he wasn’t on the plane.)
The code on the sonic fence is 1623. Sayid says he searched for Nadia for 8 years. Ben tells the concierge that he’s here to see Mr. And Mrs. Kendrick in 4E. The date in Ben’s flashforward is October 24 (reverse 42).
Did You Notice?:
• The title of this episode is from a novel by H.G. Wells. From Wikipedia (and therefore true):
The Shape of Things to Come is a work of science fiction by H. G. Wells, published in 1933, which speculates on future events from 1933 until the year 2106. It is not a novel, but rather a fictional history book or chronicle, similar in style to Star Maker and Last and First Men, both by Olaf Stapledon. Wells' book also shared with Stapledon's an understanding of the change wrought in the nature of war by the development of air power; both writers included harrowing depictions of cities destroyed in aerial bombardments, which proved an all too accurate prediction of what was to happen in the actual second World War.• Ben is playing Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C# Minor, but not the way one should play it... it’s supposed to be loud and bombastic. (Ok, that probably had nothing to do with the episode, but it’s one of my favourite pieces, and I found it a son of a bitch to play.)
Wells creates a framing device by claiming that the book is his edited version of notes written by an eminent diplomat, Dr Philip Raven, who had been having dream visions of a history textbook published in 2106, and wrote down what he could remember of it.
The book is dominated by Wells's belief in a world state as the solution to mankind's problems. Wells successfully predicted the Second World War, although he envisaged it dragging on into the 1960s, being finally ended only by a devastating plague that almost destroys civilisation. Wells then envisages a benevolent dictatorship - 'The Dictatorship of the Air' (a term obviously modeled on 'The Dictatorship of the proletariat') - arising from the controllers of the world's surviving transportation systems (the only people with global power). This dictatorship promotes science,
enforces Basic English as a global lingua franca, and eradicates all religion, setting the world on the route to a peaceful utopia. When the dictatorship finds it necessary to kill political opponents, the condemned persons are given a chance to emulate the ancient philosophers Socrates and Seneca and take a poison tablet in a congenial environment of their choice.
Eventually, after a century of re-shaping humanity, the dictatorship is overthrown in a completely bloodless coup, the former rulers are sent into a very honourable retirement, and the world state "withers away" as was predicted by Marx. The last part of the book is a detailed description of the Utopian world which emerges, in some way reminiscent of Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward.
• We FINALLY get a calendar date on one of the flashforwards: October 24, 2005. That’s ten months after the events we’re watching now.
• Daniel saying he could construct a telegraph with strips of metal, a 9-volt battery clip and some wiring makes him come off like the Professor on Gilligan’s Island. I suppose next he’ll be constructing nuclear bombs out of coconuts and mangoes.
• I mentioned in an earlier column that Ben’s identity on his passport, Dean Moriarty, is the name of the main character of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Moriarty is also the name of Sherlock Holmes’ arch-nemesis, which is probably a more likely connection here.
• Nadia’s assassin is named Ishmael Bakir. Ishmael is the name of the main character in Moby Dick, who begins as an important character involved in the action, and eventually just becomes a narrator who’s not really part of it. Ishmael is also the name of one of Abraham’s sons, and is the dividing point between Islam and Judeo-Christian religions: Muslims believe that Ishmael was Abraham’s eldest son and therefore the true heir, while the Jewish religion believes Isaac to be the true heir.
• There were flashes in Smokey; I wonder if they were images of what just happened? Screencaps in the next few days will say for sure.
So Many Questions...
• So are Rousseau and Karl dead? If I had to make a bet, I’d say Karl is, Rousseau isn’t.
• I’ve mentioned a couple of times before that no one on the island ever seems to get sick – no colds, no flus, nothing like that – so what is the significance of Jack’s “stomach bug”? What medicine was he REALLY taking? (You don’t take antibiotics for a stomach bug.) What’s wrong with him?
• Are we meant to assume some sort of connection between the freighter doctor dying and Jack feeling ill?
• Hurley, playing Risk, says Australia is the key to the whole game. Is that a comment on the plot? Australia IS where the plane took off, after all.
• How the hell did Ben end up where he was? He’s all shaky and freaky... did he just teleport there or something? From another place? From another time? What’s with the Dharma jacket?
• The freighter folk shoot every single person with one bullet who runs outside near Sawyer. Yet despite him running around in broad sight, they don’t kill him with a single one of the dozens of bullets that come flying at him. Were they missing on purpose?
• The woman at the Tunisian hotel takes pause when she sees Ben’s name in the register... why? What are Ben’s ties to Tunisia? He travels to Iraq to find Sayid, so the stopover in Tunisia didn’t seem to have any immediate significance... but we know nothing is by accident on this show, so there must be a reason they had him appear there in the first place.
• How were Nadia and Sayid reunited? Why was she murdered?
• What was Keamy doing as a mercenary in Uganda?
• What does Ben mean when he says Widmore changed the rules?
• What did the freighter person mean when they said the doctor was fine? Are they lying? Are they telling the truth? Are there two different time periods overlapping now, with the doctor simultaneously being fine on the freighter but dead on the island?
• In “The Beginning of the End,” Hurley tells Jack in the flashforward that he never should have gone with Locke. Did he mean it was a mistake to have followed Locke in the first place, or it was a mistake to have gone with him later? Presumably, the worst is yet to come.
• Does anyone else find Widmore’s accent terrible now that they’ve seen the actor on Ugly Betty using an American one?
