Friday, May 14

Across the Sea (S6, ep. 15)

The Back to the Island column for Across the Sea has been Smokified for your reading pleasure on


  1. As always I love it! This is why I think we get 2 doses of Lost a week. Your interpretations and comparisons to the literary are completely amazing! I will miss this show for its own genius writing, and your column because it made that genius have a much deeper meaning. Kudos sir, and hats off to you!

    That being said, I think #2 is correct, that Claudia was a pre-form of old Smokey. Sharing its knowledge with MiB, so that he could carry out the deeds which would enable Smokey to be free and setting up the escape. I have been thinking it all along too :)

  2. You know, the more I think about the episode, the more I really, really wish that they had shown this just using flashbacks in the finale. This way they could have removed this hour from the season, extended the finale to 3 hours and just used the good half of this episode to expand on the history and mythology. I'm still a little frustrated to go from the intense emotional loss of Sayid, Sun, Jin, and Lapidus for the show to tell me "Alright, we're going to ask you to pause on that emotion, while we show you this backstory". Especially since the backstory was a little spotty on the storytelling and acting side of things.

  3. Hey, guys. D, thanks for the kind words. This was the most difficult column I've done, without a doubt.

    I've been actively hoping for some confirmation of an "Island intelligence" since I started writing about this show. Claudia and Christian would serve as perfect avatars for it. Whether it's revealed as a kind of Gnostic "true" God element or a corrupted "Demiurge" - either way I'd be very happy. Here's hoping that they make that leap.

    Hi Ho,

    I'm personally reeeeaaally glad that this episode stayed far away from the finale. I've come around on it to a certain extent - my problems are mostly execution-based - but I have the feeling it would have soured my appreciation for the ending of the show to some extent, precisely because of the acting and storytelling problems.

    This one's going in right after The Substitute for any and all future viewings.

  4. "And maybe, ultimately, the release of the Island is a good thing. Maybe it’s what enables the triggering of another world, in which the Castaways can have a second chance without the Island, free of all outside influence and capable, for better and for worse, of choosing their own paths in a universe that no longer guides them. Maybe it’s the ultimate turning of the 'failsafe key,' releasing the trapped souls who reside there."

    This blew my mind. Maybe Mother saw MiB as the potentially "evil" thing that would bind ever-dutiful and goofily loyal Jacob to his task of protecting the island's heart. Maybe it's the selfishness of the guardians, who have thrived in isolation, that has kept the energy within the island all bottled up. Maybe Jacob is just a dupe.

  5. JDR22 Here...

    I loved the appetizer, MMorse. Looking forward to the meal.

    The thing that's starting to irk me is that brilliant recappers like you point out a lot of wonderful possible interpretations, yet the SHOW isn't conveying these cool ideas.

    It's possible that the finale will allow this to be rectified, but most people will not watch LOST twice, and a lot of what you're saying is just not that apparent in this episode.

    I think the idea of Claudia as a manifestation of the Island (or perhaps the previous iteration of Smokey) is a cool one, but because the show is not giving us anything to grab onto, we're left grasping for straws.

    It would be cool if Claudia was the "person" telling MiBby how to fashion the wheel and get off the Island, but all we got was "I'm special." It comes across as lazy (though it ultimately may not be).

    That's why I'm conflicted now. LOST needs to start getting a bit more concise with the answers, because at this point EVERYTHING is ambiguous.

    That said, I've heard good early buzz for next week's episode, so it's possible that we're in for a redeeming final run.

  6. The protector and Smokey pre-existed somehow.
    I believe the Claudia apparition was smokey manifest to MIB- why not Jacob indeed?
    It also seems that smokey/protector have a preternatural knowing of the future. So why wouldn't Mother have known that MIB was more likely to be the smoke monster and Jacob the protector, but she fought it?

  7. MMorse, just poured through your whole column. Thanks for your positivity and speculation. I stay away from almost all Lost commentary online because people tend to criticize and attack and I'm more interested in ideas.

    As always, you respectfully say "this didn't work for me so much" without maligning or desiring to spar with others to defeat their viewpoints.

    I didn't love the episode, and was disoriented with parts of it. But I'm starting to care about it like a puppy in a cage at the pound. So many people seem to want it dead.

    From the reactions to it, it would be easy to think that this was the final episode ever to be shown and that there was no further enlightenment. I believe permanent vagueness was intentional on many levels, but we are likely to gain additional insight in the next 3.5 hours of programming. Until the series is over and we know what that is, it's hard for me to be upset about what they didn't tell us because I don't know what that is yet.

    Thanks again for your intelligence and respect for the show and it's viewers.

