Monday, May 26, 2008

I likely chose poorly

Inspired by Indiana Jones and his quest for some crystal skulls (along with an AV Club post), here's a list of my favorite objects of pursuit in movie history. Feel free to call me a limited-minded clown in the comments and add whatever I have clearly missed.

Maltese Falcon - Maltese Falcon
A priceless bejeweled bird statue that was long-lost is zealously pursued both in print - in 1930's classic by Dashiell Hammett - and thrice on screen - most famously in the 1940s film starring Humphrey Bogart as Hammett's venerable private eye Sam Spade. The story arc is wraught with deception, trickery and murder as Spade and a group of bad guys try to locate the statuette who had been covered in enamel to belie its true value. But the pursuit is ultimately in vain as the villains get their hands on the bird only to find the material under the black veneer as worthless. All the deception - all the all-consuming effort - in an attempt to possess a trinket rather than "something only dreams are made of."

Sex - American Pie
This pursuit is the yoke to any number of films - Porky's and Superbad comes to mind - but I think American Pie is probably the best example. Four guys strike a pact to deflower their girlfriends - or anyone with two legs and wearing something bigger than a training bra - before the end of their prom night. This inevitably leads to hi-jinks and the search for an even more mythologized object - the g-spot - as the four "gentlemen" go about a means to the agreed end in their own individualized and haphazard way. My biggest problem with the film is that it is totally unbelievable. Not Oz joining the choir or Stifler's mom claiming she hadn't gone under the knife, but the contention that Tara Reid would still be a virgin by the time she got to her senior prom. This is simply not possible and way outside the bounds of believability. Although I suppose Reid was still a virgin if your definition of "virgin" is "getting Eiffel Towered in the men's room of a roadside IHOP after taking rails off the toilet seat."

The One Ring - Lord of the Ring trilogy
This list would have no credibility if the ring weren't included - not that I have any visions of grandeur about it nor am I looking for it by writing Robot. The three films have at their core the pursuit of an all-powerful ring infused with destructive and persuasive powers. But unlike others on this list, the ring isn't being sought to possess, but to destroy, leading the protagonists to Mount Doom where the climax of the films take place in epic fashion. So, it's here on the list. Don't yell at me in the comments or on Gchat.

The Ark of the Covenant & Holy Grail - Indiana Jones series
These two objects and films were the inspiration for the list. The formula of the Indy films is so accessible and enjoyable, especially when they have the scene 25 minutes into each film - after an extended (and unrelated) action sequence - where the pursued artifact is explained in detail and the stakes are set. These intriguing - yet clarifying scenes - serve as a necessary set-up for the 90 minutes of action that follows and invests the audience in the long-sought, powerful objects. In both instances, the building tension leads to a satisfying crescendo with two memorable climatic scenes. The ultimate fate of the ark - the U.S. government seizing the golden artifact that holds the remnants of the original Ten Commandments - all but reburies it, not in sand but bureaucracy. And the "he chose poorly" line from the Knight at the conclusion of Last Crusade stands as one of the most effectively understated line in movie history.

Gray's Sports Almanac - Back to the Future II
Less mythic and sexy than most pursuits, the Gray's Sports Almanac is perhaps the most lucrative. Irresponsibility skirting the time-space continuum, Marty McFly tries to being the almanac back with him from the future in an attempt to make riches by placing a few sure bets in the 1980s, all the while knowing the outcome of each major sporting event. Of course, Doc talks him out of it, but the meat head Biff steals Gray's, the DeLorean and Marty's plan, illustrating the entirely undesirable consequences of playing with time. But perhaps the most memorable sports moment of Future's second installment was the huge LED board that announced that Cubs had defeated an unnamed team from Miami in the World Series.

The Big W - It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
It's A Mad... is probably the funniest film no one reading this has seen featuring untold numbers of famous comedians - Tracy, Burle, Caesar, Winters, Rooney, Hackett, Keaton, Ethel Merman. Unfortunately a recent interpretation - Rat Race - was an unworthy successor, but the plot is similar - a dying man tells a group of people about a hidden fortune and the mad scramble is on to locate it. In Mad, it's know that the treasure is buried under a giant W, which turns out to be four huge palm trees buried at an angle. On the way, there are countless memorable scenes including one with a drunken airline pilot ("Let's just shoot him down and get it over with"), at a Ray & Irwin's gas station ("We're going to have to kill him"), dynamiting out of a locked hardware store basement, and the final rush once people realize what exactly the big W is.

