A Case of the…. Lost – Episode 4-1

So Lost is FINALLY back after an 8 month hiatus, and damn, was it a near perfect episode!

The season premiere followed the lead of the finale by featuring a flash forward, with Hurley receiving the future treatment. I thought that the format was handled quite well, with minimal flashes (after all, there were a whole lot of stories to tell on the island) and a sly way of establishing the time frame, with a relatively together (but still drinking) Jack noting that he was thinking of growing a beard.

So Hurley referred to himself as one of the Oceanic Six, providing a definitive number regarding who eventually gets off of the island. We already know Jack and Kate did, so that leaves three more people. I suspect that next week’s episode will either be a flashback, or it’ll be a Kate (or Jack) flash forward in order to milk the mystery of who the remaining survivors are. One thing to consider, though: Desmond had a vision that Claire and Aaron get rescued, so does that make them numbers four and five?

This episode reminded me a lot of The Grudge 2, where basically a house is haunted, and anybody who goes inside becomes “infected” with the curse, which then contagiously passes along from one person to the next. First Hurley is plagued by what happened on the island, to the point that his life falls apart and he becomes completely obsessed with going back. He has an interaction with Jack (who, again, seems to be living a functional life) and frantically insists to him that they made a mistake and have to go back, which Jack resists. We of course discover that Jack eventually becomes a hopeless alcoholic whose life revolves around returning to the island. He has a similar conversation with a seemingly together Kate. If I’m onto something here, Kate’s life will eventually fall to shambles, resulting in her wanting to get back to the island as well.

One must wonder: Were Hurley’s visions self-manifested (after all, he has a history of mental illness), or did the smoke monster (or some materialization of the island) track him down and haunt him? Was it simply guilt, or is it something more supernatural? I tend to believe in the latter. I mentioned to a friend that one of the other patients saw Charlie (and the nurse saw the “Oceanic attorney”), indicating it may have been the smoke monster, and he rebutted that the patient may have been one of Hurley’s visions as well. That’s an excellent point, one that I had not considered, but that argument sends you down a slippery slope. I mean, maybe the whole mental institution was a delusion. Or perhaps Hurley was right a couple seasons ago, and the whole island escapades are a hallucination.

I’m not sure who I’d even consider the MVP of this episode, since so many characters had fantastic moments. I thought Ben was wonderful, with his general “I don’t give a crap anymore” attitude, not offering Jack any assistance when he clearly witnessed Naomi’s escape, and then later telling Jack that he saw Kate take the satellite phone. Jack winking at Ben as he told Hurley to pack up his stuff (because they’d be leaving soon) was another great moment, not to mention an effective way of making him more likeable to the audience. Him “shooting” Locke near the end of the episode was a very powerful moment, as well.

I’m sure a lot of people didn’t like how soft Sawyer was this episode, but I found it to be consistent with his character. Sawyer and Hurley became a lot closer last season, particularly when Hurley tricked him into becoming more of a leader to the group, and when they joined forces to solve the mystery of what happened to Nikki and Paulo. They have formed a legitimate friendship, and I thought that him asking Hurley if they wanted to talk and showing his concern over Hurley being able to keep up was a truly touching moment.

Overall, I thought the follow up to Charlie’s death was handled very well. It’s a classic formula to make a character as happy as possible right before knocking him down and making him hit an emotional rock bottom. That essentially happened to Hurley, who felt like the weight of the world was taken off of his shoulders. Then, seconds after doing a very happy canon ball (although I probably could have done without the slo-mo running), he finds out his best friend died.

Meanwhile, Rose telling Claire that she should “treat Charlie really well” (wink wink) when he gets back was an initially humorous moment, but quickly turned depressing when you realized that they’d never be together again. I appreciated how Desmond was going to tell Claire what happened (and his overall sense of responsibility regarding Charlie’s death), only for Hurley to say that he’ll break the news. One minor complaint, though: Considering the tumultuous relationship between Locke and Charlie, I wish I could have seen his immediate reaction to the news.

I love the idea that Charlie’s death leads to Hurley’s mental breakdown. I mean, when Boone, Shannon, Ana Lucia, Libby, and Eko died, it was sad, but their deaths didn’t necessarily serve a long lasting “big picture” purpose. Charlie’s death not only may ultimately result in Hurley’s psychological anguish, but it has guided the separation of the group into two factions as well.

That warrants some discussion, actually. After everything that Locke had done, even those who are skeptical about this rescue would be hesitant (to say the least) about joining up with him. However, using Charlie as a martyr for the cause, like Hurley did, acts as an excellent plot device to allow certain characters to choose Locke over Jack in a believable manner. I was also very intrigued by how the scene played out, and which side certain characters would go with. Hurley, Claire, Sawyer, Ben, Rousseau, Alex, and Karl went with Locke, while Kate, Juliet, Rose, Bernard, Sayid, Jin, Sun, and virtually everybody else sided with Jack (by the way, nice touch showing Others Juliet and Alex hugging). I was actually pretty surprised that Desmond went with Jack (if I’m not mistaken), considering the fact that he was the catalyst for the rest of the characters trying to stop Jack from communicating with the boat.

Ben joining up with Locke also has some interesting possibilities considering that, just a day or two earlier, Ben shot him in the gut due to his jealousy and insecurity and left him for dead. The fact that Rousseau and Alex are also part of the group makes it even more enticing. Further, Kate’s close proximity to Sawyer last season resulted in them wrestling in the old steel cage. Now that she’s on Team Jack, will she have a new tent mate?

By the way, it’s about time these characters take advantage of the post living spaces of the Barracks.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Hurley’s encounter with Jacob’s cabin. Was it one of his delusions, or does this mean he’s in accord with the island, like Locke and Ben are? Considering that Hurley has no prior experience with the cabin, therefore making it a logical stretch that he’d be able to fabricate it to a tee, I’m inclined to believe that, to some extent, he’s got a connection to the island. That may also explain why the island haunts Hurley in the future before Jack and Kate.

On top of that, who was inside? Was it Jacob and Locke? I’ve heard a number of people swear that they saw Christian Shephard, and upon further inspection, while I couldn’t get a good look at his face (my TiVo is hooked up to a non-HD television), you can clearly see he’s wearing a suit. So was it Christian and Jacob, or Christian and Locke? And the natural follow up to these questions, what’s the significance? Why would Hurley see Jack’s (and Claire’s) presumably dead father?

So with all this gushing, why was this episode only “near” perfect? Quite simply, I completely expect the show to top it, so clearly it can’t be perfect.