lost season finale: trading places

300px Lost season 4 cast

The season finale of Lost begins very much like the setup to a punchline joke: a priest and rabbi walk into a bar. Except it’s a tiki bar, and we’re about to realize that this is a total sci-fi bromance.

Two dudes are hangin’ on the beach, hair windblown, sportin’ the five o’clock shadow (Ah, the shadow–how very appropriate. We’ll circle back to it). The bitch in the relationship is in the proverbial kitchen, grilling up some fish on a stone, very shabu-shabu of him. He’s dressed in white. The other is in black. And alas, there, in the distance, heading toward shore: the Black Rock–a British trade ship circa 1845 or 1881. The two men discuss the ship, with the man in white (revealed as Jacob) admitting that he’s beckoned the ship to the island, hoping to prove the dude beside him wrong.

The dudes are ready to wage their bets. Just as we saw it with the dichotomy between Locke (man of faith) and Jack (man of science), and later between Mr. Echo and Locke. I couldn’t help but wonder if the whole conversation was simply a nod to the Eddie Murphy film Trading Places. Would these two gentlemen care to wager a friendly bet? Perhaps for a dollar? Away we’d go, watching if these questionable souls who they’ll beckon to the island for judgment will redeem themselves, and in the end, realize that it’s not about fate, destiny, or time travel: it’s about "free will." And yes, there’s more to this post… simply click "CONTINUE READING…"

The two men exchange moral argument in dialogue, quickly leading us to believe that they’re no ordinary men: they’re dieties, gods, personifications of good and evil.

Handsome Smokey Dude: "They come, fight, they destroy, they corrupt; it always ends the same."
Jacob in white: "It only ends once. Anything that happens before that is just progress."

At this point we know we’re being set up to believe in the concept of good and evil; and as an audience, we’re being coaxed into guessing which dude represents good, and which evil, as if it’s impossible for either of these gods to be both. Here’s my wager: neither of these men before us are purely evil, or all good. Because there’s no fun in that. The fact is, there will be no clear right and wrong, and both sides of this war will believe they’re right. They’ll also both be wrong, but in different ways. (Haven’t we already seen this time and again with this series? Others become others becoming others.) What we’re looking for here, though, is to figure out which of these two gods is fatally flawed in his logic.

Based on this single exchange of dialogue, it’s as if the Handsome Smokey Dude is playing the part of a disappointed God. He’s the Santa Claus in which people have stopped believing. He’s losing hope in mankind. But the man in white, our boy Jacob, likes the playground and knows in the end, it might all come down to free will.

Just as I twittered last night, each time we see Jacob throughout the episode, he acts like "the devil." At the funeral of Sawyer’s dad, Jacob hands Sawyer a pen, enabling his anger. When little Kate is caught shoplifting, Jacob saves Kate from facing the consequences of never stealing again… so she never learns her lesson. Through the power of suggestion, he tells Kate she’ll never steal again. He asks Sayid for directions, leaving Nadia to be killed by a car in the middle of the street, as she turns to look back at Sayid. So did Jacob intervene to save Sayid just there, or to be sure his lady died, which would set off the events of Sayid making all the kills he does on his behalf? Like everything else with this series, it comes down to perspective. Seeing the opposite side of the coin in a new light.

Let me also say this. I’ve said it before. The reason Ben couldn’t kill Widmore when he went to visit him off the island is because Widmore is Ben’s "constant," just as Desmond is Faraday’s constant, and Jacob’s constant is the dude donning the dun colors on the opening beach scene. It’s why the dark dude is looking for a loophole. He can’t kill his own constant, but he’ll go to extreme lengths to find someone who can.

Back in February, I blogged that Locke couldn’t be returning to the island as resurrected, as his casket was being dragged across town in a bus labeled ‘Canton-Rainier’, an anagram for "reincarnation," not resurrection. So we knew Locke had to have returned to the island reborn, as someone else. Reincarnated. Knowing this–we’ll call him "Lockeness" from that point forward– he was all about having his needs met. Lockness knew that Locke from earlier would get shot in the leg, so last episode, when we saw Lockeness tell Richard Alpert to tell Locke he’d have to die, that was actually false information. Locke didn’t have to die at all. This lockness monster dude (the dude looking for the loop hole) made Alpert tell him that… because that was his loophole.

Rose & Bernard, our resident Adam & Eve, bring us back to the moral argument made in the beginning of the episode, reminding us of what the dark dude said,"They come, fight, they destroy, they corrupt; it always ends the same." Only Rose says, "It’s always something with you people. Now you say, ‘Jack’s got a bomb.’ And what, you guys are all gonna try to stop him, right?. You traveled back 30 years in time, and you’re still trying to find ways to shoot each other?" Message to audience: being together is all that matters in the end.

The knife Alana pulls from the wall of Jacob’s cabin is the same knife Jacob used to fillet the fish in the opening beach scene. Pinned to the wall is the weaving of the statue… where they can now go to find Jacob.