The perfect Christmas tree - National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Not that there aren't amazingly memorable scenes throughout the entire movie ("We are standing at the threshold of Hell" and anything with Cousin Eddie come to mind), but the Griswold family starts by seeking out the perfect Christmas tree in what looks to be a national park. The family station wagon ends up under a semi then crashing over a snowbank, they don't remember an ax, and by the time they actually find the Christmas tree - haloed with glow and touched with the voice of angels - the Griswold's daughter appears to have taken on the complexion of Grimace. When they finally open the tree, it is slightly larger than expected crashing through windows and drywall alike. The pursuit of the tree reaches its final hilarity when Clark tries to read in bed, caress his wife's hair and turn off the lamp all with sap covering his fingers. Classic and memorable.

Woody - Toy Story 2
After Woody is accidentilly sold at a garage sale to a rare toy dealer, Buzz and company spend the balance of the film tracking him down. This gets the nod over the first film because it is one of that rare breed where the sequel outshines the original. The wink-wink, nod-nod nature of the script - playing off of Buzz' ego and making it even more adult-friendly than the first - creates a more complete film from beginning to end, more emotionally compelling as well when Andy's other toys discover than the Alpha toy isn't so keen on breaking up the Round Up Gang. The scene of the toys trying to cross the street into Al's Toy Barn stand as one of the most entertaining action sequences on this list.

Pamela Anderson - Borat
This doesn't really even need to be explained, but she possesses the breasts that launched a thousand ships (or at least a single ice cream truck) in perhaps the most comedic pursuit in the 21st century. We must also commend Borat, who shows courage and persistence after he discovers that the object of his affection may not have - ummmmm - "saved herself" for our Kazakhstanian hero. Which brings up this totally unrelated and utterly pointless observation - have Pamela Anderson's breasts been seen by more people than any other woman's? The only one I can think who has likely been seen more times topless than her is Kate Winslet.

Richard Kimball & the One Armed Man - The Fugitive
"Alright, listen up, people. Our fugitive has been on the run for ninety minutes. Average foot speed over uneven ground barring injuries is 4 miles-per-hour. That gives us a radius of six miles. What I want from each and every one of you is a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in that area. Checkpoints go up at fifteen miles. Your fugitive's name is Dr. Richard Kimble. Go get him."

"I didn't kill my wife." "I don't care"


A few others in the pursued person division - John & Sarah Connor (depending on the film), Private Ryan ("The Mission is a Man") and Keyser Soze - along with the Heart of the Ocean from Titanic, the golden ticket from Willy Wonka, and the defecting Red October. Let me know if I have forgotten any.

Big two-hour LOST finale this week. You can click here for all my previous LOST columns, including this one where I explain why I think it is Ben is the casket.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

This Would Have Been A Perfect Time To Pull the "Mission Accomplished" Banner Out of the Closet

A few of you who I know read regularly were less than pleased with Thursday's episode of LOST, frustrated with the slow pacing of the show and how it seems as if we have been in a holding pattern for the last three weeks. While that is understandable, I'm going to defend the show and "There's No Place Like Home, Part I". First off, this was the opening hour of a three hour season finale, so in effect we saw the opening twenty minutes. There's no way the episode's merit or worth can be judged at this point. The counter (and valid) argument to that is LOST - more than almost every other show on television - is just one big episode because of the serial-nature of its story arc, so the line of demarcation week-to-week is almost negligible. The other predicament LOST's writers find themselves in is the show's massive scope and the large footprint of all encompassing episodes. And by that, I mean LOST has the decision to focus on one group (the freighter folk, the beach crew, Locke's comrades, etc.) in depth - which would get people angry that they didn't see what the hell else was going on with the other characters - or they could give the audience a smattering and taste of each Island course - and the criticism would be that "nothing happened!" and that the show was too jumpy and disjointed. Honestly, they can't win. And on Thursday, they decided to go with the latter, more epic approach - which is the appropriate decision for a season finale. The problem is that they are fighting on six fronts - the freighter, the beach, the Orchid-journey, the Jack/Sawyer's jungle trek, the Sayid/Kate trip and the future. With 42 minutes and five different areas to cover, that gives each group about 7 minutes a piece on average. That's not a whole lot of time to do anything substantial. But I thought the first third of the fourth season's finale was effective, interesting, and compelling.

