Season Four, baby!! Question: how does a show like Lost move on after blowing up its entire premise in the third season finale with the iconic “We have to go baaaaaaaack” flash-forward? It does so by immediately establishing a mystery in the season four premiere with Hurley declaring “I’m one of the Oceanic Six!” Six, you guys. Six of our castaways made it off the Island. Season four works backwards in a way, because we all know the ending.
Or, at least, we think we do.
Our dear friend Tom, Lost veteran and host of Doctor Who podcast “The Moment,” joins me, Sage, and Shannon for this season four recap. Read on as we break down our feelings on season four and, as always, track the #GuysWhereAreWe tag on Twitter as we move into season five! — Kim
- Favorite Episode?
Tom: “The Constant” is somehow both intimate and momentous. On the one hand it’s sort of a side story, providing us with a little intermission from the main plot of series four (to the point where I remember one critic back in the day calling it filler). But on the other hand it’s completely integral, pushing the show in weird new directions going forward. It’s nothing like any other episode of Lost, but also it’s something only Lost could do. It’s a note-perfect sci-fi romance with a wildly urgent sense of peril. Everything, from the acting to the music to the sound design just clicks, and at the center of it all is an incredible performance by Henry Ian Cusick. Plus, we finally get to spend some quality time with our wonderfully awkward precious boy genius Daniel Faraday. God, this one’s good.
Shannon: I love the second installment of a trilogy as much as the next fangirl, but they don’t tend to be my favorites. “There’s No Place Like Home, Part 2” is the exception to the rule. Parts 1 and 3 are great, and they’ll get their own moment in the sun later on in my entries, but Part 2 is stacked with so much good shit that I just have to call it out specifically.
Let’s walk through the highlights. We start with a killer callback to the season three finale, looping back around to the iconic “we have to go back!” line read that launched a thousand gifs. There’s the Sayid-and-Keamy fight, which is choreographed impeccably and is so hot on the Sayid side of things that it almost made my selection for Thirstiest Moment. There’s top-notch Benjamin Linus material, from the perfectly pitched “Thank you for coming, Richard” to the deadpan with which he shoves John Locke in front of yet another “very informative video” to learn all about time traveling bunnies. Not to mention the fact that he 1) lets Jack and Kate leave the island like it’s no big deal and 2) finally snaps and stabs Keamy to death in a fit of vengeful rage. We get Sawyer cementing his redemption by jumping out of a goddamn helicopter to save his friends (ARE YOU WATCHING, JACK SHEPHARD). And if all that isn’t enough, we get a good old fashioned Man of Science, Man of Faith argument between Jack and John. That last one especially is SO poignant knowing – as we were just reminded at the top of the hour! – that Jack will soon end up exactly as John Locke said he would. Aching to return to the Island he had no interest in protecting. And doesn’t that lie Jack “thinks up” on the boat suddenly seem so much more in character once we know it wasn’t his idea at all, but actually came from John Locke? The whole thing is a perfect story arc in and of itself, and it still sets us up for what’s to come. Bravo.
Sage: No episode of Lost to date has had me so consistently on the edge of my seat as “The Shape of Things to Come.” So much shit goes down in so many ways; a healthy portion of characters get big moments and wacky stuff to do; and Kim can tell you because she was there that I spent most of the runtime screaming at my television.
The beach action is the least interesting, yet we still get to see Jack realize that John was right about the people at the other end of Naomi’s satellite phone. The showdown at New Otherton slaps, giving us peak hero Sawyer and the sheer terrifying power of Ben Linus experiencing An Emotion™. And this episode also includes the most fun flash-forward yet: Ben going global to seek revenge against Charles Widmore, exhibiting his impeccable taste by recruiting Sayid to be his assassin, and checking into hotels under the name MORIARTY like the goddamn legend that he is.
All that and the reveal that Ben CONTROLS the smoke monster? Truly an embarrassment of riches.
Kim: Not only is “The Shape of Things to Come” my favorite episode of season four, it’s one of my favorite episodes of the entire series, easily ranking in my Top 5, maybe even in my Top 3. (Y’all, doing a top 15 of this series is going to be a Herculean task, I can’t wait.) I just have such a visceral memory of seeing it for the first time. “The Shape of Things to Come” was the first episode back after the writer’s strike ended, y’all, and boy did it feel like a statement of intent. Really, it’s like Damon and Carlton sat down during the strike and were like, okay, we’re losing three episodes, so really, no fucking around anymore. Not that the first eight episodes were fucking around in the slightest, but this one REALLY takes Lost to the next level, abolishing any sort of sense of safety we thought we had. It is a white knuckle thrill ride the whole time, from the siege of New Otherton and Sawyer going full on Action hero to the moment Ben unleashes Smokey (cue Sage shrieking “HIS PET!!” when we watched it together) on the mercenaries. It just never lets up.
It’s also one hell of a showcase for season MVP Michael Emerson, who gets to show off the breadth of his range in this episode from his suave off-island alter ego Dean Moriarty (who can 100% get it) to the devastating showdown with Keamy over Alex to the confrontation with Charles Widmore (!!!!) which sets this second chapter of Lost into motion. Ben may accuse Charles of changing the rules, but really, this episode changes them, and Lost is all the better for it.
- Least Favorite Episode?
Sage: Maybe someday I won’t pick a Jack-centric episode as my least favorite, but today is not that day.
