Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Lost" Fifteen Favorites: "Live Together, Die Alone"

“I have a lot of money, Desmond. With enough money and determination, you can find anyone.”

So, over a year after it was supposed to happen, we’re nearing the end of “Lost” Fifteen Favorites. Number two on my list is the season 2 finale, “Live Together, Die Alone.” Now that I look back on it, especially having just watched “Through the Looking Glass,” “Live Together, Die Alone” doesn’t have as many of those really iconic moments as the typical “Lost” season finale. What I really love about it, though, is how it develops the character of Desmond. Since, as I’ve said many times before on this blog, I’m an unapologetic Desmond fangirl, that’s enough to make me rank this above all other “Lost” season finales. We also get an answer to one of the important mysteries of the show- just what caused Oceanic 815 to crash on the Island. It also added some depth to the Others and set up the beginning of the next season rather nicely. There was a good sense of menace and dread, although not in the same way as “Exodus” or “Through the Looking Glass.” “Exodus” was about fear of the unknown, and “Though the Looking Glass” was about taking a stand against a known enemy. “Live Toegether, Die Alone” was more psychological. There was Locke’s devastation over what he discovered in the Pearl and his incredibly stupid new perseveration on finding out what happens when you don’t push the button in the Swan. There was also Jack and Sayid’s attempt to string Michael along long enough to find out what the Others were trying to make him do. It’s really an episode where the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

The episode opens with all the Losties really excited about the sailboat that appeared during Libby and Ana Lucia’s funeral. Several of the guys swim out to the boat only to find a really drunk and surly Desmond. He shoots a few rounds with a shot gun when he first hears intruders, and when he sees it’s just the Losties, all he can do is laugh hysterically. When they get him to the beach, Desmond says that with the time he’s been sailing, he should be on Fiji by now, but he’s right back where he started. He’s convinced the Island is in a snowglobe. There isn’t much time for the Losties to dwell on Desmond, though, because Sayid needs to talk to Jack about Michael. Sayid has a plan to deal with Michael. Sayid’s going to take the boat and meet up with Jack and company at the beach where they believe Michael will take them. The hope is that they will be able to overpower the Others. In order for this to work, however, Michael can’t know that Jack is on to him. He has to think his plan to take a list-worth of Losties to the Others is still working perfectly. The final major plot of the episode involves the Hatch. Locke is begging Eko to stop pressing the button, but Eko refuses. Locke gets so irate that Eko kicks him out of the computer room and locks him out.

Like I mentioned in the introduction, this episode features a number of Desmond flashbacks. We first see him released and dishonorably discharged from military prison, and he tells the warden about how he’s saving the Charles Dickens classic “Our Mutual Friend” to be the last book he ever reads before he dies. The slimy businessman Charles Widmore pulls up in a car to pick Des up once he’s released. Widmore reveals that he’s been keeping all of Desmond’s letters to Widmore’s daughter, Penny, and he tries to buy Desmond off. Widmore promises a large sum of money if Desmond never contacts Penny again. Desmond then finds himself in a coffee house in Los Angeles, where he negotiates use of a sailboat from none other than Libby. Desmond wants to participate in a sailing race around the world sponsored by Widmore, because, as he explains to Penny when she finds him training at a stadium, he has to get his honor back before he can truly be with Penny again.

The rest of the flashbacks cover Desmond’s time on the Island up until the Losties found him at the beginning of season 2. He’s found on the beach by the rather surly Kelvin Inman, who takes him into the Swan and teaches him all the ropes of living there. He learns about pressing the button and how to fake a lockdown so that Kelvin can continue to draw the invisible map of the Island on one of the blast doors. He also learns about the failsafe key when he sees a very drunk Kelvin planning to use it to “blow up the dam.” Kelvin has Desmond convinced that he’ll get sick if he ventures outside. One day, as he’s watching Kelvin leave the Swan, Desmond notices a huge tear in the protective suit Kelvin is wearing. This prompts Desmond to think that maybe it’s not so dangerous to go outside after all, and he decides to follow Kelvin. Desmond discovers Kelvin has been working on fixing Desmond’s boat as an escape route. Furious that Kelvin has stolen several years of his life, Desmond rushes to fight him. Kelvin hits his head on some rock and dies instantly. Desmond rushes back to the Hatch to find everything in chaos because the button hasn’t been pushed. “System failure” is blaring over the PA system and scrolling across the computer, and everything is shaking. Desmond barely has enough time to enter the code before the place is totally destroyed.