The most striking thing to me was the state of post-Island Jack. Jack seems desperately and foolishly invested in the Oceanic Six's bundle of lies, like the captain of a doomed mission who feels the need to keep the morale of the crew high as they toss buckets of water overboard. His cold, calculating reassurance on the cargo plane on their way to meet the families provided a striking relief to his on-Island "live together" leadership - Jack still asserted himself as the point man, but seemed to plead with the other four adults to buy into his plan. The striking press conference scene further establishes the deck of cards engineered by Jack that we know is going to tumble in their future. And the realization of Claire being his half-sister and Aaron his nephew at the end of Papa Shepard's funeral struck at Jack's core. I know it wasn't earth shattering news for the audience, but we needed to see Jack's realization at some point, to see how his tenuous grip on an uncontrollable situation began to unravel. Jack is marinating in his lies - about the rescue, about Aaron's relationship, and again about his father. His empty words at the funeral echoed his later exchange with Kate in the hallway after reading to Aaron. Try as he might, Jack cannot shake the overbearing hand of his father, which can provide a proxy for Jack's reaction to his post-Island decisions. Try as he might to shake the decisions that lead him off the Island, the burden of knowledge and his past is too great to bear.

But Jack isn't the only one with father issues. The post-Island world belongs to the mothers as was made clear in the opening scene. Jack was greeted by his loving mother, Sun didn't even acknowledge her father as she hugged her mother, Hurley's strained relationship with his father was never entirely forged, and Kate - a new mother herself - found no warm comfort after debarking the plane, only the realization that she would be responsible for maintaining a relationship with her adopted son that she was unable to sustain with her own mother.

Sun's visceral reaction with her father and again with her potential game-changing acquisition of a stake in Paik Industries will likely play a large part of the next few seasons. I've thought for a while now that Sun's father could be the Korean parallel with Widmore - whether he is looking for the Island or not, I'm not sure, but the parallels between Penny and Sun are striking. And either the Oceanic settlement was ridiculously rich, the show had a logic gap or Sun was receiving third-party help to initiate a hostile infiltration of Paik Industries. My guess is that Penny is playing venture capitalist, providing the seed money to Sun in an attempt to leverage the two's paternal companies in an attempt to find the Island and their loves. The scene reminded me of the end of Batman Begins when Bruce Wayne has bought a controlling ownership of Wayne Enterprises to the surprise of Mr. Earle.

There were a number of smaller things I really enjoyed about the episode. I love how Sawyer called Jack out on his one-note song, telling him he sounded like a broken record about his insistence to get off the Island using the freighter folk. (This is particularly entertaining because I'm not convinced of Matthew Fox's range of acting ability so his character's single dimension could also be his own.) Sawyer's nice dig against Jack saying how Locke was right about the disastrous intentions of the freighter folk and how the "running through the jungle with a phone" routine didn't work must have grated the stubbled doc, sending him out to prove himself once again before Sawyer joining with Sawyer joining him, saying "you don't get to die alone."

The Michael and Jin/Sun interaction on the deck of the freighter was amazing and strained. The thinly veiled assertion that "Jesus Christ is not a weapon" was pretty entertaining social commentary.

The realization that Keamy's arm band was actually a detonation button for the C4 on the freighter was pretty vital.

The return of seemingly angry and disgusted Alpert was a nice added touch.

The numbers on the dash that sent Hurley barreling down his street seemed gimmicky, but I suppose they make sense. I also love how Hurley is frequently used as the voice of the fan, asking the literal questions we want attacked - like "What about - you know - the whole being dead at the bottom of the ocean thing?" late last year after Naomi parachuted onto the Island. He served the same purpose this past week on his trek to the Orchid, wondering aloud (as I did last week) "If we move the Island, wouldn't the dudes with guns move with us too?" Ben's curt response dripped of contempt for Hurley's (and our) limited mind, perhaps an unconscious reaction to how the writers and producers react to each to the antsy, limited and unyielding onslaught of questions they must get on a daily basis.

One thing that I think gets overlooked in a number of episodes, but was exceptional this week was Michael Giacchino's score. It is at its best when it can be sweeping and epic, like the end of this week's episode with the slowed shot of the freighter, Jack/Sawyer, Ben's surrender, Kate/Sayid and the Others, and Locke's move to the Orchid station. It's often overlooked, but was exceptional this week.

