That was one ballsy move you did there, Lost. Just when we thought we were past Jack and his daddy issues, with Christian Shephard confirmed as good and dead and Aaron safe in Los Angeles, they go and give Jack an alternate reality son, just so we can once again go through the "Daddy didn't love me" merry-go-around of Shephard family neuroses.
Where did this kid come from, and why did the Lost writers shove him into the story this late in the game? That's my biggest question coming out of this only fleetingly compelling episode, in which we get more mopey Jack and more inscrutable instructions from Jacob, but also some great Hurley Star Wars references and the creepiest moment ever between Claire and the man who once built her baby a bassinet. The good outweighed the bad, as usual, but I swear to God if they let Jack stare pensively off into the ocean one more time, I'll remove his appendix again.
Is the alternate timeline just different because the flight didn't crash, or have lots of other things changed too? We've already had a few hints at this-- Shannon not being on the plane, Hurley no longer being cursed-- but the most concrete proof that this is a truly alternate timeline is named David, and he's the sulky kid that Jack has all of a sudden. I guess the same fingers that could fix spinal nerves (say it with me now: "like angel hair pasta") have been passed down to create a concert pianist. Am I the only one who was disappointed when the kid turned out to be into classical music, only because he probably wasn't listening to Driveshaft on his iPod?
Is Jacob really gone? No-- but you probably knew that even before he showed up lurking around the temple. Then again, he's definitely not alive, as Hurley recognizes that he's a ghost from the very beginning-- much like Obi-Wan Kenobi, as Hurley puts it. Even though SmokeLocke has taken over Jacob's old cave by the sea, Jacob is still in the business of assigning missions to people who will believe him, like Hurley, and people who have to jump through a million hoops of their own devising before they'll go along, like Jack.
Is Claire being inhabited by the Smoke Monster? Er, probably not. It's definitely clear that there's something not quite right going on-- those crazy eyes speak volumes-- and the people in the Temple and Jacob both know that Claire is a little inhumanly evil. But in the episode's final reveal, when SmokeLocke shows up and Claire points out that it's not Locke, it's "my friend," it seems clear that the entity that is Smokey-- who, remember, is now locked inside Locke-- and Claire are separate beings. And given that Claire distinguishes between her father, Christian Shephard, and SmokeLocke, it seems GhostChristian wasn't SmokeChristian after all. What?? Yeah, I don't know either.
Just how crazy is Claire anyway? Pretty crazy, but not so crazy that she doesn't remember Jin and Kate, and not so crazy that she thinks the skull-headed baby in the crib in her tent is actually Aaron (though she had me worried for a second there). Taking a page straight out of the Rousseau playbook, though, Claire is so crazy that she believes the Others have kidnapped Aaron, no matter how much the temple-dwellers insist otherwise. Then again, she's got good reason to distrust them-- they performed all kinds of medical experiments on her, even branded her, before she managed to escape. Something tells me that somewhere in those experiments they got a look at the "evil" that Claire apparently now represents.
Are Rose and Bernard Adam and Eve? This is more my conjecture than an explicit answer, but I'm thinking no. When Hurley and Jack come across the skeletons once again, in a nice bit of nostalgia, Hurley suggests a theory we've probably all thought of: what if those are the bodies of 815 survivors who traveled back in time? It's still possible that those bodies are Rose and Bernard, but if the answer were that simple, they probably would have wrapped it up right then and put Adam and Eve in the "solved" pile. Hurley's suggestion makes me assume there's more story to tell here-- or the writers think we're a lot slower than they are, and are going to drag out this very basic revelation. Developing…
Do the numbers correspond to the compass? This was a theory that had been floated a lot around the time that Ben was people giving compass bearings to escape the island, and as it turns out, they were right! Jacob sends Hurley to the lighthouse to set the compass up there at 108 degrees, in order for a mysterious someone to find the island. Jack then figures out that names correspond to each of the numbers, and hey look, he's number 23! Then he gets pissed that Jacob is watching him and smashes up the entire lighthouse. Jack Shephard is why we can't have nice things.