Charlie sees Locke moping about being kicked out of the Swan, and he tells Locke he should have a chat with Desmond. Locke takes Charlie’s suggestion, and he tells Desmond to sober up, because the next day, they’re going to find out what happens when the button doesn’t get pushed. Desmond uses his triggering a lockdown trick to get Eko out and Locke and him into the computer room. Desmond begins to question what he’s doing when he discovers Eko’s Jesus stick, and I love his reaction when Locke confirms that he just locked out a priest. Eko recruits Charlie to help him get back into the computer room. They’re going to use some of the dynamite from the Black Rock. Because the computer room is protected by very thick blast doors, that plan obviously doesn’t work, and Charlie and Eko get a little battered by the explosion for their trouble.

While all the Hatch drama is going down, Michael is leading Jack, Sawyer, Kate, and Hurley on an expedition to supposedly get Walt back. Jack is the only one besides Michael who knows it’s a trap. The tables are turned when Kate sees they’re being followed, and she and Sawyer start shooting at the Others who are tracking them. Jack makes Michael fess up to what’s going on. Things turn from bad to worse when the group notices black smoke. This is Sayid, Sun, and Jin’s signal when they arrive on the beach where they are supposed to meet up with the rest of the group. Only problem is that the signal is miles away. Jack realizes that Michael is taking them somewhere else, but he realizes it too late. They all are hit with darts that zap them with electricity, completely incapacitating them. Next thing we know, they’re gagged and kneeling on the Pala Ferry dock. Ben appears, and he lets Michael leave the Island on a boat with Walt (which is a pretty iconic moment). Hurley is also released to deliver a message back to the other Losties that they shouldn’t come looking for Jack, Kate, and Sawyer.

This episode is really notable more for its creepy visuals than big, iconic moments. There’s the infamous four-toed statue that Sayid, Sun, and Jin pass while sailing. There’s also the abandoned fake Others camp they discover once they make it to the rendezvous beach. I think my favorite thing about the fake camp is that the Others even created a fake hatch of their own by putting a door with a DHARMA Initiative logo up against some large rocks. The other kind of odd/creepy visual that stuck out to me in this episode was something Michael, Kate, Sawyer, Jack, and Hurley discover just before the electric darts start flying. It’s a massive pile of pneumatic tube canisters out in the middle of a field. Inside each canister is a notebook filled with observations. These obviously originated from the Pearl hatch. It has interesting implications for both the Pearl and the Swan. The Pearl orientation video said that the people stationed at the Pearl were to write down observations about what was going on at the Swan and send those notebooks through the pneumatic tubes to DHARMA headquarters. Clearly nobody really cared about those observations if they just piled up in a field somewhere. It seems that Desmond was right when he suggested to Locke that maybe the Pearl folks were the experiment, not those stationed in the Swan.

The crowning moment of this double-length episode occurs when Desmond looks at records Locke obtained from the Pearl and puts it together that Oceanic 815 crashed the same day he killed Kelvin and arrived back at the Swan to all the system failure chaos. Locke refuses to believe Des when he insists that the Swan is real, and he throws a really obnoxious tantrum, breaking the computer in the process. I kind of wish the Desmond/Locke dynamic had been explored a bit more in the show. We learn that around the time Boone died in the first season, Desmond and Locke saved each other. Locke was despondent over Boone’s death and banging on the hatch, and Desmond had just opened “Our Mutual Friend” and read a letter Penny left for him. Desmond turned the light on in response to Locke’s commotion, and both gained some solace. Desmond knows there’s only one way to save the Island now that nobody can push the button. He grabs the failsafe key from the bookcase, and with a “See ya in another life, Brother,” to Locke, hops down into the room with the failsafe. He remembers the letter Penny left in his book, whispers that he loves her, and turns the key. All of a sudden, everything goes a sort of violet white. At the very end of the episode, we see two men in a scientific station in Antarctica. They’ve picked up an electromagnetic reading from Desmond turning the key, and they have to notify someone about it. The person they notify is none other than Penny herself.

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