Yes, yes. I’m really late. Think of it as a mid-hiatus shot of Lost to help tide us over until April 24.
Michael’s back and this time, he’s a puppet on Ben’s string. Or is he?
Yeah, he is.
Last week’s brief meeting with Sayid and Desmond notwithstanding, the last time we saw Michael Dawson, he and Walt were in a small boat, heading for what Ben promised would be rescue if they followed the correct bearing.
Speculation abounded for over a year about what might have happened to Michael once he left our sight. Every possibility was explored, but as is so often the case on Lost, all of the extreme possibilities turned out to be red herrings and the simplest (if not the most likely) thing happened. Michael got back to the real world, apparently just as Ben promised he would.
The episode opens in the barracks. Locke has called his splinter tribe together at his house for a town hall meeting. He brings Miles in to tell the group why the freighter group is on the island. Despite having spent an unknown amount of time doing isometric jaw exercises with a live grenade, Miles is able to tell them that his group is on the island to get Ben.
“Um…we kind of like, knew that forever ago.”
Sawyer is in favour of turning Ben over as quickly as possible, but there’s a hitch. Ben explains that once he’s turned over to the freighter group, the rest of them are to be killed.
Remember when Ben told Locke that the video tape was his last bargaining chip? Surprise, surprise, Ben is not only not out of chips; Ben is a chip.
Claire pipes up to remind Locke that he’s suggesting they protect a man that tried to kill him. Hurley further points out that Ben won’t tell them who his man on the boat is.
“What?” Hurley, who lost his prospective blanket warmer at Michael’s hands, is none too pleased.
“My spy on the freighter is Michael.”
Sawyer hasn’t said anything for a while, so he gets to ask the clarifying question.
“I’m sorry. You mean the same guy that killed two women in cold blood to set this little bastard free? And then sold all of us out so he could get off the Island? That Michael?”
“Yes James. That Michael.”
Whatchoo talkin’ bout, Willis?
On the freighter, Sayid and Desmond are asleep in their berth when an alarm sounds. They rush up on deck to see what’s what. Michael is among a group gathered to watch Captain Gault mete out some high seas discipline. After beating the last man into submission, he addresses that gathered audience.
(*Similar sound sidenote: I didn’t run a direct comparison, but I swear that alarm was the same sound as the one in the hatch.*)
“I’m not beating these men to scare you. I beat them to save your lives! Do you remember what happened to the last two men who took off in this boat? You remember what happened to Minkowski? As soon as we get the engines fixed, we’re back in the hunt. In the meantime, everybody just hold on.”
He then calls for “Johnson” to clean up the mess and stalks off. Is it just me or is there something to the fact that Michael’s job on the ship seems to be that of blood-mopper-upper? Could it be some sort of symbolic penance for his murderous past? I also wonder if it’s significant that he is ordered to clean up blood but we never actually see him doing so.
As Michael heads to the blood-cleaner-upper supply closet for his blood-cleaner-upper supplies, Sayid intercepts him and blocks his way.
“Not now, man.”
Sayid keeps himself between Michael and the blood-cleaner-upper supplies. “Yes. Right now.” As he climbs the stairs, the captain spares a glance for his newest passengers and his blood-cleaner-upper, but keeps on climbing. Sayid asks the obvious question. “Why are you on this boat?”
“I’m here to die.” And mop up blood.
And don’t forget my cabaret show in the dining room after dinner. I do a mean “Try to Remember”.
Back at the barracks, Sawyer follows Locke and Miles out of the meeting to confront Locke about the one secret that wasn’t discussed. The three million and change that Miles is trying to extort from Ben in exchange for telling the freighter group that Linus is already dead.
“Yeah, Miles offered his loyalty in exchange for the money. But as I haven’t seen a bank on the island, I didn’t think it worth mentioning.”
This gets a chuckle out of Miles.
“Linus will find a way to get it.” Either that or the 3.2 million is actually a code for something and Miles needed to cover his reaction. Nah. I’m sticking to my “Lost will let us speculate until we are blue in the face and then do the most obvious thing” hypothesis from now on and betting that the 3.2 million is simply a real amount of real money that Miles really wants. No tricks, no codes, no subterfuge. Just cash.
“And how will he do that?”
“He wants to survive. And considering a week ago you had a gun to his head and tonight he’s eating pound cake…I’d say he’s a guy who gets what he wants.”
Like I said. Real money.
