Of all the mysteries solved last night in yet another info-filled sixth season episode of Lost, one mystery still stands out remarkably: Who is the Man In Black? And why does he think Jack knows who he is?
In the first few minutes of “The Last Recruit,” Jack shares a fireside chat with the man who goes by so many names: Man In Black (often shortened to MIB, which just reminds me of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones), Fake Locke (often shortened to Flocke, which just makes him seem like a shepherd), the Smoke Monster (sometimes capitalized, sometimes not — depending on how angry he gets), Cerberus (the name the Others gave him), evil incarnate (used by Dogen) and “that thing,” elaborated on last night by Frank Lapidus (Jeff Fahey) to become “that swamp thing.” Which is pretty ironic, considering the Smoke Monster can’t travel across swamps.
In their talk, Mr. Anonymous explains to Jack why he chose to take the appearance of John Locke:
“You look just like him,” Jack says.
“Does it bother you?” Flocke replies.
“No, what bothers me is I don’t have any idea what the hell you are,” Jack explains.
And then, with no hesitation, Flocke says it.
“Sure you do.”
Are we meant to assume that Jack does, in fact, know the identity of this supernatural entity? Or is he like us and just gets a bad feeling about the guy?
Fortunately, the subplot of Lost’s sixth season, as mentioned in my “Ab Aeterno” post, is still going strong. It’s called “Jack finally asks the right questions.” He asks if Flocke could resemble other dead people on the island, too — namely, his dear old dad.
So now we know that the real “shepherd” of the show, Christian, was impersonated several times by the man we now call Flocke. As Christian, the Man In Black led Jack to water in the first season (a scene where Jack almost fell off a cliff, until Locke saved him); he led Claire away from Sawyer and Miles (abandoning Aaron in the process); he visited Locke in Jacob’s cabin (in which Claire eerily said, “I’m with him.”); he visited Locke by the donkey wheel; he told Michael when it was time for him to die; and he encountered Sun and Lapidus in abandoned Dharmaville, revealing that Jin and the others were stuck in 1977.
Whew! That’s a lot of visits. I’m not sure they were all helpful, though, as Flocke claims. Jack doesn’t seem sure about it either. And I’m still not 100 percent positive that those visits were all made by the Man In Black. For example, how could he have shown up as Christian in Dharmaville after Ajira had crashed if he was already in Locke’s body?
One of the strangest parts about the Man In Black is that not only can he shapeshift, but he can also mirror people. It’s just like when the Smoke Monster freezes in someone’s face and that person’s memories appear in the black cloud. Flocke can look at someone and instantly mesh with that person’s typical demeanor.
But it only works sometimes, because, as I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, the Smoke Monster is a cloudy mirror. He can assess the ego but not the spirit.
For someone like Jack, who was once very ego-dominated, Flocke’s shtick about John Locke being “a sucker” should have worked wonders. But this is a new-and-improved Jack Shephard. He’s no longer guided by the need to prove himself or fix things. He finally has respect for other people’s beliefs, namely John Locke’s.
See, Jack has found island redemption. Any person left on the island who’s yet to find that is going to have a hard time resisting Flocke’s persuasions. Which means that in addition to Jack, Sawyer, Kate, Sun, Jin, Hurley, Desmond, Miles, Ben and Richard are all immune. But Claire and Sayid aren’t. Look at what they did just before meeting Flocke – Sayid shot a 14-year-old and Claire abandoned her child.
Oh, and they were dead.
Basically, if you’ve yet to find redemption or you’re swimming with the fishes, your soul is not fully inhabiting your body — all the better for the Man In Black to steal it.
There was a lot of soul-saving going on last night, in both the island world and the Sideways world. For the first time this season, it was not a show that centered around one character’s story. The writers could deftly weave the events of “The Last Recruit” in and out of each other, much like Jacob at his loom.
Also for the first time this season? These two worlds are finally starting to resemble each other. We’re not looking at Alice in one world and Wonderland in the other anymore. We’re not looking at Kansas versus Oz. We’re looking at one universe, which has certain demands, regardless of what series of events leads up to the results.
As Jacob said, “It only ends once. Everything else is just progress.”