I do wonder why one of the questions from the reporters or one of the points of clarification during the press conference didn't relate to the plane that was found at the bottom of the ocean. That seems like a pretty natural question...did the O6 make it out of that wreckage before it went down and how does the fake plane's resting place compare with the supposed home for the Oceanic Six? Who is the other responsible for Jin's death? And how can Sayid be so certain that no other survivors will be found? And just as we got to explore the Looking Glass Station during last year's season finale, this year we will get an eye-full of what the Orchid as to offer. The second two-thirds of the season finale doesn't air until May 29th, so not only will we need to wait for that, I will have to figure out something else to blog about this weekend.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

John Can See Dead People, But Of Course Not Jacob

First off, a non-LOST observation. If you haven't seen Iron Man and are planning on seeing it, skip to the next paragraph, but if you have seen it, I have a question. I cannot understand why the Afghani terrorists would ask Tony Stark to build the Jericho Missile if they were already dealing under the table with Stark Industries rogue CEO. If they didn't want to kill him so that they could use him for leverage in getting more money or weapons from Stark Industries, that's fine. If they didn't know they were supposed to kill Stark and really wanted the Jericho - then just demand that as payment for offing the industrialist. But why would they EVER ask him to build anything if they were already getting it or on the cusp of receiving anything for killing him?! It makes absolutely no sense. If someone can give me a reasonably plausible explanation as to why the terrorists not only kept Stark alive, but asked him to build something, I will buy you lunch.

And now on to this week's LOST. I know a few of you who read this regularly are either going to be surprised that I didn't find "Cabin Fever" all that satisfying or just out-right angry that my little brain is too microscopic to appreciate the nuances of the show and to see the episode for what it truly is. That being said, I was awfully disappointed. I have written before that the set-up/payoff cycle works for LOST in that it allows for the show to alternate between examining character development and turning the answer faucet from drip to a more steady stream. My issue with "Cabin Fever" is that it didn't really do either - nothing was answered (it was actually significantly more muddled) and the emotional footprint of Locke's past did not expand beyond the boundaries of what we already knew. The episode was rather dimensionless. We already knew that Locke was special, that Locke was chosen, and that Locke's fate was to arrive at some point on the Island and partake in his spiritual walkabout - in fact the fourth episode of the first season did a pretty good job establishing these themes. This most recent episode only rehashed them - although some rather absurd curve balls (even for LOST) were thrown in. We now know Alpert was chasing after Ben from an early age and Abaddon met John between his accident and the 815 crash...which to me doesn't mean much beyond this...

Locke for a long time has tried to exercise free will over his own life. He insisted that the knife Alpert brought was his even when the timeless rho-chi implored him to choose one of the remaining items Locke had not yet dismissed - the baseball glove, the Book of Laws and the comic book. As a high-schooler, John refused to attend Mittelos Biosciences summer camp, defiantly telling his adviser, "Don't tell me what I can't do." John even refused to listen to Abaddon who suggested the much needed walkabout for himself - all examples of John clinging to free will while delaying fate from taking over. But Locke can no longer do that. Locke's stranglehold on free will ended when 815 crashes onto the mysterious rock - the biggest course correction experiences thus far in the show. It's like Charlie's death - just as Desmond could keep Charlie alive for only so long, John could only avoid the Island for so long before course correction took over, ironing out pass attempts to exercise free will. For Charlie, it was death. For Locke, it was his arrival to the Island. And from John's arrival onward, he has relinquished himself to his fate - at least mostly. John's insistence on not pushing the button at the end of season two was a dangerous regression into exercising his free will. But beyond that, Locke has laid down his arms against fate and allowed it to guide him on the island. He has used it as rationalization for more than a few things - for initially pushing the button, for the death of Boone, and for his apparent communal understanding with the Island's zeitgeist. And he used it again at the end of Thursday's episode, telling Christian Shepard, "I am here because I was chosen to be." (not "I am here because I choose to be.") Which Christian responds to be saying, "That's absolutely right."

It is as if the Island is a place where fate and free will exist in perfect balance and parallel and the audience is seeing the two diametrically opposed philosophies play out on the Island - with the benefits and consequences of both being explicitly explored. Locke and Ben's corner is exploring the phenomenon of fate while Jack's beach dwellers try to play out an exercise in free will. This acceptance of his own fate has allowed for Locke to ascend into his rightful throne at the expense of Ben's position while Jack and crew cling to the power of free will.

