Surprise: I liked the episode.
(My husband, on the other hand, hated it and basically turned into last week's version of me, but that's another story.)
In this week's episode of Island Supernanny, the worst adoptive mother on earth created a truly biblical case of sibling rivalry. There were board games; there was genocide. Humans were corrupt, and yet they invented science. I don't know whether it was because the performances were strong (Alison Janney! and that Justin Bieber kid was genuinely amazing), or because I bought the psychology (I did, mostly), or because I didn't see the twist ending coming (did you?), but I found the whole thing pretty compelling, although judging from my brief web search, plenty of people found it ridiculous, so if you're looking for your weekly hate, it's out there.
Bear in mind, this is coming from a person who is not really onboard for the mystical hoo-ha aspects of Lost, who misses the more rational Dharma Initiative backstory, and okay, if I force myself to be a little more rigorous, it was pretty lazy storytelling for Smokey's bio-mom to pop up as a ghost and fill in his backstory.
That said! In contrast to the Richard episode — in which a pure-minded peasant stayed pious for centuries, until his soul mate showed up for a therapy session — I bought the emotional motives here. I liked that the twins' witchlike UnMother was the original Other, all half-truths in the name of "innocence." I liked poor Smokey as the original unappreciated gamer. And I especially liked that Jacob's adult mindset was so coherent with what we've learned to date: His obsession with "choice," with "goodness," with watching from a distance, his general air of creepy passivity, and his depressive guru issues, not to mention all that hippie-dippie weaving.
I just read this to my husband and here is his statement: "You're doing a good job at putting the best face on an absolutely wretched episode of the wretched ending of a once-great TV show."
Man, he's in a bad mood.
And on to the recap!
In the ocean, a woman grasps at wreckage. She pulls herself onto the beach, pregnant, slurps water from a stream, then screams — confronted by a strange woman, speaking Latin. The pregnant woman introduces herself as Claudia. They start speaking English. There's no explanation for this, but I'm okay with it, because I'm in that kind of mood.
"Where are the rest of your people?"
"There's only me."
"How did you get here?"
"The same way you got here. By accident."
"How — "
"Every question I answer will simply lead to another question," she says, in classic maddening Lost-Socratic meta style, and advises her to rest.
I suddenly realize it's Alison Janney from The West Wing and become very happy. The baby is coming! A few shrieking pushes and a fat, 6-month-old baby is born — Jacob. Then a second baby. Claudia's only picked one name. She longs to see the nameless baby, but instead, Janney stones her to death. Damn, that's one cold midwife.
On the beach, Justin Bieber — a.k.a. Young Smokey, a.k.a. the Brother With No Name — invites his twin Jacob to play a game. He'll show him how to play if Jacob promises not to tell their mother. Meanwhile, mom weaves something, looking suspicious. Under questioning, Jacob lies. "Do you love me, Jacob? Then tell me what happened."
Janney joins Brother at the beach. "Jacob doesn't know how to lie. He's not like you. You're ... special." She claims the game came from her. Also, that there's "nowhere else" — the island is all there is. It's a very strange philosophical conversation, and when she explains she came from her mother, and her mother's dead, Brother asks, "What's dead?" and she says it's something he'll never have to worry about.
Later, for fun, the boys hunt wild boar, only to find that there are other hunters out there. They tell mom and she informs them that "they're not like us. They don't belong here. We're here for a reason."
She walks the twins, blindfolded. "They're dangerous and I didn't want to frighten you," she says of the island people. "They come, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt, and it always ends the same." (The same refrain Smokey repeats to Jacob later on.)
If they found you, they would hurt you, she claims. Because they're people.
We're people, points out Brother. Does that mean we can hurt each other?
This upsets Alison Janney and she explains that she's made it so they can never hurt each other.
They arrive at a glowing cave, full of light, "the warmest, brightest light you've ever seen or felt." They have to make sure no one finds it! A little bit of this light is inside of every man — but they always want more. And if the light goes out here, it goes out everywhere. She's protected it, but she can't do that forever, and now it will have to be one of them.
My husband goes into a mournful monologue about how he thought this was going to end in an interesting, internally consistent scientific explanation, but instead it's bad Tolkien. I tell him I like it and to shut up.
Jacob and Brother are playing their game — and arguing who gets to make the rules — when Brother sees a vision. It's his real mother. "Can you come with me? I'd like to show you something." Personally, I avoid dead people luring me with sweet voices, but Brother's in, and she takes him to a village. These folks arrived thirteen years ago on a ship. What's a ship? "There are many things across the sea," she explains, cracking open Brother's worldview. He looks devastated, and, man, this kid actor is good.
Upset, angry, Brother tries to get his twin to run away with him to the other people, but Jacob attacks him, bloodying his mouth, and Alison Janney breaks it up.
"Whatever you have been told, you will never be able to leave this island," she tells him.
"That's not true," he foreshadows (backshadows?). "And one day I will prove it."
Jacob's on the beach with Alison Janney. She confesses that she did kill his mother, because she needed to keep him away from those people, so he would stay good. "Why do you love him more than me?" "I love you in different ways."
He promises to stay. Wow, Janney's other-mothering makes Christian Shephard look like parent of the year!
