Sad to say, my first thought on the return of island-escapee Michael to Lost was "ho hum." Quite possibly this was because of the everybody-saw-it-coming reveal, or the fact that I'm still mad at him for selling out everybody on the island. Maybe it's just the annoying way he bleats "WAAAAAALT!" I'm happy to say, however, that "Meet Kevin Johnson" was anything but boring. Michael may be as complex and flawed a character as there is on the show and kudos to Harold Perrineau for making me care what happens to him. Spoilers and discussion after the jump.

The scene with the non-detonating "joke" bomb was a great metaphor for the way Lost sometimes treats its viewers. There you are, primed for an episode where something big happens in a splashy way, ready to hold your breath and peek through your fingers, and what you get is an hour of Juliet. "Not yet," indeed. Don't get me wrong — in context last night the bomb was simultaneously hilarious and yet again indicative of the depths of Ben's mindeffing ways, but I also think it's the writers' way of saying, yes, we're toying with you, too, audience.

My biggest question from the evening, however, is just exactly how does the island decide who lives and who dies? Michael can't kill himself, Tom tells him, because the island won't let him. Maybe the island has a special rule pertaining to suicide — because up until now I would have said that some people on the island actually are dead. I thought Ana Lucia and Libby were dead ... though of course the latter shows up as a nurse in Michael's post-crash dream. (Confession: I would not have recognized her had I not been spoilered on this point, though of course Michael's reaction would have tipped me off.)

Speaking of which, does this mean that Tom himself is not dead? At first I thought the flashback occurred prior to Sawyer's hot lead payback on the beach, but now I wonder if like Mikhail, Tom's got, if not nine lives, definitely more than one. (Great to see him out of the closet, by the way.) Perhaps the dead who come back to life need to be useful to Ben or Jacob. There has to be some distinction, otherwise the writers have lost the dramatic impact of killing off characters — Karl and Rousseau, for example. Of course, she only got it in the backpack, so I believe that viewers like myself will still have a role model of middle-aged female awesomeness to root for when the show comes back on April 24. But immediately thinking "she's not really dead" after watching her get shot negates any cliffhanger aspect to the end of "Meet Kevin Johnson" — but we've gotten to a point where the loyal viewer knows that not every death is what it seems, and that takes away the punch.

A few more observations:

  • Here's what my friend Skip had to say about Ben's way of dealing with Alex's relationship with Karl:
    Man, Ben's idea of birth control is really skewed, huh?
    Option A: He locks your BF in a room and makes him have his own personal rave
    Option B: He gives you a map to a den of snipers that will shoot your BFF after he utters the ultimate Scooby Doo/Star Wars-ism "I've got a baaaad feeling about this..."
    Well... maybe Ben didn't know the snipers would be there. Maybe.
    And after Alex got all gussied up, too.

  • I'm losing my Locke love. He's gone from the knife-tossing shaman to Ben's self-important shadow. Boo.

  • Frank Lapidus is an Oceanic 815 conspiracy theorist, just like the rest of us! Like Frank, I'm hungry for details, so I love that we're learning more about how the outside world reacted to the crash. Last night we had a personal take (Michael's mom's righteous indignation at Michael's refusal to explain why he and Walt showed up alive and have to be referred to by new names) and a public one (the newscast announcing the plane had been found).

  • I'm sure you all caught the shout-out to Kurt Vonnegut (whose Slaughterhouse Five protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, becomes unstuck in time) as an answer to a question on the game show playing in the backgrond when Michael tries to shoot himself the second time.

  • When Minkowski finds Kevin/Michael bouncing a tennis ball in his room, he references Jack Nicholson in The Shining, but I immediately thought of Steve McQueen in The Great Escape.

  • Sayid, Sayid, Sayid. You are a brilliant strategist and soldier, but turning Michael in may yet prove to be the act that sets in motion your ultimate indenture to Ben.

  • Remember, there's no new episode of Lost until April 24—and that the timeslot will have moved back an hour. See you back here for a recap on the 25th!