Which raises a string of questions. Why is Ben capitulating to Locke, allowing for Locke to commune with the Island Ben has so zealously protected? And why was Ben even in that position if the Dharma Initiative killing was not Ben's idea, but rather the Others' former leader? And why couldn't Ben have been marginalized if he wasn't the Others traditional leader? We already know that Alpert has a far different philosophy for how the Island should be used than Ben (that is why Alpert gave Locke the file showing that Locke's dad killed Sawyer's parents) so why wasn't Alpert the natural post-purge leader or able to unseat an increasingly unstable Ben? Unless Ben is to Jacob as Locke is to Widmore - both pawns being used to manipulate the Island's future to the advantage of the island's two competing Zeus. And Ben realizes that the only way to cut Locke's puppet strings of a fate (which stands to reason benefit Widmore) is to abdicate his seat on the right hand side of Jacob's throne. And that would be the reason Ben allows Locke to enter Jacob's cabin alone. What the episode was successful at what drawing a stronger parallel between Locke and Ben, especially regarding their births - both had mother's of the same name who screamed out their son's given name immediately after birth and who soon found themselves apart from their baby boys - through death in Ben's case and adoption through Locke's. But I didn't feel like these "new" parallels were enough to drive the show into uncharted emotional territory. Meanwhile, Ben's continual insistence that he is innocent is driving me nuts. As someone pointed out to me earlier this week, Ben is not exactly the mensch he claims to be. He cannot be entirely detached from all of the surrounding chaos and escape any type of responsibility.

Which brings us to a brief discussion about the cabin scene. The two previous trips to the cabin were two of the creepiest and most memorable scenes in the LOST canon. This one however was less mysterious and more let-down. The elements of fate were again at play here, most explicitly when John said why he was there and again when Locke asks where Aaron is, with Christian's reply being "He's where he is supposed to be." Claire almost has to be dead. There is nothing in her character that indicates she would just leave Aaron anywhere, especially since she spent most of the first three seasons of LOST screaming things about her "BEHHHHH-BEEEE!" She also looked high as a kite, probably breaking open some of those virgin Mary dolls with the heroin inside of them as a way to feel closer to Charlie. Maybe only those within the Shepard's bloodline have a communal nature with Jacob, but that seems pretty tenuous to me. And Locke's marching orders from the cabin - "to move the Island" - could mean either in location or time. Either way, I don't see how it would save anything since the helicopter-bound Keamy is already over the Island.

A few more things. We have come to anticipate - and expect - that the first half of season's would be overly mysterious with the second half serving as an answer payoff that at least clarifies some of the more medium sized questions. This is what made the second half of season three so enjoyable. This past episode not only didn't clear anything up, it effectively threw mud all over this structure. The timeline of the Island lagging behind the outside world and water was shot to hell when the doctor was killed well after he washed up on shore. There was no further clarification about Jacob and certainly no light on the boat, which has justed turned into a constant rabble-rabble that seemingly lacks any type of genuine drama. And my only non-explosive guess for what was strapped to Keamy's arm is a device that faciliates the time-travel Ben takes from the Island. The only evidence for that is the logo on the Plan B document was the same Dharma logo that was on Ben's parka at the beginning of The Shape of Things To Come".

My guess is that the long-teased and much hyped Orchid Station (where the rabbit video was shot) is the one place Ben could go if the Island was in grave danger - and now thanks to Plan B opened from the ship's safe - Keamy knows where it is too. Hopefully it surfaces over the next two weeks. And brings with it some long-sought and much needed clarification on more than a few fronts.

I promise a non-LOST post in the next week or so as well.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

If it's not broken, Jack won't touch it.

Before I start a brief analysis on this past week's "Something Nice Back At Home", I want to return briefly to the tete-a-tete between Ben and Widmore. It has always stuck me as strangely as to why the Freighter Missionaries aren't threatening - and have orders not - to kill Ben. He clearly needs to be alive for some reason. And during his midnight liaison with Charles, Ben ominously says, "we both know I can't do that" responding to Charles inquiry whether he has arrived to kill him, indicating that Ben also needs Charles alive for some reason. But why? Why can't Ben just eliminate Charles if he knows where he is? It seems that it would save him tons of time, energy and concern, while protecting the Island. My thinking is that Ben is Charles constant and Charles is Ben's. Admittedly there is little current evidence to support this theory, but it would go a long way to explaining why they need each other alive and how Ben stomachs his apparent location/time travel treks off the Island. If anyone has any thoughts on this, please let me know. I'd love to discuss. Now onto this week's installment of the trippy, tropical adventure.