Once again in his own house, if only as a guest, Ben watches his daughter and Karl get cosy. He asks Alex for a word. Rousseau tries to intervene, but Ben persists, taking a map from his pocket to show Alex the route to the temple.
Whatever you do, don’t stop at the Wal-Mart. It’s a trap. You’ll spend like a hundred and fifty bucks and then get home and be like “WTF? What did I even buy?”
“It’s a sanctuary. It may be the last safe place on this island.”
Karl asks why he and Alex didn’t know about it.
“Well, it wouldn’t be a sanctuary if I told everyone, would it? The rest of our people are already there. If you leave now, you can get there in a day and a half.” Either that or poor old Karl isn’t on Ben’s good side…
Karl wonders why they don’t take the whole mini-tribe with them to safety.
“Because the temple’s not for them, Karl. It’s only for us. These people that are coming…they know who I am, Alex. They’re here to capture me. They’ll kill anybody that gets in their way. If they knew who you were, that you were my daughter, they would use you to get to me. We don’t have much time.”
Karl and Rousseau are convinced, but Alex has a final question.
“These people… You said they’re dangerous. More dangerous than you?”
“Yes, but your Mother will protect you.”
Sayid and Desmond find Michael in the engine room, fixing something. It’s not working, but Michael claims that it ought to be. Sayid lies that the captain sent them to help and Michael gets the message. He sends his helper, Jeff, off in search of a pressure valve in the supply room. I gather the supply room is in Fiji, because it seems like Jeff’s gone a LONG time…
Sayid waits until Jeff is out of the room and then grabs Michael and starts asking him why he’s there.
“You won’t understand it.”
“I’ll understand perfectly, Michael. You just start from the beginning and explain how you came to be on this boat.”
In an apartment somewhere, Michael is writing a note. He looks at a picture of himself and baby Walt and then tears the note out of the notebook.
In his car, he turns over the engine, a Mama Cass song, It’s Getting Better, coming over the radio. He turns the volume up, pins the note to his chest and peels out.
(*Painfully ironic sidenote: “It’s Getting Better” is one of the most chipper, life is great, upbeat songs ever recorded. Just the thing for a snuff film soundtrack.)
Michael aims his car at a nice, solid shipping container, says “I’m sorry” and hits the gas. After the crash, Mama Cass is still belting out the happy…
(*One trick pony sidenote: Michael said “I’m sorry to Ana Lucia just before he ventilated her. Dude needs a writer.)
Michael wakes up in a hospital bed, and a familiar voice apologizes for waking him. He asks what happened and she tells him that he was in a car accident.
Shoulda bought a Mini Cooper. Those things crumple like paper.
(*I don’t hear it sidenote: I’ve read that at this point some folks hear the whispers, but to my ear it’s just some scratchy sound effects. Then again, I have lousy hearing.)
When Michael looks up, he sees that the voice belongs to the late, recently perforated Libby. He reacts with an incoherent choked scream.
“It’s a cold night. I brought you some extra blankets.” Apparently, cleaner ghost Libby has a mean sense of humour.
Michael’s choked scream rises until he wakes from the nightmare.
A different nurse turns on the lights and tries to get Michael to tell her his name, but he’s not talking.
“You want me to call Walt?”
“The note, pinned to your chest, it was addressed to ‘Walt’. You want me to call him?”
It seems that Michael has Wolverine-esque healing factors, because when we see him next, he’s walking fine and not wearing the whiplash brace. There’s a Christmas tree in the window, so it’s likely close to Christmas. This guy heals fast. He knocks on a door and his Mother answers. He asks to see Walt, but she won’t allow it.
“I don’t know what you said to that boy, but whatever it was, he doesn’t want to see you.”
Michael starts to protest, but she cuts him off.
“I thought you were dead. They said your plane crashed in the middle of the ocean, but you show up here fine and dandy, only I can’t tell anybody about you or Walt, can’t call you by your real names. He barely talks to me, but he does wake up screamin’ in the middle of the night, and I’m the one that’s got to tell him it’s gonna be okay. So until you can explain to me where you were for over two months and what happened, you gave up your rights.”
He was a series regular and then you boned it. Now he’s stuck in his room sulking and reading Backstage to find auditions. Unforgivable!
I love it when a character is given lines that could easily be taken from a conversation between Lost fans on the net…
As he leaves, Michael asks her to tell him he loves him. He turns back to share a look with his son who is looking out an upstairs window.