FYI: Everything that rises must converse by Flannery O’Connor, the book Jacob is reading as Locke is pushed out the window by his father, "aims to expose the sinful nature of humanity that often goes unrecognized in the modern, secular world."

Yes, yes, Sun sees the cradle Locke had made for Claire, finds Charlie’s Drive Shaft ring, the one he put in the cradle for Aaron, before he took off to die, to unblock the jam. And she and her dear honey are touched by Jacob at their wedding, warning them not to take their love for granted. But people do what they want, not what they’re told.

The last thing I really want to comment on is when Ben mentions Moses. It’s as if Ben is Moses. Making a journey through the dark forest to a mountaintop, always following lists and Commandments. Believing blindly, hoping to be rewarded with a vision of God. Just as Locke lived, following blindly, always wanting acceptance, just like Ben.

The entire episode is about equal and opposite forces, neutralizing each other. One in black, the other white, playing off the theme of opposites and constants. Just look at the task at hand in the episode: to detonate Jughead to neutralize the magnetic force "incident."

I couldn’t help but feel as if I was eavesdropping on a praying George Bailey, begging, "Clarence! Clarence! Help me, Clarence! Get me back! Get me back, I don’t care what happens to me!" We’ve heard similar sentiments blubbered during the series, with drunken Jack climbing bridges, Locke’s willingness to die, to go careering down every next well to sacrifice himself for the greater good.It’s as if these two bros on the beach can hear every plea. They decide fate… that is, until free will kicks in.

That’s right. It’s the Odd Couple: this is a story of opposites. Equal and opposite forces battling it out. It’s what we’ve seen throughout the series. Polar (bear) Opposites. Man of science, man of faith, with our skilled writers yanking philosophies, mythologies, and allegories throughout time, pinning them to episodes, set in opposition to one another. And just to raise the stakes, why not add a few explosives to the mix? The finale of Lost was all about equal and opposite forces.

3 YEARS AGO: Mothers
4 YEARS AGO: Obligations
5 YEARS AGO: The Book Club That Wasn’t


  1. Stephanie,

    You didn't mention anything about Jack, Sawyer, Kate and Juliet!

    I love Lost. However, I think that when this series began, the writers really had no idea where they were going with the storyline.. For example, I feel as though a lot of things in the past don't have any significance now and that's disappointing. Like Walt. Like Bernard and Rose. Like many other things too.. They have so many loose ends which they are sloppily trying to tie up for us in a hurry.. I think the show could have been so much better at this point, but maybe that's just me!

  2. Great review and insight. You could do a whole blog on Lost alone.

  3. I have to say…thank you SO much for the extremely educated explanation for last night's episode…I was beginning to think that primetime tv was over my head. Now I have the confidence to watch it again next season…

    I did understand the whole Jacob is the devil thing though…I kept noticing him touching each & every one of them during their interactions. Incredibly creepy, but SO well done. I loved how the reworked him into each scene with everyone.

    I noticed something pretty cool- right before Kate shoplifts, she is standing outside & her brother is holding that silver airplane that shows up with her again much later after she's arrested & he's dead. Good prop-work LOST!

    One more thing…I don't think I have ever seen a scene so gruesome like Nadia's hit and run…it was so bone chilling, I had to back up my DVR for an instant replay.

    I still don't understand the statue. Why it was there in the first place. Why it moved & what happened to it that the only thing that remains is a foot?

  4. Have you seen "Meet Joe Black"? Same exact moment in that film. Actually more graphic in the film, as you see the body bounce. But to me it looked like a flopsy mopsy doll.

    Yes, Jacob touched each of them, even Jack when he handed him the Apollo bar. So perhaps he's a god of sorts, and knows exactly what his own constant (the dude looking for the loophole) is up to… it's why he keeps getting involved in their lives, trying to guide them onto the "right" path. Who knows. This is exactly what the writers want… for us to be guessing until next year.

  5. I had never been convinced of your "Widmore is Ben's constant" theory… until just now. Now I see it. This episode threw me for a loop. I felt like I needed a cheat sheet, even though I've never missed a single episode. I really hope the DVD box set isn't abominably expensive when it comes out because I'd really like to watch these all over again without the 9 month interruptions.

  6. I can't believe no one's commented about when Richard KO'd Eloise and called her their leader. So, what happened? She was their leader, then her bf Charles took over? Why? Was that after the baby or because of the baby? Is that why they broke up? Also, all of Faraday’s talk about being able to change the future is obviously a farce. His mother knew all along that she killed him. And yet, she still sent him on his merry way. What happened to Faraday is always what happened to him and his mother. So, following that same line of logic – Jack and his friends always bombed the Swan with "Jughead"! And their plane always crashed and they are supposed to be on the island. For what reason, we still don’t know. I love LOST and can’t wait for 9 whole months!

  7. Thanks so much for the insightful recap! I actually missed the first minutes because I was still catching up on last week's episode on my computer. Cannot wait for the next and final season.

  8. His mother knew all along that she killed him. And yet, she still sent him on his merry way. What happened to Faraday is always what happened to him and his mother.

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