I struggle so much with the future life of Jack and Kate that we see in “Something Nice Back Home,” because neither seems to realize that the other one is even there. It would work better for me if the show were more clear that they were TRYING to be in love with each other because of their shared trauma and because they (and the rest of the Oceanic 6) are the only ones who know the truth about Aaron. Instead, we have mopey, broken Jack, who can’t stand that Kate even THINKS about Sawyer, and Stepford Kate, who’s suddenly only concerned with being the world’s best mother. Stop trying to shove Jack and Kate down my throat like they’re some epic romance! They are toxic and this is dumb.
Highlights of this otherwise demoralizing episode include Bernard chloroforming Jack and Charlie using Hurley to send him a bitchy comment from beyond the grave.
Shannon: It should surprise no one that I’m saying “Something Nice Back Home” since it centers on my two least favorite people. The Island stuff is great and to be fair this episode wouldn’t be listed in my least favorites for the series, but compared to the rest of the season it’s just flat and frustrating. Kate’s character inconsistencies have never been worse than they were in this hour. Would it have been so hard to include a throwaway line – somewhere! anywhere! – where she recognizes that being a stay at home mother was previously cited as her worst nightmare, but that there were Aaron-shaped extenuating circumstances and her priorities shifted? C’mon. Just try a little harder to make it make sense.
Kim: The thing with “Something Nice Back Home” is that it feels like they’re spinning their wheels a bit, which is a rarity in season four. It’s almost like they looked at the episode slate and said “Oh, shit, we’re nine episodes into the season and haven’t done a Jack episode! Think of something fast!” The flash forward with Jack and Kate playing house feels like the worst kind of fan service, especially because it picks up in the middle of their relationship rather than exploring how they got together after her trial. (Don’t even get me started on the WILD complete 180 when it comes to Kate’s characterization. After showing NO DESIRE to settle down as recently as “Eggtown,” all of the sudden she’s content to play the little woman, walking around in Jack’s shirt and string bikini panties? What does she even DO? Just live off that Phat Oceanic settlement? I HATE IT.) The “Jack needs his appendix taken out” Island story ends up being completely inconsequential in the long run. There’s no real purpose for it! By part two of “There’s No Place Like Home,” they’ve completely forgotten that Jack had surgery like twelve hours ago, other than a throwaway comment about that blood only being “discharge,” which, gross. I’m no doctor but I’ve seen enough ER and Grey’s Anatomy to know that bitch would have gone into sepsis, and that’s all I have to say about that.
In the first three seasons, “Something Nice Back Home” would have fallen in the solid middle of the pack. Sure, the flash forward ranges from boring to down right infuriating, but there’s a lot of good stuff happening elsewhere in the various on island plots. Juliet being a badass performing surgery on a beach! Sawyer being a protective big brother to Claire as they make their way back to camp with Miles! Charlotte speaks Korean! An excellent use of Bernard! Claire fucking VANISHING after Christian Shephard appears to her! But in a season as tightly plotted as season four, where they lost three episodes (of an already shortened season order!) to a writer’s strike, this one falls to the bottom of the heap for me. (It definitely does NOT benefit from the fact that it came right after the non-stop wallop of “The Shape of Things to Come” either.)
Tom: As much as I love Juliet, her spotlight episode “The Other Woman” sits on the bottom rung of Season 4. You can tell the writers really wanted to keep us on our toes wondering whether the science team are friend or foe, but unfortunately, six episodes in, there isn’t much suspense left. Just look at Daniel Faraday. Friend. Obviously, friend. Juliet only suspects Daniel and Charlotte because they’re pointlessly, frustratingly cagey about what they know and what they’re doing, which just makes everyone involved look like idiots. The flashback is just sort of… there. It doesn’t really tell us anything new about Ben or Juliet, and it even sets up a Ben/Juliet/Jack love triangle which goes nowhere. In an otherwise purposeful and confident season, this one flounders.
- Favorite Character?
Shannon: Oh, Daniel Faraday. My beloved, tortured academic. Where do I begin? With your steadfast dedication to science above all else? With your stubborn, adorable insistence on wearing a skinny tie to an island of mystery? With your decision to pick Desmond as your constant? With your lowkey 12th Doctor-esque time travel chalkboard?
No. I begin and end with your diligent, laser sharp focus, which shines through your jittery disaster energy to fix itself evenly – SOMEHOW – on both scientific discovery and the goodwill of humankind. Just know, my dear Daniel Faraday, that I love you very much.
Tom: What a season for The Artist Formerly Known as Henry Gale. Last season we saw Benjamin Linus in his element, sitting pretty as the leader of the Others, and that was all well and good, but give me a Ben who isn’t holding all the cards, doesn’t know all the answers, and is constantly backed into a corner. This season pushes Ben to extremes, most notably in his devastating reaction to Alex’s death in “The Shape of Things to Come”. But even when he’s not at the center of the action, Ben still steals scene after scene. As Locke’s prisoner/advisor/boyfriend, Ben shifts back into Henry mode, needling his captors, playing them against one another, and delivering a constant stream of tossed-off deadpan one-liners, all while desperately trying them to act in their own self-interest because he’s the only one who understands just how fucked they are.
Kim: It boggles my mind that season four is NOT the season that Michael Emerson won an Emmy. (That would be Season Five.) No offense to former Lost guest star Zvelko Ivanek, who won that year, but who actually talks about Damages anymore? No one! Michael Emerson’s portrayal of Benjamin Linus is nothing short of iconic, and he cements himself as a series MVP in Season Four.