At a pawn shop, Michael sells the watch that Jin and he fought over back on the island, the one that Jin was supposed to deliver for Mr. Paik but wound up giving to Michael to cement their friendship. The pawn broker is suspicious of Michael’s Korean heritage, but offers him three hundred bucks for the watch. Michael doesn’t want money. He wants a gun. A gun with bullets.
He takes the gun, the gun with bullets into an alley. An alley with garbage.
As he tries desperately to load the gun. the gun with bullets, an old friend asks for the time.
It’s Tom! Tom with irony.
Michael doesn’t take kindly to having a face from the past interrupt his suicide and gets up pointing the gun at Tom. Tom effortlessly disarms him as the gun goes off, but Michael isn’t done yet. He lands a couple of punches before Tom knocks him to the ground.
“Now are you ready to talk like adults?”
Tom offers his hand, but Michael grabs a bottle from the garbage and cracks him upside the head. While Tom recovers, Michael smashes the bottle and puts it to Tom’s throat. Tom responds by putting the gun in Michael’s face.
Michael drops the bottle and tries to goad Tom into shooting him.
“You’d like that wouldn’t you?”
After revealing that Ben’s little group has been keeping tabs on Michael and that they now want his help, Tom figures out that Michael wants to kill himself because he told Walt about what happened to Ana and Libby and can’t handle the way his son looks at him now that he knows he’s a murderer.
As he walks away, he hands Michael back the gun and tells him that he won’t be able to kill himself. The island won’t let him.
“Give it a shot if you don’t believe me. You got more work to do, Mike. When you figure that out, I’m in the penthouse at the Hotel Earle.”
(*Metaphorical Hell sidenote: The Hotel Earle is the name of the hotel in the Coen Brothers movie “Barton Fink” which is a stand in for Hell in the movie.”)
Back in his apartment, Michael is finally alone with the gun. The gun with bullets.
Here. Let me help. Maybe it will let me kill you. Worth a shot!
As he prepares to do the deed the tv is blaring a gameshow. The question is about Slaughterhouse Five. Somebody’s been reading recaps on the ‘net…
Sure enough, the gun won’t fire.
Michael checks the gun to make sure that it’s a gun with bullets. It is.
On tv, the contestant answers correctly that the author is Kurt Vonnegut.
Again, the gun won’t fire.
As the contestant is about to go for “triple puzzle points” if she can remember who the novel’s protagonist was, the station interrupts with breaking news.
The news bulletin is about the finding of the wreckage of Flight 815.
(*Um…what? sidenote: In what universe is the finding of airplane wreckage from a two or three month old crash bulletin worthy? Methinks the juxtaposition of the Billy Pilgrim question and the wreckage footage is something we’re supposed to think is significant.)
The bulletin goes on to tell viewers that it’s likely that the wreckage is so deeply sunk that no bodies or even the black box are likely to ever be recovered.
(*Widmore can hold his breath longer than anyone sidenote: Somehow, Widmore recovered the unrecoverable black box, if Captain Gault is to be believed.)
A knock on the door of the Penthouse at Hotel Earle and Tom answers. He’s surprised that Michael showed up so quickly, but he welcomes him in. Tom doesn’t introduce his boytoy to Michael, but we learn that his name is Arturo when Tom asks him to get some air while he and Michael discuss business. And just like that, the mystery of why Kate wasn’t Tom’s type way back in season three is solved. Once again, Lost opens a host of wild speculation and then goes for the simplest answer.
Tom’s a chicken hawk!
When Tom offers him a drink, Michael declines, preferring answers.
“What I want is for you to tell me what my plane is doing at the bottom of the ocean.”
“That’s not your plane. It’s a phony. A man named Widmore put it down there, and he staged the whole wreck.”
Michael is naturally disinclined to believe such a wild story and wants to know why anyone would go to such lengths.
“Because he doesn’t want anyone else finding where the real plane ended up, except for him.”
Tom hands Michael a dossier that supposedly explains it all.
“That’s the cemetery in Thailand where Widmore dug up the 300-odd corpses he needed. And the purchase order for the old 777 he bought through a shell company, and the shipping logs for the freighter he used to drop the whole mess down a trench deep enough to guarantee that no remains are ever gonna be identified. Do you have any idea what it would cost to bring those bodies up?”
(*Key phrase sidenote: I am so NOT taking bets that the “freighter he used to drop the whole mess down a trench” is the same one that Michael is on now. The same freighter and crew would also explain why Naomi asked Abaddon such awkward questions about survivors of Flight 815.”)
Michael wants to know what Ben’s group wants with him.
