Looking back at tonight's episode, entitled "Everybody Loves Hugo", I kept looking for reasons to slam it. Historically, Hurley's episodes always seem to carry a vibe of mediocrity with it. I'm not saying the episodes have been mediocre, just that you never expect a whole lot when you see Hugo-centric story on deck, and maybe that's why I've usually been satisfied with what he has to offer. I don't expect bold story-telling like I do from episodes about Jack, Locke, Ben, and Desmond. Hurley's episodes pretty much come equipped with the usuals: A bucket a chicken with a side of mental hospital, some biggie-sized humor, and small mythology on the side. You could easily say that Hurley episodes are just like fast food. You know exactly what you're getting and it rarely disappoints. So why was I looking to shoot it down from scene one?
I guess it comes down to those increasingly annoying flash-sideways. Keep in mind, I'm not one of the haters who have been against the plot device since the season premiere. It's served it's purpose so far, and even became sorta validated last week when Desmond made that long overdue connection. But the closer we get to the finale, I find myself having less patience for what the sideways world is offering. I'm sick of the show dividing time between Camp Widmore, Team Jack, and Team Locke. A whole hour of positioning and advancing each group towards each other would be infinitely better than seeing how much of a Philanthropist fake Hurley has become, no matter how well it services the alternate universe. Maybe the worst part of it all is that they gave us yet another throwaway cameo, this time taking an awesome character (Dr. Chang) and giving him a meaningless part. So that's why I was looking to slam this episode. But damn it all if they didn't give me reason after reason to love what I was seeing (most of it, anyways).
Granted, as a whole the flash sideways was still boring and predictable. Did any of us actually think that Hurley was gonna get to have his blind date with whats-her-face? You don't have to read E Weekly to know that LIbby was coming in hard, and that they'd fast-track another unlikely romance with her and Hurley that ends the same way it did on the island (except with much less double homicide). Almost perfectly mirroring the season 2 episode "Everybody Hates Hugo", we again find Libby and Hurley on a beach hamming up an exchange that, when stripped down, goes like this:
Hurley: Why are you here? I'm fat.
Libby: I'm here because I like you.
Of course this triggers his memories and you know the rest. Based on the f-sideways, this was a subpar episode. So what turned the whole thing around? Why am I caring about this episode? Well, if things started off slow, the wake-up call we all got came in the form of...
1. ...Ilana getting BLOWN. THA. FUCK. UP. Man, how many times do people need to hear "that dynamites unstable!" before they listen? I loved this for a number of reasons. Ilana, along with Cesar, was one of the worst new characters brought into LOST. She has sucked in just about every scene, and to see her blown to bits gave me a satisfaction I haven't felt since Ana Lulu took one in the tits (Sun getting shot was a great feeling too, but it was Sideways Sun, and therefore I hardly cared). And the writers perfectly set it up, too. They gave her an out-of-place "woe is me" speech about how she trained for all this. It was so out of place that it got me annoyed with how much screen time she was getting and I looked away in disgust when the big moment happened. I didn't even see her die! I just saw her bits flying around. Awesome. Of course, I doubt this is the end of Ilana on the show. Whether she appears in flashbacks, sideways, or as a ghostie, she'll be back.
2. How annoying is it that the castaways seem to have dynamite on tap any time they want? They always seem just a commercial break away from arriving at the Black Rock, commenting on how little they need to take (which always leaves room for more dynamite missions any time the show calls for it), and tip toeing away en route to blow something up. That's reason #2 for why I loved this episode: Hurley blows it all to hell. Finally the end of the Black Rock and dynamite. But LOST's annoyances do seem pervasive, because minutes after it happens, Richard and Ben talk about a strike force mission to track down a grenade stash at the Barracks. ugh.
3. Poor Locke. Doesn't matter what world he's in, he always gets bullied. He's been hit by a car before (season 1 while he was running down Mama Locke, no injuries though), had his leg crushed by a metal door in the Hatch, been pushed out an eight story window, broke his leg getting down to the depths of the Orchid, been shot where his kidney used to be, fell on his face out of his wheel chair, strangled to death, etc, etc. Terry O'Quinn sure can take a beating. This one may have been the sweetest though. Compare this sideways scene to Sun getting shot during the battle of Jin & Mikhail. While both awesome, Locke's is far better because Desmond carried out this action all while having knowledge of the Island world. What made him do it? What does he know about Island Locke? Did he do it for a good cause (see below)? Will it change things? But what made this episode great came from an unexpected source. My fiancée, not usually known for her mind blowing theories, offered up this little diddy at the beginning of the episode:
4. DESMOND IS JACOB.
You're laughing, I get it. At some point, we've probably hypothesized that every character could be Jacob, but considering the events that played out last night in both worlds, this is starting to make a hell of lot of sense.
I know, I can't believe it either, brotha.
First, Desmond's behavior after emerging from his electromagnetic daydream was clearly different. He was content, aloof, and cooperative with everyone he came across, almost like he knew this was part of the plan. We believe that old Desmond may have died when that blast went off. It could be even more likely that his consciousness permanently transferred to the sideways world. Either way, present Desmond isn't acting like Desmond, and that's because he's not!!!!
Second, Locke started to pick up on this, and that's why he threw him down the well. We can all agree that Smokey is a character that absolutely has his shit together; very little can surprise him. He's always ten steps ahead of every conversation and every encounter with regular castaways like Sawyer, Kate, and even Richard. But with Desmond, he couldn't quite figure him out. Why aren't you scared? Smokey looked genuinely bewildered when he asked this of Desmond. When Desmond replied "What's the point of being scared?" I almost got a sense of deja vu (or maybe a flashsideways twitch) that reminded me of when Jacob responded to Ben by saying "What about you?" You're starting to come around, aren't you?
Finally, the role that Desmond is playing in sidewaysland is EXACTLY the role that Jacob played in the real world. In the season 5 finale, Jacob was responsible for influencing the castaways off-Island at some of the most important moments in their life. His goal was to steer them down a path that led them to the Island. Desmond's job in sidewaysland is to influence the castaways by reintroducing them to some of the most important moments that happened on the Island. His goal is steer them down a path that ends with them rebooting these memories of the Island. Perhaps the end game is to get them to go back there. Sometimes this is done through friendly conversation (Jacob's chat with Hurely in the taxi equals Desmond's chat with Hurley at Mr. Clucks), and sometimes this is done through tragedy (Jacob distracting Sayid while Nadia is drilled by a car equals Desmond drilling Locke with a car). By hitting Locke, Desmond did something that Locke could not do on his own..... go to the hospital and visit with the doc. I bet you that Locke will be examined by Jack, and that's when both of them will have their memory-downloading experience. Wouldn't it be great if Locke's paralysis was cured after that moment!?!?!?
This still raises a lot of questions that I'm too tired to rebut. Is Desmond temporarily Jacob until a candidate can take over? Dunno. Why did this happen now and not when the Hatch imploded? Dunno (maybe cause Jacob was alive then). What were my thoughts on the rest of the episode? I'll present a more detailed look tomorrow on why this episode rocked, but for now, good luck trying to fall asleep with this stuff churning in your brain.
Final Verdict: A solid B+