Damon Lindelof, you're killing us with these sad episodes! And apparently, you're also intent on killing Michael, one of Lost's most intriguing characters, weak as he is and okay, sure, yes, a double-murderer — but also a guy who is helplessly in love with his son and paralyzed in the face of real guilt. Admirable traits, really, when seen in a certain light! In contrast to iconic survivors like Jack and Sayid, Michael will never compete for the role of "leader" or "hero" or even "bad boy." He's more a wretchedly emotional Everyman, doomed to eternally unfurl a tiny flag saying "Not Yet." And dammit, we love him for that. There's something great about a show that lets someone fail big and it looks like that's right where Michael is headed.
And speaking of having compassion for life's losers, is anyone finding Sayid kind of self-righteous? We're taking some sick pleasure in knowing that he's going to wind up as Ben's puppet assassin. Is that wrong?
The Present: Exposition and Bad Advice
Locke gathers his team of moody Scorpios to announce "no more secrets." With Miles in tow, he announces that if the freighter gnomes capture Ben, they'll kill everyone on the island. Therefore, they should protect Ben. This conclusion leaves Team Locke itchy and paranoid — and as they shake it off, Ben advises his quasi-family of Alex (looking very Amy Winehouse, but in a good way), Rousseau, and Karl to flee to the Other hideaway, where they will be safe.
Meanwhile, on the Freighter of Hot Jerks, Sayid confronts Michael, who narrates a flashback of pain. Hot Jerk Sayid turns him in to the captain.
The Past: Sad, Sad Michael
Somewhere in Manhattan, a tormented Michael scribbles a note to Walt — then crashes his car into a wall, and because we're a little slow and blinded by tears, it takes us a while to recognize that this is post-island murderer Mike, not first-season sad dad Mike. Walt won't speak to him. Dead Libby haunts him with blankets. Even his own mom won't cut him slack. He's got a gun to his own head, but the island won't let him kill himself — apparently it's a fan of Groundhog Day. So Michael's ripe for recruitment by Evil, which arrives in the jolly form of Tom, who is gay.
Tom suggests Michael do Ben a solid and prevent Widmore from killing everyone on the island. By killing everyone on the freighter. Luckily for the Others, Michael is screwed up enough to believe this is a redemption arc.
Onboard the freighter, Michael activates a bomb, only to get not an enormous explosion but a joke flag: "Not yet!" He's also informed that Walt has called, but when he rushes to the phone so damned hopeful that it just kills us, it's only Ben, who deputizes him to infiltrate, sabotage, get a list, etc. — basically, to behave like a first-season Other. Which he does, but not so much in order to redeem himself, we realize, as just to die, if only the island will let him. This is very sad. And strangely, gives us Buffy season-five ambiguous-sacrifice flashbacks, making us wonder if it's Michael who ends up in that miserable little coffin.
The Present: Surprise Bastards Threaten Our Favorite Character!
Off in the jungle, Alex and Karl exchange doomed banter. A shot rings out and Karl goes down. Rousseau bravely tries to save her daughter but gets shot for her efforts. NO! Don't die before you get a flashback episode, you crazy brunette! A terrified Alex surrenders, shouting, "I'm Ben's daughter!" Which she's not, is she? But if name-dropping might help, go for it.
What We Know Now:
• Ben says Widmore planted the fake wreckage. Widmore says Ben planted it. Of the two, only Ben has receipts.
• Everyone is a "good guy." We all have "work to do."
• Walt is still 10 years old. With no signs of excessive tallness.
The Wha? Factor:
• Who shot Rousseau and Karl? Was it a setup by Ben? Or (more likely, we think) the freighter folk, ferried to the island by Frank?
• What in God's name causes every one of Ben's enemies — Locke, Rousseau, Juliet, Michael, the future Sayid — to do his bidding? And how can we learn his ways?
• We just received a text message: "Chambers street stop outside michaels apartment would've been 1/2/3/9 in 2004, not 1/2/3. Continuity error … OR IS IT???" Disturbingly, the text came from someone named Ben. —Emily Nussbaum