Michael Emerson can handle literally anything the writers throw at him without so much as blinking or breaking a sweat. I talked about it in my entry on “Shape of Things to Come,” but the range that he exhibits in this role is astounding. He’s always good for sass and a one-liner. He’s the ultimate shit stirrer, always knowing which button to push on which person in which moment of weakness. He’s the Island’s biggest liar but he’s also a truth teller, when it benefits him. But I think what makes Ben stand out in Season Four are the moments when he loses control or when things don’t go the way he expects. Michael Emerson can say more with a cheek twitch or a lip wobble than many actors can say with pages of dialogue. The image of him at the Donkey Wheel, tears streaming down his face as he moves the island is one of the most iconic moments of the series. He doesn’t say a single word while he’s doing it, and yet, we know everything he’s thinking, just from the look on his face. That’s how you know he’s one of the greats.
Sage: What can I say about Benjamin Linus that my esteemed fellow panelists haven’t said in past season recap posts? Michael Emerson’s performance just doesn’t get old. Every scene Ben is in is electric, which I don’t think is true of any other character. He brings something totally different depending on who he’s stuck with – an increasingly valuable quality as Ben gets to know his fellow players better (beyond what they are on paper). His twisted, codependent dynamic with Locke continues to make them the ship to ship (“With your permission, Jack, I’d like to go with John.”), and I live for the moments where he tires of baiting the rest of them and laconically drops an unexpected answer that sends them reeling. While Jack has a talent for sucking all the fun out of the proceedings, Ben is here to remind you just how bonkers entertaining this show can be.
Honorable mention to my favorite tough broad, Sun, and that smack she gave Juliet. She’s the rare female Oceanic survivor of whom I feel that we’ve barely even scratched the surface. I fear her, I admire her, and I can’t wait to watch her make her dad dance.
- Least Favorite Character?
Sage: As several #GuysWhereAreWe crew have pointed out on Twitter, the military types on the boat are destabilizing because they don’t play by the rules of the show. We expect, when Ben is doing his Jedi mind tricks to save Alex, that he’ll be successful – and he certainly thinks the same, but Keamy isn’t the right mark for that.
“We have so many fun and/or endearing villains in Lost that when a guy is just a fucking cruel monster person it’s somehow way worse and very jarring?” Shannon said, and I agree completely. Ben has been known to perform genocide, Keamy is following his orders, and yet, it’s never a question whose side we’re on.
I don’t necessarily think that Keamy and the rest of Team Buzzcut are bad inventions or additions to the season, but they’re certainly unpleasant. And hey, I thought I’d give Jack a break from this category, even though everything he says and does still makes my skin crawl.
Kim: Yes, Jack and Kate are still terrible characters who make ridiculous choices at all times, but this season I am going with Charlotte Lewis for my least favorite, purely due to lack of solid character development. Rebecca Mader does the best she can with what she is given, but the writing for her is flat, especially early in the season, where she is all attitude for no reason. Because of that, the character comes off as one note in comparison to the rest of the Freighter Team. I think they made a misstep in burying the lede/not being more blatantly obvious that she was looking for her birthplace and may or may not have found it in the Island. That concept, as well as the reveal that she spoke Korean, made her a hell of a lot more interesting, but by that point, it was too little too late for me.
Tom: Kate, honey, just pick one. Or pick neither! Maybe someone else? Sayid is single again.
Shannon: Of my alternating bottom two, this season it’s Jack’s turn to be the worst. He barely gets anything to do, and for that I’m grateful, but when he IS around I just want him to go away again. From explaining to Juliet – A LITERAL DOCTOR – how to do surgery to denying Aaron to whining at Kate when she won’t share a private, final moment between her and Sawyer, he just doesn’t get a redeeming moment all season. And worse, frankly, is that he doesn’t get a complex one either. It’s all dull, patriarchal lead character nonsense and it’s entirely uninteresting.
- Most Underrated episode?
Kim: There are definitely more exciting episodes in the season, but I don’t think “Confirmed Dead” is truly appreciated for what it manages to pull off within the span of a single episode. Lost really learned its lesson from the Nikki and Paulo debacle, didn’t they? In forty-three minutes, “Confirmed Dead” not only manages to further the story of our known castaways and the great divide into Camp Locke and Camp Jack, it also introduces our four newbies (Faraday, Miles, Charlotte, and Lapidus) in a way that immediately invests us in their backstories AND it deepens the mythology with Widmore Industries pulling the strings. It’s a lot of information to take in, but it doesn’t FEEL like a lot, and that’s just a testament to how far Lost has come in regards to no longer spoon feeding its audience.
Tom: I get the sense that a lot of fans don’t rate “Ji Yeon” particularly highly. Maybe that’s because the flashback and flashforward gimmick is a bit cheap, or maybe it’s because episodes focusing on Sun and Jin tend not to advance the island mythology (or the various white dude power struggles which propel the show’s larger plot forward). But that turns out to be a good thing, especially on re-watch, because it gives the writers room the chance to treat these particular characters seriously as emotionally real adults in a complicated relationship. The on-island plot shows them working through some pretty serious shit, and they end up stronger as a couple for it. Which makes it utterly heartbreaking when we learn that Jin doesn’t make it off the island with Sun.
Sage: This is such a tight season that there are few episodes to choose from here. I’m going to go with “The Other Woman,” even though Ben’s romantic interest in Juliet reads a little out-of-character to me, because I’m never going to be mad about an Elizabeth Mitchell spotlight. On top of that, I got a big kick out of the motley crew trying to live in harmony at the barracks, and the capper of a free Ben calmly moving back into his house while promising Hurley and Sawyer that he’ll see them at dinner made me clap my hands in delight.
