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I am kind of theoried-out lately. All the speculation hurts my head.
But like most of you, I am viciously re-watching the Lost Saga. I've incorporated a selective approach to my re-watch. No particular order with regards to seasons or episodes. I've placed focus on things that I think will be relevant to the upcoming Season 6, with particular attention on Season's 4 and 5.
So I just wanted a place to vent some appreciation for once on an episode that really fuels my fire: Season 5's "Follow the Leader". I believe it's the best episode of the season, and one of the top 5 Lost episodes of all time.
If you haven't watched it for a while; put the computer down! Unless you watch online...
Follow the Leader
Most of Season 5 was totally bananas. With this episode we start to reach the culmination of all the dizzying plot-lines and we start to see character growth and development like we haven't seen before. Our characters all change before our eyes. And twists twists twists galore!
But the fundamental question that lingers is: follow which leader?
The episode is broken in half. We see two separate stories happening 30 years apart. Season 5 utilized the technique of using the two timelines to give the impression of a "flashback". I don't think they had it quite mastered until this episode though. If you look at past episodes, the flashback sequence is used to parallel the centric-character's life before and after the Island. That parallel wasn't as clear with earlier Season 5 episodes. It was more a matter of seeing what was happening with the separated individuals.
Who is the Leader?
There is debate which character is centric to this episode. Most favor a Richard-centric approach, since he is the only character present in both timelines. Even though we don't learn much about Richard, he is the parallel connection. He is trusting individuals with crazy schemes who both happen to be leaders of the survivors of Oceanic 815. I just don't place much value in determining who is centric. This episode kind of transcends that need. We can assume that Richard is not the Leader, however. Ben tells Sun in this episode that he is "an adviser" to the leader. (Right after Sun asks Ben whether he or John is the leader of the Others. To which Ben concedes.)
Jack and Locke are both in the position to establish themselves as sole-leader during their respective time periods.
John has earned the title "Leader of the Others", but how and why seem to be the result of his own doing, and possibly manipulation by an as-yet-unseen MIB. He reveals that his mission is to kill Jacob. No matter the title; Jacob is the leader of the Others. They follow him. "John" wants to change that.
Most would consider Jack the de facto leader of the survivors of Oceanic flight 815. Jack's mission is not one of leadership. He believes he is acting on their behalf; without their consent. Can he be truly acting on their behalf? In this episode he loses his oldest and most trusted supporter in Kate.
Sawyer has been in charge for the last 3 years, too. He took charge of the survivors when they were left on the Island, and then gained authority within the Dharma Initiative. During this episode he is in the process of losing all of this authority. The DI knows he is a traitor and a liar, and they exile him. (*Side note* - A great parallel to the question "who is the leader" takes place during Sawyer's interrogation. Notice several different Dharma officials arguing over "who is in charge here".)
As far as the Others in 1977, it seems as though Eloise is their leader. Richard is following her during this story; not Jack.
There doesn't need to be a clear answer. If we're following Richard's story. He represents a presence within the Others, and may be acting on Jacob's behalf. It seems that Jacob could be the Island's true Leader. (Which could be why MIB wants to kill him, but that's another episode entirely.)
This episode could almost be a pilot for a completely different show in my opinion. If you look at Jack and "John", they represent two age-old literary archetypes, hero and villain.
This is a science fiction show, though! So we need less watered down, specific sci-fi archetypes.
Jack? The Heroic Time Traveler. Think back to the great time traveling science fiction classics. There was always a lone traveler in time, attempting to right his wrongs. Jack is totally that guy in this episode. His mission is clear. It always is for a classical hero. When Jack tells Eloise "if we do what is written in this journal", it's clear and concise. It sounds like something out of a classic time travel story.
"John"? His mad-scientist foil. We know it's not John now, and the incident at the Beechcraft shows that he is manipulating time travel to meet his own selfish goals. MIB was very provocative in this episode. Richard sensed something was different. Then he brings Ben under his crooked-wing, and reveals his intentions to kill Jacob. (That scene at the Beechcraft gives me chills every time!)
Will Season 6 finally bring these two characters to a head? Hopefully!
Not new ones, but new versions of the old ones. We finally see the changes that have been stirring through the beginning of Season 5.
- Jack: "This is our destiny."
- Jack is always a man on a mission. His obsessive determination has always been both his greatest strength and most crippling weakness. It helped keep hope alive in the early days of the crash, it got several of the survivors rescued, and it served to motivate their return. However, most of the time it served to alienate him from group, it stirred distrust and disloyalty, and caused a rift between factions within the survivor's community. None of that has changed, but there's something different about the returning Jack. His conversation with Kate during this episode really shows us the "new Jack". He's very much the "old Jack": stubborn, headstrong, obsessed. Only now he's driven by faith.
- Or is it guilt? Jack should feel guilty about Locke's death, and we know that he does. His new-found faith in miracles on the Island could be a way to honor John, or a way to resurrect him... well, I guess he already is resurrected.
- John: "I have a purpose now."
- So we know now that it's not John in this episode, and we shouldn't be surprised at all. John was very weird. He knew things he shouldn't know. He was confident and focused, and very pleased with himself. We know why John exhibited such a change in character, but it doesn't take away any from the fact that he had changed significantly.
- Rather than show any growth; the "real" John is right back where he was before the crash. (Being dead notwithstanding.) He is being used and manipulated, he is crippled, he is being humiliated and defeated, even in death. Even his destiny appears to be a manipulation. So his true change in character is not what we are seeing on screen, but what is actually happening to John's character.
- Kate: "Not this time Jack."
- Kate was Jack's shadow the whole series, even when she was getting buck-nasty with Sawyer. But, in the last few seasons she's seen sides to Jack that she didn't like: his alcoholism, his jealousy, his tunnel-vision, his selfishness. Now his intentions are to either A. Kill her; or B. Forget about her completely. Not to mention everyone else. Kudos to Evangeline's acting during this episode. There are only so many ways to give Jack disgusted looks and she mastered them all!
- Sawyer: "Is that OK with you sweetheart?"
- Sawyer the family man? Apparently. He and Juliet were living a nice, quiet, suburban life in Dharmaville until they got sucked into all the craziness again. Sawyer gets his way out, and they're gone on the sub. Sure he's got to sell everyone out to get it, but they're hell-bent on screwing it all up anyway.
- "We'll buy Microsoft." He says it in a way that shows he's not totally out for himself. Otherwise he would have just done something like that years ago. He says it like it's a last resort, or something he thought of just to cheer Juliet up.
"It's not a damn game show, Hugo."
I went on way way way too long, but I keep thinking of great reasons to be excited about this episode. I will simply leave you with the transcript from my favorite scene of the episode. Take it away Hurley....
DR. CHANG: Your friend Faraday said that you were from the future. I need to know if he was telling the truth.
HURLEY: Dude, that's ridiculous.
DR. CHANG: What year were you born? What year?
HURLEY: Uh... 1931?
DR. CHANG: You're 46?
HURLEY: Yeah. Yes, I am.
DR. CHANG: So you fought in the Korean War?
HURLEY: [Pauses] There's... no such thing.
DR. CHANG: Who's the President of the United States?
HURLEY: All right, dude, we're from the future. Sorry.