On Lost, An Old Friend Stops By For A Smoke

If last week's episode of Lost was one for the shippers, this week's was tailor-made for people like me, who dig the action and island mythology. Let's recap and discuss after the jump.

On Lost, An Old Friend Stops By For A Smoke

So it's all Locke's fault, eh? All the donkey-wheel-slipped-off-its-axis, time-flashing, nosebleed-inducing woe, just because he let Ben move the island after Christian Shepard specifically told him that he, John Locke, had to do it. After last week's slow-by-comparison show, Lost came roaring back in top form with "This Place Is Death," another fab episode in what's shaping up to be a really great season.

We begin at the marina, where Sun, cradling her gun, watches the discussion between Ben, Kate, Jack and Sayid. After a phone call from little Ji Yeon (How many other Arrested Development fans reflexively said, "Anyong!" as Sun said goodbye to her daughter?), Sun hops out of the car and pulls the gun on Ben, who she blames for Jin's death. Ben says give him 30 minutes, there's a woman in L.A. who can not only prove Jin is alive, she's going to show them how to get back to the island. The last is TMI for Kate and Sayid, and they take off. Now Ben has only two members of the six he needs.

When next we see Ben and crew, he's at the wheel of the Canton-Rainier van, driving through the traffic-clogged streets of L.A. After Jack offers a mealy-mouthed apology to Sun for leaving Jin behind, they start bickering over who gets to kill Ben-and Ben pulls the Reincarnation van to the curb faster than an angry soccer mom with a car-load of whining six-year-olds. He's been working to keep them and their friends safe, the ungrateful wretches, and if they don't believe that they can go ahead and shoot him right now. Sun tells him to drive.

Back on the island, it's 1988. The French crew is distrustful of Jin, but ask him to lead them to the radio tower after they pick up the numbers transmission. As they march through the jungle, it transpires that canteen-carrying Nadine is missing (moments after we see her for the very first time ever-never a sign of longevity). There is ominous silence and then a metallic screech and thump. "Monster," says Jin, in one of my favorite moments of the night. Of course, Rousseau's crew wants to go back for Nadine-whose mangled body the monster obligingly tosses at their feet. Jin tells them to run, but Smokey grabs the blonde guy and pulls him into its lair, even though the rest of the crew is holding on to him. A tug-of-war ensues until Blondie's arm pops off. Then they hear him calling for help, he's hurt, the monster's gone (I kept thinking "Candygram"). The men go to rescue him, but Jin holds Rousseau back, begging her to think of her baby. Flash.

Jin is alone now. There are hieroglyphs on the temple, and a decayed arm. He runs. He sees a plume of smoke on the beach and heads towards it. Rousseau's camp is in disarray, symbols of civility (music box, violin) strewn over the sand. Jin sees two dead bodies on the beach, and Danielle holding a gun on Robert, her baby's father. She says the smoke monster made him and the others sick. Robert counters that it's not a monster, just a security system guarding the temple. When he talks her into lowering her gun, he tries to shoot her, but the gun won't go off (shades of Michael's non-firing/misfiring gun). Danielle kills Robert, and she wants to kill Jin too. She thinks he's sick, plus he disappeared-which answers the question of what those who aren't flashing through time see when the time flashes occur. Plus, I think it's pretty clear that Rousseau has been driven "mad" by the triple whammy of the smoke monster, the "sickness" of her men (what happened to them down in Smokey's lair?), and Jin's sudden disappearance/reappearance. Which makes it all the more curious that she doesn't recognize him when she meets him again in the future-if their paths actually did cross.

On Lost, An Old Friend Stops By For A Smoke

Jin is rescued from Rousseau's bullet by a time flash, which reunites him with Sawyer in a lovely moment. Daniel says the blast must have thrown Jin in the water, and that he's been time traveling with the rest of them. Sawyer explains the time dislocations to Jin, who wants to know about Sun, then freaks out and demands translation services from Charlotte. Sawyer thinks Jin is talking to Miles, who comes back with my favorite line of the night, "He's Korean. I'm from Encino." Jin offers to help Locke bring Sun and the others back to the island, but Locke explains it's a one-man job.

Charlotte, meanwhile, isn't looking so hot. She's on the ball enough to answer "Klingon" when Dan asks her what other languages she speaks, another strong contender for Best Line of the Night. Then she collapses and starts prophesying to Jin: Don't let them bring Sun back to the island. "This place is death!" Which of course is what some people have been theorizing since Season 1, that the passengers of Flight 815 are dead, and that the island is limbo or some kind of afterlife. I also enjoyed Dan telling Charlotte that it makes "empirical sense" that they have to get back to the Orchid, "but as far as bringing the O6 back to stop the temporal shifts, that's where we leave science behind," as if we haven't left it far, far behind already.

Charlotte is tripping through her past (it's unclear whether this is due to run-of-the-mill delirium or because her consciousness is actually traveling), but she pauses long enough to tell Locke to look for the well if, when they reach the Orchid station without her, it's during a time before the station is built. She then confesses to Daniel that she grew up on the island, and never saw her father (who? who?) again after she and her mother left. She's telling Dan now because there was a crazy man on the island, who scared her by telling her she would die if she ever came back to the island. She thinks that man is Dan, who looks very surprised. (This reminded me a bit of The Time Traveler's Wife, in which the female narrator meets her time-traveling husband-to-be when she is a child and he shows up in her back yard as a naked adult.) Then, with a conspiratorial, "I'm not allowed to have chocolate before dinner," Charlotte dies. (I'm wasn't a fan of Charlotte as a character, but I think the actor who portrayed her did a bang-up job here showing the various emotions and ages flitting across her face.)

And it's a good thing she mentioned the well, because the Orchid station disappears in a flash. As Locke prepares to shinny down the rope, Jin stops him, tells him not to bring Sun back. Tell her I'm dead, Jin tells Locke, and hands over his wedding ring for proof. As Locke climbs into the darkness below, we hear the hum of a time-shift, and the white light comes from the bottom of the well. After the flash, in a great Twilight-Zone reveal, Sawyer is holding the rope, which now runs into the earth.

Just as Rousseau's men met an adventure underground, so Locke will too, and this time we get to see it. He's at the bottom of the well, with a nasty compound fracture. He calls for help … footsteps … shadow … and … it's Christian Shepard, who takes Locke to task for letting Ben move the island after he told Locke to do it. Christian reiterates that Locke must bring everybody back to the island, and to see the very popular Eloise Hawking in L.A. for more instructions. He confirms that Locke must die (though he doesn't mention it, Christian arrived on the island in a coffin, and Locke, apparently, is going to return to it the same way), then gets him to put the wheel back on its axis, alone, on his broken leg. Say hello to my son, he says to a confused Locke, as the flash begins.

Back in L.A., the Reincarnation van parks outside Mrs. Hawking's church. Ben has Jin's wedding ring now, and uses it as proof of a living Jin to lure Sun back to the island. As she, Jack and Ben prepare to enter the church, up walks Desmond. Are you looking for Faraday's mother too? he asks, causing Ben to get a "how'd he know about that?" look on his face. Inside the church, Mrs. Hawking says they'll just have to make do with the small number of people Ben's managed to round up. Is anybody besides me worried that Desmond is going back to the island whether he likes it or not?

It's been a while since Lost has given me that "oh, no, I have to wait a whole week??" feeling-but that's exactly how I feel today.