Shannon: There are some real sneak attacks this season, but my personal favorite has got to be “Meet Kevin Johnson.” Listen, I’m terrible at picking up on even the most heavy handed plot foreshadowing, so I did not see Michael coming as Ben’s spy on the boat. (I know. I know.) Michael’s life since he and Walt made their great escape is one tragedy after another, and it’s all so tightly told when he fills in Sayid and Desmond. And we get the game changing reveal of the discovery of the “wreckage” of Oceanic Flight 815. But my favorite thing about “Meet Kevin Johnson” is that it proves out one of Lost’s best qualities. Michael killing Ana Lucia and Libby was the midpoint of the story told so far, and yet it feels like a LIFETIME ago. All the characters have lived so much life since then. So much has changed for them. And in real time on the island (whatever that is!) it’s the course of what, a month? It’s so fitting that a show that defines itself by playing around in time, narratively and within the story itself, manages that kind of a magic trick.
- Favorite Cameo/Guest Star?
Kim: Back in the day, after that beautifully iconic ending with “Not Penny’s Boat,” I thought I had seen the last of Dominic Monaghan on Lost. Silly me. No one on Lost is ever TRULY gone, not as long as they were willing to fly to Hawaii (and were on good terms with Damon and Carlton TBH). Season Two’s clunker episode “Dave” did one good thing: it established the idea that Hurley sees people, be it made up or dead. That whole concept paid off in spades when Charlie Pace sauntered up in “The Beginning of the End” to talk some sense into Hurley, complete with a new haircut and some extra rockstar swagger. It’s so beautifully contrasted with Hurley grieving his BFF on the Island, and much like Matt Smith’s surprise appearance in “Deep Breath,” it gives the audience the chance to say the goodbye that they never knew they needed until that very moment.
Well. Goodbye for now, that is. It is Lost after all.
Sage: Season four isn’t as one-off guest-heavy as seasons previous, but the beauty of the show’s body count to date is that cast members who’ve been killed off now count as cameos!
With the memory of him going out like a boss still fresh, Dominic Monaghan returning as Ghost Charlie (who got HOT, incidentally) to try to sway Hurley into returning to the island is a lot. As much as Hurley doesn’t want to be told that that’s what he needs to do, the scene also provides a nice bit of closure as to why Charlie didn’t confide in his friend. It’s obvious to US that it was because he knew that Hurley loved him and would have done whatever he could to save him, but Hurley hearing it from dead-but-also-real Charlie’s own mouth is another story.
I’m throwing in Cynthia Watros’ cameo in “Meet Kevin Johnson” as well, even though it’s there just for shock value and overall creepiness. I’m mostly just impressed that they got her back for a day’s work after (reportedly) firing her.
Tom: They don’t give Lance Reddick that much to do, but hey, Lance Reddick doesn’t really need to do much, he just has to show up and be Lance Reddick, and it’s automatically menacing and compelling. What’s Matthew Abbadon all about? What does he want? Why is he really here? I have no idea, but I applaud Hurley for having the presence of mind to ask for a business card while Reddick stares intensely at him, because I feel like I would just faint or turn to stone or start crying.
Shannon: May I introduce you all to Starletta DuPois, character actress through the decades and a thespian who’s portrayed all three female characters in A Raisin in the Sun?She’s also known as Michael’s grandmother and the woman who protects him when all the adult members of the Oceanic Six can’t seem to be bothered to visit the kid who had no say or control over his departure from the Island.
- Best New Addition?
Sage: I know that others will speak for Faraday, so I’m going to talk about Miles Straume, sarcastic ghost whisperer of my heart. Miles is an opportunist and an operator and seemingly in no danger of forging any relationships that are going to tempt him off course or make him put his own interests second. He’s also a hustler who just happens to be the real deal, which clicks right into the DNA of the show. I like his vibe a whole lot and I’m very interested in why HE’S so interested in our pal, Ben.
Kim: I know Daniel Faraday is RIGHT THERE, but I have to give my unproblematic fave Frank Lapidus his due.
Sometimes you just love a character with zero explanation. Frank Lapidus is that character for me. Reader, I love him. I love his wild hair and his scraggly beard and his overly bushy eyebrows. I love his unbuttoned Hawaiian shirts. I love how he wants no part of the drama, he just wants to do his job. A job that he’s very good at, by the way! He signed up to fly scientists in his helicopter (and, LBR, as a way to assuage his survivor’s guilt over being the person who was SUPPOSED to pilot Oceanic 815) and that’s what he’s going to do, goddammit. I love how he imprints on the castaways and does what he can do to protect them without putting a target on his back until he absolutely HAS to, like a true SlytherPuff. I have no choice other than to stan.
Tom: The flash-forwards aren’t technically a new addition, since they show up as the twist ending of season three, but it’s only here in season four that they fully announce themselves, and they’re here to shake up the format of the show for the better. The flashback structure of Lost had gotten pretty stale by season three, as there wasn’t much more to learn about how our characters got from point A to point B. But with the on-island plot as our new point A, suddenly the show crackles with exciting new mysteries about the escape from the island. Who, how, and why? And how does the stubborn, tunnel-visioned and generally infuriating Jack get to the point where he desperately wants to go back to the island he was hell-bent on leaving? All these mysteries get teed up and ticked off one by one, giving season four maybe the best question-to-answer ratio of any Lost season.
And shout out to Lost’s best new character, Daniel Faraday. He’s exactly the mad scientist Lost needed to sell its transition from an action adventure show with some weird shit, to a full-on sci fi drama.
Shannon: Make no mistake! Martin Keamy is a malicious, evil man who brings absolutely no joy to the Island or to the fourth season. But I’m putting him here because of the context he brings to the story around him. Keamy defines what Lost is and why I love it by exemplifying the polar opposite. His brand of terror is out of place – and by contrast, everyone we’ve considered a bad guy is snapped into sharp, complex clarity. There are two Most Important Things in Lost: the people and the Island. Keamy doesn’t give a shit about either. He is a personified void who underlines the thesis and for that, he’s my best new addition.