For example, on the island, we see Claire calling Jack her “brother” for the first time. Then the same thing happens in the Sideways world, albeit under different circumstances.
On the island, Claire comes out from behind the bushes, interrupting Jack and Flocke. It seems like something Flocke previously convinced her to do. She’s completely under his control now, just like Sayid; they are soldiers, carrying out orders. But when Claire finds Jack in the Sideways world, it’s thanks to Desmond, who seems to be on a mission to unite all the castaways.
(It’s an interesting choice by the writers. Why Desmond? Why is he the man for this job? Is it because he’s the one who accidentally brought them all to the island when he didn’t push the button? So he’s inextricably linked to each passenger? Is he doing a Jacob impression? Is it because it was his love for Penny, and her search for him, that initially got the castaways saved?)
Sideways Claire ends up finding a “family,” at a time when she really needs one. She would have given up Aaron without Desmond’s intervention. On the island, Claire also finds a sense of family. Island Claire is like the girl who plans a birthday party and nobody shows up. She can cry if she wants to. But in this episode, Kate recruits her to join them on the sailboat, seemingly breaking through Claire’s crazy/tough veneer.
In another example of the interwoven worlds, Sideways Sawyer interrogates/flirts with Sideways Kate in the police station, one of two central locations for all the castaways in the Sideways world. (The other one? Sideways Jack’s hospital.) This is a significant scene because Kate has finally been caught. Despite how lightheartedly this was played, she’s still doing everything she can to break free.
(By the way, did you notice Sawyer offering that apple? He’s already had his Sideways redemption moment, with Miles. So he can now eat from the apple of knowledge, reminiscent of the apple consumed by Adam and Eve. Could Sawyer and Kate be the cave skeletons? Yeah, that’s a stretch. But everything happens for a reason on this show. A baseball is never just a baseball.)
When Kate learns of Sawyer’s escape plan on the island, he again confines her. She’s not thrilled about the idea of leaving Claire. But she follows him anyway. When Jack jumps off the boat, Kate’s conflicted emotions are palpable. She’s caught between the two men she loves. It’s as though she’s held captive by Sawyer, just like in the Sideways world. And she’s doing whatever she can to break free.
And as for Sideways Sawyer … well, his meeting with Kate gets interrupted by Miles’ announcement that they’ve got “a live one” (which is ironic, since he’s referring to Sayid). Just before this scene, island Sawyer points out to Hurley that Sayid had “gone over to the dark side.” In the Sideways world, as Detective Jim Ford, he trips Sayid with a garden hose and arrests him for murder (something Sawyer probably wishes he could do on the island, especially after those three years of Dharma police training).
And a third example of the two worlds converging occurs with Sayid. Zombie Sayid is instructed yet again to kill someone in this episode, this time an “unarmed man.” But when he goes to shoot Desmond, he gets an earful of wisdom (and brothas — why would you call someone “brotha” when he’s got a gun pointed at you?). Desmond asks Sayid what he’ll tell Nadia he had to do to “get her back” and Sayid has no answer for that.
In the Sideways world, Sayid does get a chance to tell Nadia what he did, but he doesn’t get her back. After killing Keamy and his goons, and saving his brother’s family from peril, Sayid must run from the law, albeit unsuccessfully.
Do you think Desmond’s pleas could bring Sayid back from the “dark side”? When he tells Flocke the result of his meeting with the man in the well, he doesn’t seem to be telling the truth.
Besides the similar worlds, there’s one phrase that’s repeated by lots of characters in this episode: “Everything will be okay.” Sideways Sayid says it to Nadia. Sideways Jin says it to Sun, when she wakes up in the hospital.
The reunion of the Sideways Kwons should have foreshadowed their island reunion, but the writers still managed to catch me off guard with that one. Anyone else just expect it at that point? When they run through the sonar fences to each other, their drive to embrace is stronger than any concern over sudden death. Anyone else miss the fact that those fences had been turned off?
Why do you think Sun is able to speak English again after she finds Jin? Perhaps this was a way for the writers to show that if Flocke did take away her English (of which she humorously accuses him), and then her discovery of Jin makes her speak English instantly (the first phrase she can say is “I love you”), then love is one of the things that can defeat Flocke.
