'Lost': Course Corrections for 'Sundown'

naveen-andrews-lost-s6-320.jpgRecapping is a tricky business, especially when it comes to " Lost." The order from on high isn't "Do it as quickly as possible!" But it isn't, "Eh, take your time, whenever is fine," either. There's a fine balance between giving people something to read as soon as possible and the desire to craft as complete, honest, and fair a summary as possible.

In some ways, I like the deadline structure for recaps: without it, I'm not sure I'd EVER finish one. But clearly, having a deadline to post a recap the night that the show airs means that either thoughts are left unfinished, emotional reactions can overwhelm rational thought, and worst of all, what I mean to write doesn't always come across in the cold light of a computer screen.
 
Am I leaping for joy over "Sundown" 24 hours later? Definitely not. My problems with the episode still remain. Still, for Metacritic to interpret my recap as giving the episode a 40 out of a possible 100? That's more than a little much. When I declared it my least favorite episode of the season, I was barely damning it with faint praise. I certainly wasn't drowning it in a pool and then slashing its throat. Many elements worked within the episode, but as a start-to-finish piece of work, it didn't live up to the other five hours I've seen this season. But a 40? Come on. That's "Stranger in a Strange Land" territory. Not "Sundown" territory.
 
So that's why I created the "Course Corrections" series in the wake of "LA X." It's a great opportunity not only for me, but for you the readers as well, to look at the episode with a little time to think and breathe. Less reaction, more introspection. This series is about fine-tuning my initial review more than overhauling it. I quite like most of the recap, thankee kindly. But this series gives me the chance to augment it when it's not 1 a.m. and I see the ghost of my father in the man cave with me. That's straight-up weird, mostly because he's not dead.
 
So, eight more things about "Sundown"...
 
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I'm not sure there's a character I enjoy more whose character-centric episodes I enjoy less than Sayid. I recognize that's part of the problem here. But it's a WEIRD problem. Who's cooler than Sayid? He's cooler than the other side of the pillow. He's cooler than being cool. (ICE COLD!) But aside from "Solitary," I'm not sure I've ever really liked the off-Island action in a Sayid-episode. To my mind, his last three -- "The Economist," "He's Our You," and "Sundown" -- all deal thematically with the exact same issue, and largely come to the same darn conclusions.

I find it odd that people rail against Jack's constant daddy issues but are fine with Sayid's constant killer instincts. I understand that Sayid's inherently much cooler than Jack, but that doesn't let his episodes off the hook for being equally repetitive. He's a killer: I GET IT. I also get that Jack's sideways flash last week broke new ground for his character; Sayid's did not. In fact, nearly ALL of my interest in anything L.A.-centric derives from Smocke's promise to reunite Sayid with Nadia. Seeing Keamy? Cool. But I'd rather watch the spinoff "Cooking With Keamy!" than this sideways story again.

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Having said all that, I'd be remiss if I didn't explicitly state the irony in me actively rooting for a killer to be a good guy. In any other show, he'd probably be the villain, or at least the charismatic rogue that eventually got his comeuppance during sweeps. When I said in the recap that I pray this repetitive streak of "Sayid is a killer and that's all he'll ever be" stories ends with him making a breakthrough in which he realizes he's more than that, I don't want that breakthrough to wash his sins away. I want him to atone for that past through an act that doesn't necessarily redeem his life but provides potential redemption for someone else.

Another example: his sparring partner Dogen. Does that man who killed his son in a drunk driving accident deserve a second chance with his son? I'm not sure that he does. I'm not sure that he doesn't, either, and therein lies the complex and fascinating nature of the sideways universe in general at this point in the show. Nothing's easy, which means that the show's doing its job.
 
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I desperately tried to make my Schrödinger's cat analogy work last night in trying to explain how the "parallel timeline" camp and the "epilogue" camp had individual elements right, but didn't account for their fusion creating a third option that no one had even considered until this most recent episode. But in reading the comments, it seems I came up short in that attempt. What we MIGHT be seeing is something akin to Smocke's promise to people, but it never actually has to happen chronologically AFTER Smocke's victory in order for it to either have happened or matter. That's the thought experiment at play here. On an Island in which mind turns into matter, the Lostaways can experience what that New Smokey World Order would look like: paradise on the surface, malice underneath it. Think David Lynch's "Blue Velvet," with its stunning opening shot of a seemingly idyllic suburbia panning down to see the worms and the insects infesting the ground beneath it. Think "Buffy the Vampire Slayer's" "Superstar," in which a wish changes the world but also infects it. The world is WRONG.
 