- Best Off Island Story?
Shannon: My Iron Man heart is a sucker for a tense, post-traumatic press conference, and the return of the Oceanic Six gives Tony a run for his money. There’s just SO much going on in this sequence. As Sun says, it’s not like they have to pretend to be in shock after everything they’d been through in the last 24 hours. But still, the trauma of those five characters, suddenly placed behind a formal table, properly showered with a change of clothes, is underlined by all five of them sticking to a lie they have no real interest in telling. The moments for each of them are striking: Jack acting like he has any real authority or leadership, Kate going along with him and balancing a forthcoming arrest with Aaron on her knee. Hugo prioritizing his friends. Sun and Sayid shooting daggers at Jack and believing that, soon enough, they at least won’t need to listen to him talk anymore. It’s so dense and so sad and SUCH a fascinating character study.
Sage: Ben IS the island to such an extent that the sheer sight of him waking up somewhere else is enough to make you lean forward. Then, before you can blink, he’s speaking fluent Turkish, doling out ass-kickings with his little wand, and (as I mentioned above) adopting another hilariously conspicuous pseudonym. I’d watch a whole season of the off-island adventures of Benjamin Linus and his desert-chic scarf, to be quite honest.
Tom: In “The Shape of Things to Come”, Ben Linus rides a horse. Hyah!
Kim: Few storylines on Lost give me more satisfaction than Sun-Hwa Kwon waltzing into her terrible father’s office and announcing that his reign of terror over her life is over. “Oceanic paid us our settlement for the crash. It was very significant. This morning, I bought a controlling interest in your company. So you will now respect me.” My biggest YASSSSSSSS QUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN of all time.
- Favorite Ship?
Sage: John and Ben will always bring me joy, but after all they’ve been through, how could I not pick Desmond Hume and Penny Widmore for this? I mean, throw a little time travel into your love story, and I’m putty in your hands. Add a dash of regret and the grandest of gestures and I’m a weeping mess.
The thing about the Desmond and Penny reunion is that it doesn’t work if you don’t buy that they’d go to the literal ends of the earth for each other, even though they were technically broken up before the island even came into their lives. And you do!! You do because Henry Ian Cusick and Sonya Walger play that tie as the thing that defines them. Even in the flashback to their first meeting, you get the sense that they’re both realizing that they’re about to become the people they would always end up being. There’s a real quality of recognition and excitement – like, “oh, it’s YOU,” and of course neither of them can ever fully let that go.
With the Charles of it all and Ben’s threat looming, there’s a hammer hanging over their heads. But after the “NOT PENNY’S BOAT” rug pull of last season, we were owed this win.
Kim: Do you mean to tell me that Lost set up Desmond and Penny to be these angst-ridden star-crossed lovers who were absolutely destined to be together but could literally never get their timing right and THEN gave them a happy reunion on a boat called “The Searcher” and had them sail off into the sunset together? I AM SO USED TO GIVING AND NOW I RECEIVE.
Shannon: How can it be anyone but Penny and Desmond? Have two characters ever been more convincingly, devastatingly in love with so little screen time to their names? Their love story is literally timeless, and I LIVE for the fact that Penny swoops in to save Desmond. She’s his knight in shining armor.
Tom: Lost wants so badly for us to be invested in its on-island love triangles, so it’s funny how one of the two characters in Lost’s greatest ship never even visits the island. In fact, she only appears a couple times this season and has never been a series regular. That’s not to sell Sonya Walger short, but so much of the Desmond and Penny relationship is conveyed through seeing Desmond without Penny, desperate to get back to her. Henry Ian Cusick is basically the perfect romantic hero, gorgeously, scottishly pining away and never losing hope for their reunion. Their phone call at the end of “The Constant” is the most thrilling romantic scene in Lost (socially distant romance goals), and the sudden arrival of Yes Penny’s Boat in “There’s No Place Like Home” finally gives us a reunion that was teased two entire seasons ago, when we first learned Penny was looking for Desmond in “Live Together, Die Alone.”
And the cherry on top: when Desmond says “You still care about me?” to Penny on the phone, we bookworms get to nod knowingly and feel smart about how Odysseus’s wife Penelope waited for him too, when he was lost at sea for twenty years trying to get back to her. And an old-timey synonym for “faithful” often used to describe that Penelope? “Constant.” That’s the good shit, right there.
- Best Shipper Moment?
Sage: There’s a reason why “The Constant” and specifically the phone call in “The Contant” are universally accepted as all-time great television.
Shannon: I would go so far as to say the best shipper moment in all of Lost is the phone call in “The Constant,” so, yeah. The phone call in “The Constant.” Penny and Desmond have spent full seasons fighting for each other across oceans and through time. It’s a high bar to clear, having their first real-time conversation match the weight of all that expectation. This does, every time. The editing is masterful, the score is sweeping, and Henry Ian Cusick and Sonya Walger leave every bit of their hearts out on the table. It’s romantic and beautiful and permanent and fleeting and sad and hopeful. It’s everything I want in a love story.
Tom: “Jack, with your permission, I’d like to go with John.”
Kim: “Jack, with your permission, I’d like to go with John.”
Desmond and Penny may have dominated this season ship-wise, but that doesn’t mean passengers of the S.S. Murder Husbands weren’t well fed in season four either. This classic Benjamin Linus one-liner happens in “The Beginning of the End” and it sets the tone for the rest of the season with these two being married AF even as they grapple with forces both within and beyond their control that are trying to wrest them apart.