“In a few days, a freighter is porting in Fiji. It’s Widmore’s boat. We have reason to believe he’s finally found the coordinates of the Island, and he’s heading right for it. So congratulations, Michael. Your shore leave is over. You just got a job on that boat. Meet Kevin Johnson.”
Tom tosses him his new passport.
(*Sharper eyes than mine sidenote: Several net sources assure me that the passport numbers on Michael’s fake “Kevin Johnson” passport and Ben’s fake “Dean Moriarty” passport are identical. I don’t think this is actually all that important, since it’s probably not a stretch for a forger to use identical numbers on several products. Still a nice catch.*)
Tom gives him a solid reason for helping Ben’s group. According to him, if Widmore gets to the island, everyone there will die. This is Michael’s shot at redemption. Even that isn’t enough to make him willing to go back to the island.
“I didn’t say you were going back to the Island. You’re not going on that boat so you can swab decks, Michael. You’re going so you can kill everyone onboard.”
Only if I can do a cabaret show in the dining room three nights a week. I do a killer “Try to Remember.”
On a wharf in Fiji, Michael checks in to his new digs and meets Minkowski. He checks in with Naomi, commenting on her Manchester accent. She’s surprised he recognizes it, but wouldn’t be if she knew that he’d recently spent two months with a Mankie Hobbit.
She points to a crate that was delivered for him and then offers to have it sent to his berth. As he boards, Miles calls out to him.
“Your name isn’t Kevin. Don’t worry. 80% of the people on this boat are lying about something.”
As Miles offers him an orange, Michael’s cellphone rings. He answers with a sigh. It’s Tom, confirming that Michael got the crate they sent and instructing him to wait until he’s at sea to open it. Tom senses some hesitation in his operative.
“Oh, you met some of ‘em now. Got some names and faces, and you’re gettin’ cold feet, huh?”
“Yeah, actually, I am.”
“Well, here are a few more names for you. Sun, Sawyer, Jack, Claire, her baby. And the only way you’re gonna save their lives is if you man up and get on that boat. Or maybe you wanna come back and explain to your kid how you let all of them die, too. It’s game time. Are you in or out?”
Michael hesitates for a long moment.
“Good, then ditch your phone and go do your job.”
Michael then executes the most uncasual phone ditch ever. Sayid should give lessons.
On the high seas, Kevin Johnson overhears an argument between Naomi and Frank, to the effect that Naomi is going to be the first one to go, not Lapidus. She puts her pretty foot down and Frank has little choice but to back off.
He introduces himself to Kevin, asking him what his story is.
“Um… Looking for a little adventure.”
“Ah, adventure. Yeah. Well, how do you like this for adventure? You ever hear about Oceanic 815?”
“What would you say if I told you the plane they found in that trench wasn’t Oceanic 815?”
“Then what is it?”
“You know those nuts that think the moon landing was faked? Well, this is like that, only real. That’s why I signed up for this trip, because the owner of this boat believes me. Charles Widmore. He believes that 815 is still out there somewhere. I mean, can you imagine what would happen if we found some of those people alive?”
Ah, poor Frank. So close and yet, so far.
Widmore’s smart, and he’s also a really great hugger. Dammit I’m lucky.
A quick cut shows Michael contemplating the key to the crate that Tom sent.
Kevin Johnson is swabbing the deck…er, scrubbing the walls, when he hears the sound of a gun. A gun with bullets.
He goes up on deck and asks the dumbest of dumb questions.
“What are you guys doing?”
And gets the obvious answer.
“What’s it look like we’re doing? We’re shooting things.” Keamy calls for another clay pigeon to shoot.
“I, uh, thought we were going on a rescue mission.”
Keamy’s dismissive attitude tells Michael that this ain’t no rescue mission. He makes his decision.
He retrieves a case from the crate that Tom sent and finds a likely spot. He opens the case, removes the false bottom, revealing a bomb. A bomb with buttons.
After entering the code 71776 he sets his finger over the “Execute” button. As he’s just about to press it, he hears that Mama Cass tune and is startled by it. He turns around but no one is there.
(*More maybe whispers sidenote: I still only hear a scratchy sound effect, but some folks swear it’s more whispers in this scene.*)
Turning around frantically, Michael finally does see someone. It’s cleaner ghost Libby.
“Don’t do it Michael.”
If you want to die, you have to get caught drinking and driving in Hawaii. The producers will have you killed in no time.
When he turns again, she’s gone. He hesitates for a moment and then presses the button. A fifteen second countdown starts.