Now Jacob is all grown up and he's the weaver. UnMom is tired.
He and (hot, brooding, Titus Welliver–ish) Brother meet to play their game. Jacob admits he watches the village from a distance because he wants to know if their mother was right — if the "people" are bad. Brother says yes; Jacob says no. Brother argues that they're greedy, manipulative, untrustworthy, and selfish. But they're a means to an end! For him to leave — he's found a way off the island.
He throws his knife, and it sticks. ELECTROMAGNETISM.
There are men here, he says, who are curious about how things work. When they find these sites, where metal behaves strangely, they dig. Brother wants Jacob to leave the island with him, but Jacob tearily says he can't, it's his home.
Because Jacob's such a damned tattletale, Alison Janney goes to see Brother, who himself seems to have a lot of trouble concealing key information, but the woman is abusive; I actually buy why he'd spill the beans. (And it's interesting that he turned out very much like her: He uses people as a means to an end; he believes humans are corrupt.) Anyway, he tells her he's found a way to the glowing light. He removes a stone and light pours in. He explains he's going to create a wheel system to get off the island — or something like that.
This made very little sense to me, but heck, it was an origin, I suppose, for the Donkey Wheel. And more broadly, it's fascinating that, in essence, Brother is revealed as a Man of Science, while Jacob is a Man of Faith -- and while this episode is, superficially, a Bible story, it's one that makes "faith" looks identical to being an easily manipulated sucker.
How do you know it will work? says Janney. I'm special, says Brother.
"Then I suppose this is good-bye." She moves to embrace him. He gives in and murmurs, "Good-bye, mother." It's highly emotional, genuinely sad — and of course she does just what she did to his mother. She says, "I'm sorry," and smashes him against the stones.
Then she wakes Jacob and leads him through the woods to the light. "You're going to protect it now," she says.
What's down there? Life, death, rebirth. It's the source, the heart of the island.
She just wants a promise that he won't go down there. It would be worse than dying. Also, don't put beans up your nose, dear.
Then she opens the Metaphorical Wine Bottle. If he drinks, he accepts the responsibility to protect this island, then find a replacement. He's upset: He knows she wanted this to be Brother. He doesn't have a choice, she says. He drinks. "Now, you and I are the same."
Brother wakes to find his project smashed, the village burnt to the ground.
He also finds his game: wrecked. He groans with rage.
Janney sends Jacob to get firewood. To squeaky sound effects (thank you, Mr. Giacchino!), she goes to her wrecked loom and cradles the black-and-white Senet stones she finds. Then she's stabbed through the back by Brother.
"Why wouldn't you let me leave, Mother?"
"Because I love you. Thank you."
She dies. He cries.
Jacob appears and beats the crap out of him. "What did you do???"
Though Brother protests, explaining the whole genocide issue, Jacob drags him to the shining hole, then shoves him in. Moments later, the Smoke Monster pours out.
Jacob finds Brother's body by the creek, carries him off, lays him in the cave.
And now I get it: Adam and Eve were the corpses of Brother and his false mother, their hands woven together by Jacob in death.
There's a flashback to first season, to Jack and Kate finding the bodies.
"Good-bye, my brother," says Jacob, refusing to reveal any name even in the final moments.
What We Know Now:
• Smokey is (physically speaking) dead, but he took his own corpse's form, his "humanity" stolen when he was turned into the rage-filled Smoke Monster.
• Brother and Alison Janney are Adam and Eve.
• The donkey wheel was some kind of rudimentary off-the-island device created by Brother.
The Wha? Factor:
• Wait, who was that bad midwife? What's her backstory?
• Where DID that Senet game come from? Because Janney was lying, right?
• What is the "glowing light"? How does it connect with the electromagnetism? • How did Alison Janney kill all those people and destroy a village while Smokey was unconscious? (But as a side note: It's fascinating that Jacob himself seems to have instigated a nearly identical genocide of the Dharma people, years later, when they, too, got too close to the electromagnetism.)
And for the hilariously grouchy POV, here's Nell Huxleigh on TWOP: "I see MIB's point now. It's a shitty island with a leprachaun [sic] cavern somewhere on it. Is the point of bringing new people onto The Island to find a candidate to guard the pot of gold while luring more people to the said shitty island? I'd loophole the shit out of the island and torch it. Seriously, eff the island and the pot of gold."
Also, from Stella MD, regarding the lack of a name for Smokey: "I felt like I was watching that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry can't remember Mulva's name. 'Goodbye, Mother.' 'Goodbye ... you.'
But more crucially, go and read Alan Sepinwall's very smart review of the episode, which has a great meta-analysis of the fact that Mother Earth might have prevented this whole disaster by simply replying to direct questions — which Sepinwall suspects is a coded apology of sorts from Lindelof and Cuse: "We find that 'Lost' is ultimately about the dangers of withholding answers from people who have spent years demanding them."
Maureen Ryan (this week in the Hate camp -- with smart gender analysis)
Jamie Poniewozik (liked it on paper, but found the episode eye-rolling to watch.)
Noel Murray (very elegant, forceful defense of the episode)
Another must-read for Lostomaniacs of all stripes: Alan Sepinwall's fascinating interview with Cuselof in the aftermath of "Across The Sea."