• Widmore says he’s been drinking whisky since the nightmares started. Nightmares about what?
• There’s a LOT more to the conversation between Widmore and Ben than meets the eye. Widmore says that Ben killed Alex, and that he knows who and what Ben is. He says he took everything from Widmore. Ben says that they both know Ben can’t kill him. What’s that about?
• Is Penelope on Sayid’s hit list, or is Ben keeping her death for himself?
That Final Scene
WIDMORE: That island’s mine, Benjamin. It always was, it will be again.
BEN: But you’ll never find it.
WIDMORE: Then I suppose the hunt is on for both of us.
What does this scene mean? Ben says two or three times in the episode that “he’s changed the rules,” and he seems adamant that Widmore has crossed a line when he killed Alex, as if all the deaths we saw before were just pretend. What is going on here? Does this series owe something to that movie, The Game? In it, life becomes an elaborate game with various sides upping the ante until the big ending. (If you haven’t seen that movie, rent it; it’s brilliant.) Could Widmore and Ben be playing something between each other and using all these other people as pawns?
Unfortunately, CTV didn't air a preview for next week....
UPDATE: Both kids have decided to be up before 6, and by sleeping on it I've been able to digest more. As usual, I've come down to write down some of my extra thoughts and a few of you have beaten me to the punch on some of them.
Ben vs. Widmore: I think the island action ties in with the flashforward in a bigger way, and I'm becoming more convinced about the show resembling the plot of The Game. (This is one of those movies like The Usual Suspects with a big twist at the end, by the way, so I really don't want to say too much about it and give things away. Just see it.) He insists that Widmore changed the rules, and when Keamy is holding a gun to Alex's head, Ben shouts that she doesn't mean anything and she's just a pawn. He clearly expected Keamy to pull away and try another tactic, but instead Keamy just shot her. By calling Alex a pawn, I think he summed up how he feels about all of the survivors -- they're all pawns, too. And his actions toward Sayid prove it. Is Bakir innocent in all of this and Ben has just convinced Sayid that he did it? Or did Ben find out what Bakir did, sense an opportunity and jump on it? I was thinking the second option, and somehow, just like Sayid, Ben sucked me in with his story. But a few of you have suggested that Ben is behind it all, and killed Nadia to make Sayid his hitman, and now that makes perfect sense. Duh on me. This ties back to what happened in New Otherton, when Sawyer jumps into the house and asks why they're shooting everybody, and Ben tells him they're trying to make him really angry so that he'll come out with all guns blazing himself. That statement proves a couple of things: That Ben knows they weren't trying to kill Sawyer, but were just killing everyone around him to make him blunder and draw out the others from the house (clearly it's one of the rules of "the game"), and that Ben is now doing the same thing, killing Nadia to draw out Sayid's anger, and killing Widmore peeps to draw out Widmore.
Re: teleporting. I was thinking more about this one last night, too. I believe, as a couple of you have pointed out, that there are a certain number of wormholes in the world (8? 16? 23?) and Ben knows how to teleport to each of them. The thing he hasn't figured out, however, is knowing exactly which wormhole he's going to come out of. So he could have been wearing the Dharma coat because he had to be prepared just in case he popped out at the North Pole or something. So that's the significance of Tunisia... it's not an endpoint for him (and it's why he probably always stays at that hotel for no longer than one night) but it's just his wormhole in the Middle East to get him anywhere there. Perhaps another wormhole is in Nigeria, another in London, one in Sydney, another in L.A.... or at least near each of those places, which is why so much action happens in those places.
The question remains, if he's teleporting, he's moving from place to place, but is he also jumping time? Could he have travelled forward in time to nab Sayid? Or, more likely, was he already in 2007 and realized he could go back and secure Sayid's Assassination Services by simply going back and killing Nadia?
As Daniel said... "when" is relative.
UPDATE #2: Someone has posted that the ABC preview for next week has Kate saying Jack's appendix has burst. That's so weird, because I made the comment to my husband last night, "I hope it's not his appendix, since he's the only doctor around now!" That could be the connection to the dead doctor... could you imagine if we have to watch Jack operate on himself? ACK! I think I would pass out watching that.
UPDATE #3: I think rather than starting any new post on this episode, I'll just keep adding to this one (so keep checking back). After that episode, here are the key questions:
• How did Ben suddenly wake up in Tunisia, and has he figured out how to move through wormholes of space and time?
• Who/what controls Smokey? And where did Ben go when he went into the underground lair? Did he disappear for several weeks and it felt like seconds to the rest of them, or was he doing some crazy island voodoo and conjuring Smokey?
• What is the relationship between Widmore and Ben? Are they immortal enemies somehow, like Highlander, as someone suggested? Or can they not be killed for the same reason Michael couldn’t commit suicide: the island isn’t done with them yet? Why is Widmore having nightmares and drinking so heavily?
My favourite theory so far was just posted by christemple in the comments, who suggested that somehow Penny has ended up on the island and is trapped there, where Ben is keeping her. So to take that line of thinking further, what if the line to the island closed for both men, and neither one knows how to get back? Could that be why Widmore is haunted by what he’s done? How did the opening to the island close?
My theory: When Penny realized she was trapped on an island with Desmond and Sawyer, she closed it herself. Seriously, ladies, wouldn’t you have done the same thing??
Jeff Jensen at EW has an excellent rundown of the episode, where he, among other things, points out some of the key significant October 24ths in history. Check it out here.