I wrote earlier this year that the fourth season of LOST was settling into a predictable routine - Season 1-esque character build/plot set-up, mythos-changing and answer revealing pay-off, followed by the cycle repeating. I think "Something Nice..." fit well into the routine, as it focused on Jack's evolution - or rather devolution - while bridging the character's differing Island-present and post-Island future as well. It also set many of the pieces in place for the season's final push (Jin's agreement to get Sun off the Island, Claire gone missing, the departure of Keamy and crew from the Island, etc.)

With the heavy emotion focus on post-Island Jack this felt the most like a Season 1 episode - eye-opening first scene included! - where "answers" took a backseat to the character motivations and complexities. And we again saw the over-zealous, paranoid Jack that destroyed his first marriage and relationship with his father. We now know how Jack went from happy-go-lucky pseudo-celeb after his Island return to grizzled alcoholic whose relationship with Kate had become strained. Jack MUST have something to fix, so he breaks what he can - his relationships with his dad, Sarah, and now Kate - through his own destructive ways. There were signs that Jack was sliding backwards even before his shotgun proposal to Kate. The Red Sox had once again lost to the Yanks as it recalls one of his father's favorite sayings - his return to the heavy drinking, his smothering paranoia surrounding Kate (who he views more of a possessed object than a worthy pursuit), and the haunting echo of his father's heavy hand. When he steps on the Millennium Falcon toy in the kitchen, Jack's "son of a bitch" response isn't really the way you'd expect him to refer to his half-sister and nephew, which is ironically tragic for the audience if Jack does not yet know his relation to Aaron. The MF's pilot - the rogue Han Solo - easily could be paralleled with the Island's maverick Sawyer. As Jack leaves the kitchen to join Kate in the shower, the camera lingers on the toy and newspaper, a harbinger of Jack's troublesome, insecure past that returns to haunt him and failures he has yet to learn from.

Which brings us to a number of quick takeaways from the episode. First, who was Kate with while Jack was home downing three beers, a bottle of wine and a glass of hard liquor? My guess - and I'm not the only one who thinks this - is that Kate was closing some loop with Cassidy, the mother of Sawyer's daughter who crossed paths with the fugitive and helped connect Kate and her mother.

The reason Sawyer couldn't do it himself was presumably because he was still on the Island, but the new wrinkle on that was when Jack indicating that Sawyer chose to stay behind on the Island, rather than returning to the mainland. This is the first time that anyone said those remaining on the Island had a choice as to whether they should leave or stay - an interesting dynamic to see play out in the next few weeks because it seems that more than six would choose to leave if offered the opportunity. And if it were a choice, why are the O6 lying about the survival of their remaining 815 compatriots? I'd think this will be clarified in the coming weeks.

And what's the deal with Jack's dad? Jack spoke of his father in the past tense after finishing the second chapter of Alice In Wonderland to Aaron - saying "he was a good story-teller" - but the white tennis-shoe wearing AA member keeps showing up. His appearance on the Island to Claire could be just chalked up to the visions others have seen - Eko's brother, Kate's horse, Boone, etc. - but the seperation between Claire and her child along with the fact that Miles saw Doc Christian added a new wrinkle into the story. I still don't think he's alive and most certainly he is not around Jack's post-Island life in any physical sense, but something weird is going on. I know that's a real insightful statement I just made.

Three other quick things. If the Island has some control over the 815 survivors, why is it (seemingly) leaving Kate, Sayid, and Sun alone while tormenting Jack and Hurley? Why wasn't the Smoke Monster more effective in killing some of the Freighter assassins? Did Ben program it not to kill so that Ben can continue making the claim that he is not a murderer? And who else was disappointed that Rousseau was actually dead? I thought that was a wasteful end to one of the show's more intriguing characters. Her death - unlike Boone's or Charlie's - meant nothing in the larger scheme of the show's web or character development. It seemed poorly executed and an indistinguishable way to send her off the show.

Hopefully next week's episode takes us to Jacob's castle - it's called "Cabin Fever" (!) and gets Desmond a little more screen time.