It was a touching scene. Even more touching? Sawyer’s sad reaction, watching them reunite. Despite Jack’s apology for causing Juliet’s death, Sawyer obviously still wishes he could reunite with her.
Another person who says, “Everything will be okay,” is Jack, as he’s preparing his son, David (aka “Mini Jack”), for the reading of Christian’s will.
Jack’s an interesting example of the island imitating the Sideways world, or vice versa. In the Sideways world, he’s much more confident than he ever was before. He leaves the reading of the will to go and operate on Locke, and just before the surgery he says, “I’ve got this.” He used to be very unsure of himself with surgeries. He’d have to count to five to deal with his anxiety.
On the island, he shows similar confidence in his convictions. He used to want to do everything he could to get off the island. But now he’s brave enough to “make a leap of faith,” as Sawyer says, and swim back to the beach from a moving sailboat. Acting like the new John Locke (which would make Sawyer the new Jack), Jack tells Sawyer that leaving the island doesn’t feel right. He says that the last time he left, he felt like a part of him was missing. It’s darkly humorous that Sawyer would say, “They got pills for that, Doc.” Jack already tried every pill and alcoholic beverage he could think of. Those didn’t solve anything when he left the island before (but they did help him grow a horrible beard).
Both the Sideways and island versions of Jack seem to believe in having a sense of purpose now, even if island Jack might be much closer to it. The island version even tries to convince Sawyer to stay behind, that the island still needs him; it’s something John Locke tried to tell Jack on many occasions.
As I mentioned earlier, Jack finally recognizes John Locke now. He understands and agrees with some of his beliefs. When he sees the Man In Black pretending to be Locke, he seems to know who he is.
And more importantly, when Sideways Jack sees Sideways John Locke’s face in the mirror on his operating table, he recognizes him. “I think I know this guy,” he says.
He does know him. As different as each of these castaways are, they are all one and the same. Regardless of the universe, they need to live together, or they’ll die alone. They are all “brothas,” as Desmond might say.
Maybe that’s why it’s his job to bring them together.
Despite Flocke’s claim, that “it’s great to see them all together again,” I think that’s the last thing he wants. Unless it makes it easier for them all to die. We already know he needs them dead, even if he isn’t allowed to kill them.
Some funny and brilliant moments of this episode (and there were many):
When Flocke drops the walkie on the ground and smashes it with his stick (nature overcoming technology), he says, “Well, here we go.” Just magnificently played by Terry O’Quinn, as usual.
Hurley makes a reference to Anakin Skywalker, also known as Darth Vader.
On the island, Jack spends a lot of time looking like a scared little boy in this episode. He looks like he’s worried that his lost dog might be dead. Matthew Foxdid a great job with this.
Sawyer’s quips were hilarious, as usual. A crisis seems to make his nickname machine work more efficiently. He calls Sayid a zombie and Claire nuts. I thought for sure that he calls Jack “handsome,” but he really just whispers, “Give me a hand with somethin’.” As Jack and his son walk around together in those suits, they just look like carbon copies. There’s something definitely comical about it. And what about how they just laugh off the discovery of Christian having another kid? They think it’s hilarious. The old Jack never would have reacted like that.
At the very end, Flocke tells Jack he’s “going to be okay,” repeating the episode’s common phrase one more time. “You’re with me now,” he says.
Is Jack with him? He looks pretty disoriented from that explosion, and the definition of disoriented is not knowing where one stands.
As any dutifully, crazy Lost follower would do, I noticed some interesting anagrams in the finale promo. Some of the letters were blurred in the message paired with the creepy video of Terry O’Quinn walking determinedly toward the camera. The message said, “His soul had gone mad, being alone in the wilderness.”
The blurred out letters in the message could spell, “Irises going hello.” The clear letters in the message could spell, “As undead man then shined below.”
Or, at least, this was the best I could come up with. Hey, at least they rhyme! Did anyone else try to figure this one out?
Let me know if you did! And as usual, any questions, comments and answers are welcome below. See you in two weeks!