- Best Warm Fuzzy?
Sage: There wasn’t much time for warm and fuzzy moments in this writer’s strike season. However, Bernard’s little marriage pep talk to Jin is a little all over the place but very sweet and well-meaning. Men supporting each other emotionally! Get into it.
Shannon: I don’t know how it took this long for Bernard and Jin to have a married dude heart to heart, but this one’s worth the wait. Bernard interrupts Jin at that specific moment in the tail end of a crisis, when you actually need a friend even though all you think you want is to be alone. I’m not saying Bernard did this on purpose – my dude just blundered in looking for a fishing buddy – but man does he rise to the challenge. The word love got tossed around a lot in earlier seasons and it was a cause of frustration because of how little sacrifice and dedication seemed to be connected to its use. But Bernard and Rose know sacrifice, and so do Jin and Sun. Jin just needed a little push.
Tom: There are a couple moments in “Ji Yeon” which compete for this title, but I’ve got to give it to Hurley’s visit to Sun in South Korea. You don’t often think of Hurley and Sun as having a lot in common, but seeing how deeply Charlie’s death affected him, you begin to see why he’d want to be there for Sun in mourning.
Kim: The evolution of Sawyer and Hurley’s friendship makes my heart triple in size. Remember the days where all Sawyer did was come up with some sort of offensive nickname for him? Those are long gone. He’s just Hugo to Sawyer now. Let’s talk about how Hurley and Sawyer are roommates in New Otherton. Roommates who babysit Aaron for Claire and roommates who host board game afternoons. Hurley is now someone Sawyer will lay his life down for. Literally! Not only did Sawyer jump off that helicopter for Hurley, he’s the one who got him on it in the first place, after demanding that they go after him at the Orchid. But I think the warmest of the warm fuzzies this ride or die friendship gives me is the moment Sawyer threatens the Murder Husbands when they say Hurley is coming with them to find Jacob’s cabin. “You touch one hair on his curly head and I’ll kill you.” MY HEART.
- Thirstiest Moment?
Shannon: It’s a tie between Sayid sweeping through Berlin with a blow out and a glorious black overcoat, living his best mystery-assassin-meets-opera-going life, and Sayid stumbling out of the canoe in the finale to carry on Desmond Hume’s proud, anti-shirt buttoning legacy. Get you a man, etc etc etc.
Sage: I was enough in love with Sayid before he became a suave, international assassin with orders to seduce his target. “The Economist” is an ode to the hotness of Naveen Andrews, and I think we’re all grateful for its single mindedness.
Kim: Listen, “The Economist” is one big thirst fest, but I have to go with my heart here. And my heart says it HAS to be Sawyer swimming all the way back to the island after heroically sacrificing himself and emerging out of the ocean, sauntering towards a drunk Juliet like a mother fucking Bond Girl, complete with a wet hair flip. This show never misses a chance to completely objectify Josh Holloway, and for that, I am truly grateful.
Tom: “Nice day for a swim!” I cackled at Kim’s tweet likening Sawyer to a Bond girl as he emerges from the surf and onto the beach, fresh from his big heroic sacrifice on the helicopter. While Juliet gets tipsy on DHARMA rum and looks on. Suliet rises!
- Right in the Feels Moment?
Tom: “Because the last thing he did was to warn us that the people on that boat are not who they said they were. So I’m not listening to you. I’m listening to my friend. I’m listening to Charlie.” I adore the whole jungle summit sequence in “The Beginning of the End,” and the physical and ideological struggle between Jack and Locke is entirely my shit, but when Hurley butts in to recenter it to Charlie and what he died for, man, it absolutely kills me. Jorge Garcia is so good here.
Sage: With the flash-forwards, Lost can give us the bad news and then cool its heels while we wait to find out exactly when and how that horrible thing is going to happen. Such is the reveal that Jin is dead by the time Sun gives birth. There are infinite ways to meet your maker in this universe, but the writers were obviously going to make this one hurt and also make sure that we experienced Sun’s anguish firsthand.
Jin’s apparent death is such a horrible collision of conflicting circumstances, all adding up to a devastating near miss. Sun pitching forward in that helicopter, screaming hysterically as they lift up and away from him is an image that’s now seared onto my brain. The Kwons deserved a happy ending!
Shannon: As I’ve said, it’s always the unexpected friendship moments that kill me the most, so I’m going with Hurley and Sun reuniting in Oceanic Six days to visit Jin’s gravesite. I see Hurley as the most unflappably loyal of all the castaways; it’s my favorite quality of his character. That loyalty is on full view in this beautiful sequence. Sun is a powerhouse and she can do anything she puts her mind to, but that doesn’t mean she always needs to go it alone. Hurley shows up to be there for her because she needs him and because it’s what Jin would have wanted. He holds her hand when she needs a friend who just gets it. Someone who knows (as much as anyone can) what she’s seen, what she’s lost. What she’s mourning. He’s quietly loving and supportive and doesn’t get in the way of Sun or her emotions, and it just breaks my heart wide open.
Kim: I will definitely argue with people when they say “The Constant” is the all time best episode of Lost. (Newsflash: it’s not.) But I would definitely say that Desmond and Penny’s Christmas Eve phone call is perhaps the greatest SCENE of the series. What makes it so spectacular is that I can watch it out of context and I’ll just…start crying. Everything about it is emotionally overwhelming, from the moment past!Desmond shows up at Penny’s doorstep begging for her number (“I can’t call you if I don’t have your number.”) and promising that he won’t call her for eight fucking years to the moment Penny picks up the phone and says hello and you SEE both Past and Present Desmond’s consciousness snapping back into place. By the time they hang up after desperately hurried vows that they will find each other, if you aren’t emotionally spent, then I don’t know what to say to you. “It was enough,” indeed.