Wait, seriously, what is Claire? She's probably not the Smoke Monster, and yet, she's not her old self either. Jacob and the Temple Others all seem convinced she's evil, but everyone on this island has been known to lie from time to time, so who really knows? I get the feeling we'll find out soon, as SmokeLocke and Claire head to the Temple together, and Jin more than likely is powerless to stop them. And Claire might get the chance to kill Kate, so goody!
What's going to happen to everyone at the Temple? God only knows, but it's not going to be anything good. Will newly transformed Sayid manage to make it better or worse?
Who is David's mom? If this alternate timeline is actually going to matter, and we're supposed to care about this piano prodigy who resents Jack as much as Jack resents his own dad, this kid's mom had better be interesting. It can't be Kate, because Jack saw her on the plane already, and it's likely not Sarah, who Jack married just three years before the plane crash. Maybe it's Juliet, given those blue eyes? Or even Charlotte? We know that the former Others are all living normal lives out there as well, so the possibilities go on and on…
Who is Jacob expecting on the island? Presumably it's whoever's name is at 108 degrees, and of course they don't let us see that. My money is on Widmore, given that he's been trying actively to find the island for years, and would quite possibly have known to look for Jacob's lighthouse thanks to his past time on the island. The only other imaginable possibility is Desmond, who has to show up at some point, and clearly plays an important role with all this time-jumping. Given that Jacob's purpose seems to be to move along the mythological and power-grabbing elements of island's story, though, I'm sticking with Widmore for now.
Why did Jack see his parents' house in the mirror? He made a point of saying that he hadn't lived in that house since he was a kid, and the other images we saw-- a church steeple, an Asian pagoda-- were clearly from the scenes were Jacob met Sawyer, Jin and Sun in their pasts. Is it possible the Shephard on the compass is in fact Christian? Jacob said Jack has a purpose, but he didn't say it had anything to do with what's on that wheel. Speaking of which…
What is Jacob's purpose for Jack? I nearly screamed when I heard yet another character talk about how important and special Jack is, because really, haven't we heard enough of that by now? But Jacob's whole scavenger hunt for Hurley was just an excuse to get Jack on board, and now Jacob and Jack can put their heads together and break shit in an effort to save the island, or whatever. It's not that I don't care about Jacob, but I'd really rather him choose Hurley or Sayid or anyone else to be the leader. Just for the change of pace.
Where We Go From Here
Give Claire a chance to show more of those survival skills. Though the episode never played it up, it was heartbreaking to think of that tender pregnant girl pretending to eat peanut butter on the beach with Charlie, now mourning for her missing son and unable to trust anyone. My guess is Claire's story will be ending tragically sooner rather than later, and over the course of that goodbye, I want them to play more with that radical shift.
Keep it up with the numbers. I love that the answer to the numbers isn't coming in one giant expository monologue, but in bits and pieces that don't immediately connect. If each episode of the remaining season contains another revelation about the numbers and their meaning-- given in such an offhand, matter-of-fact way-- I'll be thrilled.
Get that Temple confrontation out of the way soon. It's clear that the Jacob vs. The Smoke Monster conflict is going to take us through the rest of the series. But how great would it be if we saw him and SmokeLocke come face to face in the next episode, as a total surprise? Sure that wouldn't conclude things-- my guess is it would only make it more complicated-- but nothing would be better as a way to keep us involved in the larger scale conflict.
Include more of the throwbacks. Shannon's inhaler lying in the path. Christian's banged-up coffin in the caves. Even that line, "You don't have what it takes," we heard Christian tell Jack in season one. Hurley, always the stand-in for the viewer, is feeling nostalgia for his hikes through the jungle with Jack, and of course so are we. I love it when the show recognizes that.
Unite the timelines. I know, broken record, blah blah blah. But seeing Jack bond with an entirely new character, a character who has previously not existed in the series, made it once again clear how urgent it is that we be told the stakes of this alternate timeline. It's fun to watch and all, and kind of surreal to see Jack be a dad, but right now it's about as meaningful as an episode about Jack's tattoos.