  8. In regards to the Source - be it good or evil or misunderstood:

    I love that it appears that despite being manipulated, Despite his biased and faulty judgement, despite his desperation for the any available "truth," and despite his need for personal importance, John Locke was at his essence right about the island.

  9. JDR,

    I can absolutely appreciate what you're saying. I tried to make it very clear at the start of the column that this week's thoughts consist of what's interesting to me about the show, and that I'm well aware of the disappointment with the episode.

    That said, I have it on very good authority that next week is going to make people happy.

    Thanks so much for the kind words and for the civil tongues, guys. I know this was a tough one for a lot of people (myself included), but that doesn't mean that there isn't a bunch of stuff for us to chew over.

  10. Oh man, this is another thing that just whacked me over the head. Very perceptive:

    "Notice what Jacob’s done when the Man in Black calls him out on breaking 'the rules' – he moves one of his pieces sideways. He couldn’t do that when the Man in Black set the rules of their Senet game. Can he do it now that he’s in control of the Island? Move his pieces sideways, from world to world? Or perhaps, the consciousnesses of those pieces? Like we’ve seen happening over the course of the season?"

  11. Now my curiousity is peaked. What insight do you and JDR22 have for next weeks episode?

  12. JDR22 Here...

    I caught this article on AICN from a guy who saw an advanced screening of 6.15 (be warned, there are spoilers in the videos, but NOT in his synopsis of the next episode):

    Has me intrigued, but my expectations are still tempered.

  13. JDR22...


    Maybe there are very mild spoilers, but nothing specific.

  14. Morse, I take back what I said about the flashbacks during the finale. And I do agree with you that this episode sits much, much better with me right after "The Substitute". If I mentally place it there, then the momentum from "The Candidate" is maintained all the way into the finale, and we still get some info on the MiB earlier in the season. I think this will be the largest unanswered question from Lost: "Why, oh why, didn't they put this episode earlier in the season instead of right before the finale?"

    Also, I really didn't have a problem with the glowing cave. The effects didn't seem that off compared to other effects the show has done. The hole seems out of place because it is out of place. It is an other-worldly portal to the mystic that only the island protecter can find. Also we've seen the effects of light on the island quite a few other times, and this seemed to fit in with the rest of them: the failsafe at the end of season 2, Ben turning the donkey wheel, Locke turning the donkey wheel, the light right before the island disappeared, and most recently in "Happily Ever After" right before Desmond flashed sideways. So, unlike most of the internet, that was one of the parts of the episode that really worked well for me. Guess it does prove that mileage will vary.

  15. I'll add my voice to the chorus Morse, and say thank you for being so reasonable in your write up, and for not being condescending when you didn't like something. I seemed to have liked this episode quite a bit more than most people did and it was nice to be able to read a recap that didn't make me feel crazy at the end.

    I think this episode would have worked nicely after the Substitute as well, but I'll play devil's advocate and say that I think it kind of worked well here as well. It was jarring to see the guy who blew up a slew of our favorite characters with a submarine bomb portrayed so sympathetically a week later, but I thought it was jarring in a good way. I like my bad guys to be ambiguous, and I was a bit disappointed to read the Darlton quotes that came out last week where they claimed MiB was unambiguously evil.

    And I'd agree that this episode doesn't condemn scientific curiosity, at least not anymore than Locke's story arc condemns faith. I think Lost has always been good about saying their are pretty fantastic possibilities and pitfalls in both.

    And thanks for that link, JDR22!

  16. Thanks again for a wonderful post! I didn't have the issues some did with this episode - especially after a second viewing and multiple, intriguing discussions. Some points:

    The acting didn't bother me at all. The kids played kids, the Mother seemed like a lonely, loving, psycho, killer.

    Interesting point I may have missed you discussing: why is it that the MIB "knows" how to play the game but not Jacob? A rebirth theme? Is this not the uber-myth but just an earlier loop (yet again)?

    Could Claudia have just been the Mother who (as a Smokey) was setting up MiB in a long con to kill and replace her? Jacob did seem like her plan B. Speaking of: my favorite moment was Jacob confronting her about the favoritism and channeling Ben from "The Incident." I swear he sounded just like Michael Emerson at one point.

  17. "Imagine living forever on an Island where a sinister thing wears your brother’s face and attempts, over and again, to murder you. And imagine knowing on that some level that you deserve it."

    Brilliant. Gave me chills. This may be your best one yet, Morse. Loved this episode, love this site, love this show.