- Best WHAT THE FUCK Moment?
Kim: There’s a LOT of what the fuck moments this season, but Claire vanishing with an apparition of Christian Shephard (and leaving Aaron in the roots of a TREE) only to reappear with him in Jacob’s cabin is an underrated one in my book. Her little smirk? Telling John not to worry because she’s with Christian and Christian saying Aaron is exactly where he needs to be? It’s positively bone chilling. Sometimes a whispered “What the fuck?” is even more effective than a shouted one.
Sage: In the grand scheme of things, I can see how Danielle, Karl, and later Alex had served their story purpose and needed to be trimmed, but that didn’t make their ambush any less shocking.
Tom: The flashback scenes we get for the Freighties in “Confirmed Dead” have some really great what the fuck moments, and my favorite is Charlotte in Tunisia, finding the remains of a polar bear, complete with a DHARMA branded collar. What? How? Why? And why does Charlotte know what that means?
Shannon: Richard Alpert, you ageless motherfucker, what exactly are you doing rolling up at pivotal moments in John Locke’s childhood to lurk in hospital windows and ask him to pick an object? What kind of quiz show are you hosting? What is your endgame here?? And when did John Locke finally prove himself worthy??? Was it when he heard Jacob?!?!? Before?!!?!? After??!?! WHATCHU DOING, RICHARD ALPERT?!?!?!?
- Favorite Weird Island Happening?
Shannon: Uuuuhhhh, that would be John Locke asking Christian Shephard if he’s Jacob and Christian Shephard responding “No. But I can speak on his behalf.” YOU CAN SPEAK. ON HIS. BEHALF? Is that what you’ve been doing while you wandered the island all ghost-like, Christian Shephard? Or was that apparition actually Smokey, and THIS apparition is when you pull double duty as Jacob’s Metatron? You know what, honestly I don’t even care because no matter what it is extremely weird and 100% my shit.
Kim: I’ve got three words for you: Frozen. Donkey. Wheel.
Sage: Ben LITERALLY moving the Island with a big, ol’ wheel. Like…I don’t know what else you possibly expect me to say.
Tom: The Frozen Donkey Wheel might be my favorite moment in Lost, period. Lost has a ton of great “wait a minute, why is THAT on the island?” reveals, but none this bonkers. And there’s nobody around for Ben to talk to, so we don’t get any discussion or explanation or even any snarky remarks about the wheel. It’s just there, we just have the visuals: an icy cavern with a strange light in the wall, and a wooden wheel, and an old lantern, and stone pillars with roughly-carved egyptian hieroglyphs, all of which is situated below a DHARMA station.
But surely the hieroglyphs predate the lantern and the wheel, which must predate the Orchid station, right? So this is a place where different people have come over many years, all of them leaving their mark. Without saying a word, Lost is showing us something about the island: Whatever weird shit is happening here, it didn’t start with the DHARMA Initiative, it’s much, much older. And a lot of different people have been attempting to do something with the island’s mysterious power, all at different times, all building on top of one another.
But that’s not even the thing I love the most about it! What I love is Ben Linus wincing through the pain of his injuries, straining with the effort of moving the entire island, whimpering and crying while a gorgeously orchestrated version of his haunting theme plays. There is nothing I love more in a work of fiction than a character experiencing extremely powerful emotion and letting that emotion out through an intense exertion of physical bodily effort, and boy howdy does Michael Emerson deliver. And when you have something so emotionally intense, layered on top of something so absurdly weird–to me, that’s Lost.
- Best use of an episode title within the script?
Sage: This award goes to “Meet Kevin Johnson,” if only because Friendly’s Manhattan penthouse minibreak is such a weird little interlude.
Tom: In the middle of an otherwise pretty frustrating Jackisode, Bernard’s tossed-off “Wouldn’t you rather be dreaming about Something Nice Back Home” is a great title drop.
Shannon: “The Constant” wins again, not because of the romantic tragedy this time but because the concept is SO! FUCKING! COOL! As Daniel Faraday, light of my damn life, explains to Desmond back in 1996, the only cure for being stuck out of time is connection with a single, constant point. It makes as much physical sense as any concept of time travel I’ve ever heard in pop culture; the spiral of having ones’ consciousness ripped out of its base is dizzying. And as my mother always said when she tried (and failed) to teach me how to dance, the key to staying safe and present when your body is spinning is to fixate on a single, steady center.
Kim: Having one person be your “constant” is romantic as hell, okay? (Remember when Mulder referred to Scully as “My Constant, my touchstone” and she simply replied “And you are mine”? Me too.) In Lost world, not only is this concept a romantic one which pushes the Desmond and Penny relationship to the next level, but it also sets out the very definitive rules of time travel within this universe. Rules that are FIXED and FINITE and have CONSEQUENCES if they aren’t followed to the letter of the law. The Russo Brothers could never.
- Favorite Hero Moment?
Sage: Which Sawyer moment to choose? James spends the majority of this season throwing his body in between danger and other people, and I don’t know how I’m expected to cope. His sacrifice in the finale narrowly edges out his scramble to get Claire and Aaron to safety when the mercenaries show up in New Otherton, because it once again throws his and Jack’s characters into such sharp contrast.
Remember when we met Sawyer, and he was reluctant to share a lousy magazine with the rest of the group? Well, when Frank’s helicopter is hemorrhaging fuel and they have to dump some more weight to even have a hope of making it to the freighter, he barely hesitates. Out of all the passengers, he’s the only viable option. He knows Jack would never step up in a million years, Hurley probably wouldn’t have been able to make it safely back to the beach, and Kate…well, Kate’s who he’s doing this for anyway.