“I love you Walt.”
At the end of fifteen seconds, instead of a blinding, deadly explosion, a tiny flag pops up with a little piece of paper wrapped around it. It reads simply, “NOT YET.”
Lying on his bunk, Michael is bouncing a ball off the bulkhead when Minkowski opens the door.
“What, are you going Nicholson on us?”
“You know, Jack Nicholson in The Shining, when he’s bouncing that ball against the wall? Next thing you know, you’re gonna go after your wife with an ax.”
Michael doesn’t play along, simply saying that he’s not married. Minkowski realizes that this Kevin Johnson person has zero sense of humour and relays the message he came to tell him.
It seems that Kevin Johnson has a call from the mainland, despite the fact that no one knows he’s aboard.
“Well, you’re the only Kevin Johnson onboard, so somebody knows you’re here. Said he really needs to talk to you. His name’s Walt.”
Minkowski show’s Kevin how to work the radio and then leaves him to his personal call.
“I’m so sorry, Michael, but he’s still in New York.” It’s Ben. “So I’m afraid you’re stuck with me. Michael? Are you still there?”
“You put me on this boat, talked me into blowing it up, and when I push the damn button, a flag pops up.”
A flag. A flag with paper.
Ben is surprised that Michael has already tried to activate the bomb.
“It’s not a bomb! It’s a…It’s a joke.”
“There are people on your boat who are innocent. They have no idea that the man they work for is a monster, a killer without conscience or a greater purpose. I had to show you the difference between him and me. When I’m at war, I’ll do what I need to do to win, but I will not kill innocent people.”
Considering that two seconds earlier Ben was stunned that Michael had activated the bomb, this statement shows a remarkable ability to think on the fly.
“Ana Lucia and Libby. They were innocent.”
“You killed them, Michael. No one asked you to. I don’t blame you, Michael. We did have your boy. And what wouldn’t a man do for his son?”
Michael is well and truly wrapped around Ben’s manipulative little finger now. He asks what Ben wants him to do.
“I want you to compile a list of names. Every person on your boat. When I call again, you’ll give me that list. Then you will disable the radio room you’re sitting in. When the crew is disoriented by their lack of communication, you’ll take out the engines, too. That way, the boat can never get to this island, and your friends will be safe. Will you do that for me, Michael?”
“Then consider yourself one of the good guys.”
Sayid is incredulous.
“So you’re telling me, that you’re working for Benjamin Linus?’
“Yeah. Yeah, that’s what I’m telling you.”
And also, I’m a baritone.
Sayid moves toward Michael, his body language saying “You poor man! You are in need of a manly hug.” When he’s close enough, he grabs Michael’s arm and puts him into a painful armlock and frog marches him right into the captain’s quarters.
“This man is not who you think he is. He was a passenger on Oceanic Flight Eight One Five. I spent two months with him on the Island, before he betrayed us. This is the man who sabotaged your radio room. He destroyed the ship’s engine, and his name isn’t Kevin Johnson. It’s Michael Dawson, and he’s a traitor.”
On the island, Alex, Rousseau and Karl are trekking toward the temple when they stop to rest a moment.
While Rousseau consults the map, Karl looks around the jungle, prompting Alex to ask him what’s wrong.
“I don’t know. I just have a bad feeling about this. What if your dad is playing us?”
“Look, I don’t like taking orders from my dad any more than you do. But I know he doesn’t want me to get hurt.”
How right you are Alex. Your dad doesn’t want you to get hurt.
A familiar air-gun sound catches Alex’s attention, but hits nothing. A second shot hits his water bottle, then a third explodes through his chest. Karl is killed instantly.
Alex tries to rouse him, but he’s gone. Rousseau pulls her away from his body to cover behind a tree while more air-gun shots sound all around them. She gets Alex calm enough to understand that Karl is dead and they need to save themselves.
“I need you to take my hand. On the count of three, we’re going to run. Can you do that with me? I love you. I love you very much, Alexandra.”
After a tender Mother/Daughter moment, the two get set to run on a three count.
On three, they burst from cover and almost instantly Rousseau goes down with a bullet to the chest. Alex looks around in panic as Rousseau struggles to breathe. She sees that someone is close and there’s no cover close enough to reach. She does the only thing she can. She surrenders.
“Wait! Wait! Don’t! I’m Ben’s daughter! I’m his daughter!”
Alex, I have a weekly poker game at my place. I’d love for you to come. Bring hundreds.