Locke Awaits Further Instructions on Lost

It's funny how some people got rather turned off by the last season of ABC's Lost, but I found the circuitous plot completely engaging, even if it was tonally very different than the outstanding freshman season. That said, it's been interesting to see that the last few episodes of the new third season of Lost have featured a return to the types of stories that made the series' first season such a success.

Last night's episode ("Further Instructions"), written by Carlton Cuse and Elizabeth Sarnoff, picks up the pieces of Locke's fateful decision to stop pressing the button, and we're given the opportunity to see where Locke, Eko, and Desmond ended up after activating the failsafe and, you know, turning the firmament purple for a bit. I absolutely loved the opening shot of Locke's eye opening (the return of a welcome motif) and his body laying rather crumpled in the jungle; it's a nice visual echo of the opening of the series with Locke standing in for his ideological opposite, Jack. Nice trick that. But just when I thought Vincent was going to come running up out of the underbrush, it's a dazed, naked Desmond (more on that in a bit). Whatever exactly happened in that hatch, it's stolen Locke's voice and he wanders back to camp to ... I don't know, do something, where he runs into Charlie and begins to build the sweat lodge.

The only false note, and one that keeps irking me, is the fact that Charlie was there when the toasters and washing machines were literally flying around the hatch, and he just calmly walked back to camp and never told any one what he saw. Then we find out that Locke, Eko, and Desmond have been missing for a day and Charlie never, ever thought to see if they were okay? Or check on whether the hatch even exists anymore? Or mention to anyone what he saw? Odd.

I thought the vision sequence in the sweat lodge was absolutely stunning, and I was overjoyed that they brought back dear, dead Boone (Ian Somerhalder), one of Locke's biggest screw-ups, for the occasion. Considering Locke's HUGE mistake in not pushing the button, he looks to make amends by communing with the island for a sign of, well, further instructions. What he gets is a trippy vision in which Boone plays Virgil and leads him, in a wheelchair, to the airport, where he's told he has to help someone he knows. As we pan across the faces of our familiar castaways, it was interesting to see how Locke (or the island) foresaw them: a smiling, happy family comprised of Claire, Charlie, and baby Aaron; an anxious Sun and Jin waiting in line with Sayid; Hurley working the ticket counter inputting those cursed numbers into the computer; Desmond dressed as an airline pilot; and scarily, ominously Jack, Kate, and Sawyer being led through the metal detector by none other than Ben. It's a great scene, especially since Locke knows nothing of what's happened yet to our kidnapped troika. Finally, he must get out of his wheelchair and ride the escalator where he finds Eko's bloody stick ... and then the face of a polar bear jumps out at him. A brilliant montage of spooky imagery, jumbled symbols, and familiar faces that instantly reminded me of the haunting, atmospheric early days of Lost.

Fitting, the flashback this week belongs to Locke, and this time we're given a look at the days after his breakup with Helen as he settles in with a new "family," a pot-growing commune that seems to be packing more heat than Harry Dean Stanton's cult on Big Love. (The leader of the cult? That would be Chris Mulkey, who will always be Hank Jennings from Twin Peaks to me.) Once again Locke is betrayed by someone he trusts, not a father figure this time, but another surrogate son in the form of undercover police officer Eddie (Justin Chatwin from Weeds and War of the Worlds). While Locke believes he has taken Eddie under his wing, the entire thing is another set-up, and the police have specifically selected Locke for his psych profile as being easy to coerce; he was meant to pick up Eddie on the road. (Which explains the sudden appearance of the police, which bothered me a bit, but in retrospect sealed the trust between the two of them when Eddie lies to protect Locke.) Is Locke a farmer or a hunter? Can he kill Eddie to get in good with his new "family"? From the end of the flashback, it looks like he can't kill. (Which would make him one of the few castaways who can't seem to muster the impulse to murder.)

Locke and Charlie head out to save Eko from a wandering polar bear. Glad that they haven't forgotten these guys, who haven't popped up since Season One, though we now know where they used to live. (That would be the cages Kate and Sawyer are being kept in.) It was good to see Charlie and Locke finally bury the hatchet after Locke accused Charlie of using drugs and beat him to a pulp last season; it's also good to see non-Hooded Charlie. While I am thankful that the show's producers didn't kill Eko off, I am surprised that the bear kept Eko alive and took him back to his cave. Which, hello!, was that cave creepy or what? Between the toy truck and the Dharma gear, I had goosebumps during the entire sequence. Also glad that the producers are keeping the connection between Locke and Eko alive and well. Loved how Locke had another vision in which Eko sits up and speaks to him and tells him that he IS a hunter, and that he will find Jack, Kate, and Sawyer after all. Spooky ....

Sayonara, Station of the Swan. Looks like the hatch went all kablooey and sort of ... imploded on itself when it released the electromagnetic anomaly. But how exactly did Locke, Eko, and Desmond end up elsewhere and not smushed into teeny-tiny atoms? That's a mystery for another day. But the hatch did seem to, um, blow up Desmond's clothes, and he seems to be wandering the island in search of some clothing, until he runs into Hurley, on his way back from seeing Jack, Kate, and Sawyer being kidnapped and meeting up with Locke and Charlie. Hurley tells Desmond that the Others have taken the threesome, but Desmond says that Locke will get them back, didn't Locke say that during his speech? Hurley's confused; what speech?

Sure enough, Locke and Charlie bring Eko back to the camp and Locke makes a rousing speech about how they're going to get Jack, Kate, and Sawyer back as Hurley watches Desmond stand apart from the group, skimming rocks onto the ocean. Hmmmm. So does Desmond have the ability to see the future? Or did the anomaly fold time back on top of itself, allowing Desmond to experience the future before it happened? Something's screwy with time and Desmond seems dazed and confused, a look made more potent by Hurley's tie-dyed t-shirt.

Say hello to the "newest" castaways -- Paulo (Rodrigo Santoro) and Nikki (Kiele Sanchez) -- who wander up in search of the missing Jack, just in time to get a few seconds of screentime before Locke makes his speech. It's good to see Locke in a leadership role again, and something tells me he's going to be running the group now that Jack is, well, elsewhere.

Next week on Lost ("Every Man For Himself"), Jack is forced to save the life of one of the Others (let me guess: Colleen?), the Others torture Sawyer, and Kate is forced to admit that she does love "him," but is she talking about Sawyer or Jack? Find out next week.

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Jace is an LA-based television development and acquisitions junior exec who watches way too much television for his own good and would love a TiVo for every room in the house. (He’s halfway there.) His blog, Televisionary, can be found at televisionary.blogspot.com.