His mind made up, he whispers in her ear (something we can understand and something we can’t) and then kisses her. Hard. “Just do it, Freckles,” he says, and, before she can try to stop him, he leaps out of the helicopter and plunges into the water, saving the day YET AGAIN. As Kim said on Twitter, this reflects poorly on Jack not just because he doesn’t have the same valiant instincts as Sawyer does but also because he purposely mischaracterizes this moment in the flash-forwards, saying that Sawyer CHOSE to stay, when, in fact, I don’t think he even considered another outcome once the writing was on the wall.
Tom: It’s hard to beat Sawyer jumping out of the helicopter to ensure the Oceanic 6 have enough fuel to make it from the island to the freighter. Remember season 1 Sawyer who didn’t care who he had to screw over, he just wanted on the raft? Look how far the guy has come since then. And if you’re just watching Lost for the first time you don’t even know what he whispered to Kate! But once you do, it just makes this moment more heroic in retrospect.
Kim: While there are many more traditional action hero moments in the season (All of them involving Sawyer and no I am still not over him running through New Otherton under siege, first asking if Alex, Danielle, and Karl were safe and then going after Claire, thanks for asking) I am going to go with Sayid putting all of his technical skills to use and fixing the phone so that Desmond could call Penny as my big hero moment. Sayid is the exact person Desmond needed with him on that freighter; he doesn’t panic in a crisis and his pragmatic “fix the thing first, ask for the explanation later” nature literally saves Desmond’s life. His brain would have liquified without Sayid’s cool head and his technical prowess, and there’s nothing more heroic than that.
Shannon: Oh, did you think I’d make it through one of these without waxing poetic about Benjamin Linus? Not today, folks!
As far as personal sacrifice and big damn heroism goes, Benjamin Linus MOVING the ISLAND is top of my list. Don’t be distracted by his machinations and occasional bloodthirst. Ben Linus is a full fucking hero. This man has been through some genuinely terrible shit, and never once does he stop doing what needs to be done. Alex was the only family Ben ever had, the Island his only consistent guiding light. He loses both within days of each other and still he carries on in their honor. Benjamin Linus pushes that ice-covered wheel with every last ounce of physical, mental and emotional strength he has left in his body and he does it to protect the Island and all its inhabitants. He does it while he weeps for everything he’s loved and lost. If that’s not a big hero moment, I don’t know what is.
- Sum up your feelings on the season?
Sage: My prevailing feeling about this season is that it just went by too fast! But even with the disruption of the writers strike, it feels controlled and organized in a way that the first three don’t always.
Having gone on record several times about my indifference to the Oceanic survivor flashbacks, I’m THRILLED that we’re now in flash-forward territory and also have more characters who have a history with the island whose pasts we can now dig into. To me, the end of season three is when the show stopped being ABOUT the crash; the mythology has overtaken it, and that’s much more my personal jam. However, going back and forth from the cold brutality of the freighter setting was jarring, and that element almost overstayed its welcome. I was finished with that boat long before it blew up.
Kim: The 100 day writer’s strike of 2007-2008 fucked up a lot of things in television. It caused us to lose Pushing Daisies, as the show was never able to recover ratings wise. It wrecked the Gormogon arc on Bones, forcing them to rush an ending. But by God, did it galvanize Lost’s fourth season.
I feel like season four is when Lost started to shift out of the mainstream and it was all the better for it. They were no longer writing to try and entice new viewers by carefully doling out information in easily digestible bites. No. By season four, Lost fully started to write solely for their existing audience and them alone. And why shouldn’t they? The show had a guaranteed end date, and they knew they had a fixed amount of episodes left to tell their story. These fourteen episodes display a new level of confidence that Lost had never had before. It’s the confidence that comes with a particular level of clarity. They know where they are going now. All we can do is hang on and enjoy the ride.
Shannon: With the endgame in sight and a shortened episode run, season four is on a mission. And that mission is batshit. I mean that as the very highest compliment because godDAMN do I love batshit television!
Honestly, I see this season as the real “you’re on board or you’re not” flashpoint for Lost. As many of us old timers said during the live tweets, once you hit “The Shape of Things to Come,” the bloodbath era has officially begun. No one is safe. (And really, no one was safe to begin with.) The island can MOVE, for fuck’s sake. Basically….everyone needs to get really cool about a lot of stuff really quickly. Requiring that level of buy in, for me, means that THIS is the moment when the show’s relationship to its audience (and the audience’s relationship to the show) cements itself as ride or die. And It only works because we have known and loved and understood these people for metaphorical years. If you can’t hang with nonlinear storytelling that spins out so fast it needs its own constant, you can’t hang with Lost.
Tom: Season 4 holds a special place in my heart because I watched the bulk of it live after binging the first three seasons on DVD. But even without the nostalgia factor, this season would probably still be my favorite. Lines are drawn and the stakes are made clearer. Mysteries are introduced, suspense about them is built, and they are satisfyingly resolved. Shit gets weird, we meet some really great new characters, other characters are killed with shocking nonchalance, and a number of the OG cast members give their best performances so far. I think Lost benefitted hugely from the reduced season order, and it might have actually helped the show’s pacing that the WGA strike cut the season shorter even than originally expected.
So like I said, this is peak Lost for me, but I am no less excited to revisit season five, because it is bonkers in its own way, and I cannot wait to see what our newbies make of it.
We kick off Season Five tonight! Track the #GuysWhereAreWe tag to join along!