  18. Im going to plagarize, but it is good... from lemonpuddy on the Chud site:
    "Mom was a smoke monster. A smoke monster has always been the protector of the Light. You must use violent means to stop violent men. Mom tells the boys that they are on the island for a reason. When MIB asks why, she seems horrified and says, "It's too soon." She knows MIB will be the protector, but she can't condemn him to that fate at such a young age. When MIB decides he wants to leave, it throws a monkey wrench into the whole plan. If MIB leaves the island, it will be the end of everything. Not because he will spread the evil, but beacause the Light will be left unprotected and men will destroy it. Mom said, "If the light goes out here, it goes out everywhere." When MIB finally becomes Smokey, Jacob becomes his warden. MIB cannot be allowed to leave the island. Smokey is the protector. Remember what Ben said? The smoke monster is the island's security system. However, Jacob is trying to prove that men are good in order to end the smoke monster cycle. If he proves mankind is essentially good, then the light will not need to be protected through violent actions and then there is no need for anyone else to be condemned to the smoke monster's fate."

  19. I think the episode would have been better if they had included that scene:


  20. MMorse,

    I'm glad that you softened on the episode somewhat after a second viewing. Yes, Allison Janney was given some clunky lines (I'd argue that it was the dialogue and not her essential Allison Janneyness that made her character difficult to accept, but that's just me) and unless it becomes important later on I think showing us the glow-hole was pretty inessential. However, overall I felt like this episode offered a lot to chew on and enjoy.

    By the way, Todd, I really like the excerpt from lemonpuddy that you posted. Granted I haven't read much in terms of post-episode recaps and message boards, but it's the only thing I've heard or read that seems to let all the disparate things we've learned about the smoke and the light jive together.

  21. I'm way off-topic here, but I kinda love this...

    We're told that the light cave is "life, death, rebirth", and that the Island is home to the souls of those who can't move on.

    So is it possible that the light, rather than being electromagnetism, is soul glo?

  22. I think Mother needed a child to take over for her.

    She was both the Protector of the Island and the Smoke Monster.

    She wasn't expecting twins.

    Her role has been split in two.

    And that's the problem that the whole series has been trying to fix.

  23. @Citizen: That scene was hilarious! I love how Kimmel got the actors in their roles for "Connect 4 Million", classic stuff. :)

  24. @Citizen - That is great! Thanks for sharing!

  25. @Morse - Great column as always! I have to agree with what you wrote in your column:

    "Ben and Locke’s exit from the Island was supposed to be MiB’s exit from the Island. Is that his end-game? Once the Candidates have all been killed will he go to the Wheel and leave that way? Or will he choose ... to go back to the Light instead ... one he might still be unable to find?"

    This is really the final(e) question. What are the actual intentions of the Smoke Monster himself. We know that Jacob's unnamed brither is dead, so maybe the "home" that he was referring to was actually the "light" itself.

    Smokey = Loki

    Loki, who worked for the gods, as well as caused problems for them and was a shape shifter. Sounds like Smokey. If I am not mistaken, didn't Loki always want to get back into heaven, and tried to find any loophole that would allow him to do so? I haven't had time to research as it just popped into my head right now.

  26. This epi emphasized the importance of letting go. At what point do you have to realize that you have to let go of a wish a desire a goal. Well at the point where you have to do something immoral, the ends never justify the means.

    BTW people have to be able to surrender to a story, in essence it requires suspension of disbelief in order to find pleasure in it. If you insist on questioning every single detail, ultimately you will be dissatisfied.

    Hitchcock always said that the details of the threat/mystery were not important, (ie: what were the secret papers, the secret formula, why did the birds attack) it was how the story was told, the interaction between the characters.

    what is the island?

    It's a McGuffin, all good stories have them.

    Just sit back and enjoy a great work of story telling.


  27. @mommaleonard,

    I agree with you completely, which is why I was let down by Across the Sea: not because of the story, but because it wasn't told very well.

    That said, I'm looking forward to the rest of the journey!

  28. D,

    "Smokey = Loki"

    You can definately look at it that way, "from a certain point of view." Smokey is an archetypical Trickster-figure, very much like Loki (or satan, or latter-Set, or whathaveyou). In fact, Loki's punishment neatly echoes the example of Prometheus that I gave in the column - Prometheus was chained to a rock and had his liver eaten out (fun!). Loki was chained to a rock under a snake with fiery, painful venom dripping from its jaws.

    Both are figures that were sentenced to "eternal" punishment for what amounts to defiance.


    Nicely said. Like the anonymous poster above me, my problems stemmed from the way they chose to tell the story, not the story that they chose to tell. Loved the ideas, and am looking forward to what sounds like a fantastic episode tomorrow.