I don't know about the rest of you, but I found this episode REALLY satisfying. Actually, usually when I love an episode everybody else hates it, so, um, opinions anyone?
But yeah, I loved the opening, with Dr. Linus discussing Napoleon exile on the island of Elba, and his struggle to reconcile himself to life without power... it was a beautiful parallel for Linus' struggles in the island reality. I loved seeing the LA Linus interacting with Roger, Alex, and Locke, and, oh my GOSH, it was a huge aHA! moment for me when Roger mentioned the Dharma initiative!! Besides the opening shot of the Dharma village underwater at the beginning of the season, there hadn't been any real clues thus far regarding to what extent it had actually existed in this reality... now we have more of an indication! Why do you think the two of them left? And Horace and Ben seemed to have a very caring relationship in the LA reality, which was also refreshing.
And it just got better from there! Lots of suspense culminating to a really emotionally satisfying reveal about Ben's continuing grief and guilt over Alex -- he almost had me crying when he said that Locke was the only one who would have him now. After the long darkness of the last episode, I was really ready for the hopeful notes we found in this one, and for the redemption of Ben's character.
The interactions with Richard were also great; he's finally becoming less of an enigma and more of a person. His bitterness over Jacob's betrayal (by dying, when Richard himself cannot?) leading to Jack's sudden faith in Jacob's Plan felt very real... Though Jack seems to have a death wish himself lately, what with all the pills he's been swallowing and dynamite he's been lighting. Also, isn't it pretty clear now that Richard did indeed arrive on the Black Rock? I'm guessing it was a prisoner transport. Or, in a somewhat more gruesome/complicated twist, that he was a slaver whose ship crashed; his prisoners escaped and left him chained in his own hold, and he was freed by Jacob to redeem himself from the evil life he used to lead.
We also had some more discussion about the candidates: Ilana affirmed that the idea is indeed to find "candidates to replace Jacob." She also says that there are six left. Any guesses on who? I'm guessing: 1) Jack, 2) Sawyer, 3), Kate, 4) Jin, 5) Sun, 6) Hurley. On the forums people are also guessing Miles, Lapidus, Claire, and Sayid. However, Claire and Sayid seem pretty committed to the dark side to me, and Jacob didn't try to get Miles out of the temple before the massacre... I suppose if the six was the Oceanic 6 then Lapidus might be a candidate too, especially if he was originally meant to be the pilot of the plane. Thoughts? EDIT: Oh crap, what if Ben is still a candidate and the whole thing with Ilana was a really elaborate test?? Bahaha that'd be great. The only problem being, of course, that I think his name was already crossed out in the cave.
Now that I've had a chance to do a little more thinking, were the Napoleon references also supposed to be a parallel for Smokey's story? Exiled to the island... Pseudo-Locke claimed that that was his situation an episode or two ago. Struggling to get off the island and regain power is also exactly what Smoky is trying to do right now. He claimed that he was formerly a man; it would be FABULOUS if he turned out to be the spirit of Napoleon. ;P
What have I missed?? There was so much this episode that I know there's something... Oh, the return of WIDMORE!! I can't even begin to speculate on what all that implies, but I assume his was the arrival Jacob told Hurley about at the lighthouse. I need theories and opinions, STAT!! :)
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