The notion that this is a place our characters are supposed to live in feels more wrong to me than ever. But I've shifted from feeling that way on a meta level about the show and turned into a dramatic engagement with a Smocke-authored happily never after. It LOOKS like sunshine and smiles, but it's actually insidious. The work that has to be done? Waking people up from the nightmare of this world and foiling Smocke before it can happen. People are already glimpsing into what's been lost: in mirrors, in remembered names, in chance encounters. They will need to wake up sooner rather than later. When they do, that information will pass back to their counterparts on the Island, Smocke will be foiled, and that future no longer exists. Thus endeth the thought experiment.
 
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You have to love the irony of a man who espouses personal freedom yet enslaves people more than Jacob would ever dream. Just as it's silly to assign Jacob/The Man in Black one color (white/black), it's silly to assign either one the embodiment of "destiny" and "free will." Jacob clearly favors the former, but isn't above getting involved at critical points in order to allow people to achieve their potential. The Man in Black decries Jacob's supposed puppetry, but has done almost NOTHING except get people to do things for him. And if he's indeed responsible in some way for the creation of the sideways timeline, then he's the ULTIMATE manipulator: creating a world not unlike that in "The Matrix" for the sole purpose of achieving his own touch of freedom.

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Above all else, we need to look at "Sundown" as the end of Act 1 of the show's final season. We saw the Temple, learned about the candidates, and saw the battle lines being drawn. The next few hours will see people shore up their sides, with the final third unleashing the mother of all battles for the heart and soul not only of the Island, but humanity itself. Awesome.
 
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One thing I've thought since last week, but I am not sure I've actually expressed out loud: Infection is NOT mind control. Claire, Sayid and the dozens of Others now working for Smocke (readers are calling them Smothers and Flocke's Flock, both of which are great names) aren't zombies. Claire and Sayid still have most of themselves intact; they just lack important elements such as hope, compassion and selflessness. They don't blindly and willingly follow every action that Smocke lays out for them -- they just no longer possess the capacity to understand the implications of their selfish, singular outlooks. They, like Smoke, only understand things in terms of their primal needs, and "infection" just removes the moral compass that would prevent these people from following through on Smocke's will.
 
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One thing I definitely did not mention in the recap: Kate's approximately 1,000 times more important after that episode than before it. Before, her goal of reuniting Claire with Aaron was noble but amorphous in nature; even she wasn't sure how to achieve it, or even how go about it. (I mocked her return to the Temple in the recap after her stated goal to avoid it in "Lighthouse"; methinks there's a scene on the cutting room floor of Kate wandering around, completely lost, unable to find a trail, and simply deciding to double back despite her words to Hurley and Jack.) But now? She's the only person in the thick of Smocke's Army. She's embedded, alongside two friends she doesn't understand are no longer the people she knew. Not only will this provide some great tension going forth, but it also offers her a chance to rescue Claire in the most dramatic way possible while nipping at Smocke's Achilles heel. More than ever, Kate's mission to reunite Claire and Aaron has direct and MONUMENTAL implications for the overall endgame of the show. Just brilliant.

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All right, we'll wrap up with your weekly "Lost" mix tape, full of songs inspired by this week's episode. For Sayid: The Smashing Pumpkins' "Disarm" seems appropriate, as does The Who's "Drowned" and Radiohead's "Knives Out." For Claire, Alice in Chains' "Down in a Hole" seems about right, along with U2's "Mothers of the Disappeared" and Ryan Adams' "The Rescue Blues." Smocke? Well, he was in the jungle, a mile south of the Temple, grooving to The Vines' "Get Free," Bad Religion's "Infected," Disturbed's "Down with the Sickness," Björk's "Army of Me," Peter Gabriel's "Red Rain," and given his wish-fulfillment angle, let's throw in Christina Aguilera's "Genie in a Bottle" for fun.

Those are my thoughts 24 hours after "Sundown": what are some of yours?

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Photo credit: ABC
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