John Locke, Lost's spiritual-questing outdoorsman, finally lived up to his name last night, offering his people a new social contract. But as with most contracts, you really gotta read the fine print. Spoilers below!

The most fascinating scene in last night's Lost was the one where Locke set Richard Alpert up on a date with his past self, with his fresh Ethan-inflicted bullet wound. On one level, the scene was just the writers dealing with the fact that they'd painted themselves into a corner: how did Richard Alpert know to tell Locke to bring back all the people who left the island, when present-day Alpert has no idea where Locke went or what he did? (Because Locke told him to say those things. It's a slight cop-out, since that scene already "happened" for present-day Locke, so he has no need to ensure that it happens.)

But in a larger sense, it's a very revealing moment. You have the contrast between two different Lockes, and their very different relationships with Richard Alpert. Bullet-wound Locke is frightened and confused, and totally out of his element, and he looks to Alpert for information, guidance and support. Newly resurrected Locke, meanwhile, is confident and enigmatic, and he basically pushes Alpert around, leaving Alpert gasping for air and wondering if Locke knows what he's doing.

Before we go much further, I should try to do a capsule summary of the episode, in case you are reading this without having watched it. (In which case, really, you should just go watch it.) So Locke rejoined the Others and became their leader at last, and led them on a "pilgrimage" to go meet the mysterious Jacob, the ghostly figure who's been issuing orders all this time. Sawyer and Juliet got interrogated by the Dharma-ites, and finally cracked in exchange for safe passage on the Dharma Sub. Miles finally had a proper father-son reunion. And Jack convinced the 1970s Others to help him finish what Daniel started, setting off that hydrogen bomb to change the future.

Lost's John Locke Has A New Social Contract

So... it's not as if I've been waiting to make a joke about John Locke and the social contract for five years or anything. (The original John Locke was a philosopher who helped to pioneer the idea that we live under a "social contract" and rulers need "the consent of the governed.") But really, that's what that scene I posted a clip of above reminded me of. These people have been living for decades under the leadership of a man they've never seen. Ben, and their other leaders, have occasionally gone to speak with Jacob, but even they have never actually talked to the man face to face. So Locke proposes that everybody — not just the chosen few — should get to meet their leader and maybe get some answers. But of course, as Locke tells Ben at the end of the episode, that's not Locke's real agenda: he actually just wants to kill Jacob. WTF? (And given that the island has protected Locke and told Ben to be Locke's slave, I'm now utterly confused.)

Lost's John Locke Has A New Social Contract

As for Ben, he's not dealing well with his new life as Locke's vassal. He's visibly chafing under Locke's authority, and already trying to stir up trouble between the already-doubting Alpert and Locke. (Even though he's being a slippery bitch as usual, I'm starting to wonder if we won't someday see Ben as a bit of a tragic figure. Just the fact that he's always battered and bruised, whenever we see him, makes me feel like he's a sort of martyr happening in slow motion.)

I'm guessing the wild card in Locke's little game isn't Alpert or Ben, it's Sun. Partly because she's a more major character, but also because she's not the meek follower she used to be. She's gotten a stomach for doing what needs to be done since the last time Locke saw her, and I'm not sure he quite understands how dangerous stringing her along is. She's going to realize he's not telling her the full story, and there will be hell to pay.

Lost's John Locke Has A New Social Contract

Meanwhile, there's Jack's crazy-pants mission to blow up that hydrogen bomb. This fills me with all sorts of apprehension, and no shortage of questions. Like, don't you have to be a mega-genius physicist to know when and where to set off the hydrogen bomb, so it actually counteracts the Swan disaster and doesn't just create a different disaster instead? Also, is there any chance this might actually work? And finally, did Daniel get himself killed on purpose, so his mother would be so grief-stricken she'd agree to help?

Kate's objections to this plan — that it's crazy — seem pretty cogent, but am I wrong to think the only reason she's really opposing it is because it'll make her life worse? Instead of being the center of a Jack-Kate-Sawyer triangle, with glamorous island adventures, she'll be on her way to trial, and probably prison after that? I can just see her thinking, screw all the people from Flight 815 who died — my life is way better as a result. But maybe I'm being too hard on her.

And yay, it was great to see Sayid again. It almost made up for the loss of Daniel... almost. In any case, Sayid has obviously been through a rough patch, judging from the way he says that Jack's plan will at least "put us out of our misery," even if it doesn't work. Poor Sayid. Being an attempted child-murderer has been rough on him.

So Miles finally came clean and admitted he's Pierre Chang's son... the scene where Hurley tries to pretend he was born in the 1930s is pretty hilarious and amazing, and probably one of my favorite Hurley moments of all time, up there with the Empire Strikes Back script a while back. (I loved the look on Jin's face when Hurley said there was no such thing as the Korean War.) And of course, as we all expected, Miles starts to understand why his father was such a jerk and sent his mom and him away when he was a baby... because it was the only way to get him to leave in time to avoid the coming disaster. I can't help hoping that Miles and his dad will get a bit more reconciliation and bonding before all this is over... especially since we were cruelly denied any similar Daniel-Eloise moments.

And is it just me, or is the knowledge that our heroes really are from the future starting to spread like wildfire? I'm wondering if it'll be common knowledge by the time they finally get out of the 1970s, probably in next week's finale.

I'm also wondering if Radzinsky's little coup at the Dharma camp is going to help lead to their eventual extinction.

Lost's John Locke Has A New Social Contract

And finally, there's Sawyer, who ratted out his friends in exchange for a ticket off the island. (Although how much useful information did he actually have? Don't the Dharma-ites know where the Others' camp is already? It seems unlikely they wouldn't.) This episode had some of the sweetest Juliet-Sawyer moments, for us Jewelers (I'm going to keep pushing that term) especially the sun-dappled close-up, just as they were about to get on the submarine, where Juliet said she was glad Sawyer talked her out of leaving the island in 1974. I really am rooting for those two to stay together. And then of course Kate has to show up and ruin everything.

So it all sets up what will probably be a brain-aching, and maybe heart-breaking, finale next week. Where we find out exactly what Alpert meant when he said he saw our heroes die back in 1977. (Maybe they "died" in a way that transports them back to the present?) And we discover exactly what is going on in the shiny, crazy head of John Locke.

So what did you guys think?