Hot damn! We have a stomach bug, so perhaps our judgments aren't to be trusted, but we found this episode satisfyingly nutbar: A return to the Island, with strategic narrative slices removed just to mess with our heads. Since this is a Jack episode, there's plenty of annoying behavior, with babies left behind, mysterious shoes stuffed on corpse-feet, and a whole planeful of people threatened without a second thought. (Except for Hurley, who saves 87 of them.)
Also, people continue to chat with Ben, trust a woman they've never met before just because she has a pendulum, and otherwise act more like game pieces than human beings.
But the kicker is the real deal. What is up with Jin?
Classic first-ep shot: Jack's eye, then that tree-high angle of him on his back in the jungle. He hears cries: Someone's in the water with a guitar case — Hurley. "It really happened," Hurley says. Kate's knocked out, but Jack wakes her. They're back on the Island, and we get a title: "46 hours earlier."
46 hours earlier, Eloise Hawking lights candles, exudes bitchy opacity, and escorts the Losties to the Catacomb of Faith and Science with its nifty pendulum, clicking board of numbers, and assorted geek-fetish objects. "The Dharma initiative called it the Lamppost," she informs them. "This is how they found the Island."
The Mainland: Man of Faith, Man of Gullibility
Jack asks if Ben knew about the Lamppost, and he says no — but when he wonders aloud whether Ben's telling the truth, Mrs. Hawking deadpans: “Probably not.” Then she exposits: The Lamppost is "constructed over a unique pocket of electromagnetic energy," linked to other pockets — sort of like the board game Clue. Some fellow cracked the riddle: The Island was always moving, so they needed to gauge where it was in time. This provides teeny windows of opportunity, the next one in 36 hours, when they must hop on Ajira Airlines flight 316.
Desmond starts yelling: He's just there to tell Mrs. Hawking her son needs help. But (a) he's not going back, and (b) you lunatic British person, you wasted years of his life by encouraging him not to propose to Penelope. She's playing a game, and they're just pieces, he shouts convincingly. Whatever she tells you, ignore it! And even if the Island isn't done with him, he's done with the Island, he says, strutting out.
Jack's weirdly open to Mrs. Hawking's creepy demands as she informs him he needs to re-create the original crash. If they're not all there, the result would be ... unpredictable. As she waxes coy/ominous, there's an ad break, and when we return, she's waggling her finger and delivering Locke's suicide note. Locke will be a proxy for Jack's dead dad, so Jack has to get something from his father and give it to John. "That's why it's called a leap of faith, Jack."
Jack enters the church, finding Ben in a pew, himself waxing biblical about how Thomas couldn't get behind the resurrection, but we all believe eventually. Then he leaves to satisfy "a promise to an old friend." Uh-oh.
As Jack broods alcoholically, he gets a call. It's about some guy named Ray, and after misdirection, and a shot of a magic show — are they all rabbits being pulled out of hats? — we realize it's his granddad, a convenient source for Jack's dad's shoes.
Back to his bachelor pad for more drinky; after an extended ramble through the darkened apartment, Jack finds Kate, catatonic-ish, without Aaron. Stricken, she says she never wants to be asked about Aaron again, which is genuinely sad and unsettling, and there's tongue-kissing, to which we say ew, but then again we've never liked Jack.
Next morning, Jack brews coffee. Kate asks about the shoes, and he explains that he didn't care enough to get nice shoes for the original flight, so he put his dad's corpse in white tennis sneakers — the ones we've seen on the Island. Then Ben calls from a phone booth, bleeding and "sidetracked," asking Jack to pick up Locke's body.
Jack meets creepy butcher Jill, opens Locke's coffin and puts his dad's shoes on Locke's feet, all the while chuckling madly at the absurdity of it all. Then he annoyingly tucks the suicide note into Locke's lapel, saying he's heard everything he needs to hear. This pretty much sums up everything that bugs us about Jack: He's so caught up in his own brooding, guilty, solipsistic, oddly chipper lunacy, he assumes the suicide note is real AND he doesn't even read it for clues.
At the airport, Jack's improvising a Weekend at Bernie's explanation for toting Locke's body to Guam. He spots Kate, wearing "Don't Talk to Me, I'm Not an Internationally Famous Member of the Oceanic 6" sunglasses. A mysterious extra offers condolences. Sun shows up, Jack's relieved, neither of them gets into the fact that her mother is still babysitting her sad toddler.
Then they're distracted by Sayid, who is being escorted by an armed guard. Hurley's there, too, having bought 78 standby seats. Because he wants to protect the bystanders! Which is so Hurley of him, and lame of everyone else — they were okay with killing a planeful of strangers?
On the flight, everything is creepy and déjà-vu-ish. Hugo has a guitar. Ben shows up, his arm in a sling — Hurley objects, Jack defends Ben, and basically there are several mysteries afoot, including who told Hurley to be there in the first place.
Weirdly, the stewardess gives Jack the unread suicide note. And at this insanely late date, Jack wonders what's going to happen to the other passengers, to which Ben says, “Who cares?”
Jack approaches Kate for philosophical flirtation. Thank God, no mile-high-club action ensues, and even better, Frank Lapidus — former helicopter pilot of the Freighties — is in the cockpit. He's pleased to see Jack, but understandably uneasy when he realizes the O6 (minus Aaron) are on his flight. "We're not going to Guam, are we?"
Jack asks how Ben can read and Ben snarks that his mother taught him. They chitchat like disturbed frenemies, Jack telling Ben that Locke committed suicide; Ben feigns (we figure) surprise, then does his evil-therapist act, probing whether Jack feels guilty, why he can't read the note, etc. He gives him some evil privacy, and Jack sees: "I wish you had believed me." Maybe Ben wrote it, or Widmore, but the real mystery is why is Jack buying any of this?
Aaaand rattling! Scary plane stuff. Fasten seat belt sign. Luggage falls from racks, stewardesses go flying, there's a buzzing, a humming, and — Jack lands in the jungle, then looks at the note, which has been torn down to "I wish." And we're back to scene one.
As Hurley, Jack and Kate consult, they get a surprise — the Dharma van. With Jin inside it. He's wearing a Dharma suit, toting a gun, and damn, he looks as confused as we feel!
What We Know Now
• They're back on the Island.
• Locke committed suicide. Maybe.
• Jin's gone Dharma.
The Wha? Factor
• Why did Kate leave Aaron? Why doesn't Jack care? Why did Sun leave Ji-Yeon? Why is Hurley on the flight? Why is Sayid on the flight? Who's this Jill chick, and what the hell is with her being a butcher? If Eloise is Faraday's mother, is Widmore his father and Penelope his sister? It's flight 316 — maybe a reference to John: 316. Does this make Locke the Christ figure?
• Who is this mysterious "fellow" who solved the physics problem that enabled them all to find the Island? Faraday? Dr. Marvin Candle? Jacob? Arzt?
• Did Ben try to kill Penny? (His promise to an old friend: Widmore.) If so, it looks like it didn't go very well.