I think we’ve established with this episode that the Black Smoke is some kind of telepathically attuned entity which is capable of manifesting as certain persons from a character’s past, possibly via the restoration and reanimation of dead bodies it finds in wreckage. Past LOST storylines have emphasized the importance of a character coming to terms with an internal conflict by finding redemption in forgiveness, repentance, or simple closure. When Eko’s method of coming to terms with his brother Yemi involved a prideful rather than humbly repentant approach, (thus cementing Eko’s reputation as a bad theologian — reference his baptism gaffe) Smoke-Yemi disowned him as a brother. Smack then proceeded to be laid down, ridding the island of yet another actor whose driving had run him afoul of Hawaii’s Finest.
That leaves only one Tail Section survivor in the group, not counting those kidnapped by the Others: Bernard, who has not been seen since the second season finale. What was the point of the whole Tail Section subplot, then? To provide a pool of disposable characters whose deaths could be used to generate TV magazine buzz without actually disrupting the core storyline too much?
I did like the explanation for Eko’s building a church on the island. Originally I had thought of it as a sign that some of the survivors would want to stay on the island rather than be rescued, and he was preparing to provide for their long-term spiritual nourishment, but the revelation that he was instead executing a personal form of penance for his brother (owing Yemi one church) is a far more profound explanation in line with his character development.
While I was prepared for Eko’s death and Ben’s spinal tumor from various spoilers, Juliet’s treacherous Cue Card Message came totally out of left field. Blew me away. Of course Jack’s whole dilemma at this point is whom and what to believe: is there really deathly dissent among the Others, or are Ben and Juliet conspiring to create the appearance of dissent so as to sway his surgical sympathies towards Ben? After all, Ben did say that he wanted Jack to want to operate. On the other hand, certain third-person scenes have shown Ben and Juliet in a subtle power struggle with each other, so she could be upping the ante behind his back. If indeed her cue cards were sincere, Juliet says in her silent message that Ben is a dangerous liar — but this audaciously murderous plan shows her as being fairly dangerous too, as Sawyer pointed out in the previous episode. This should make for an interesting three-pointed conflict as Jack makes his decision.
Subterfuge or no, I really do enjoy Ben’s candor with Jack. His spiel about the whole plan to “break” Jack with an inculcation of emotional investment was an excellent extension of the Of Mice and Men allusion, i.e. “the best laid plans.” One nugget of insight: the plane crash wasn’t a deliberate act carried out by the Others. If the “book club” teaser didn’t put that theory to rest, then Ben’s own profession of the plane crash as a fortuitous act of God should — it wasn’t something he expected to happen.
Yeah, yeah, Pearl Station, Eyepatch Guy, Paulo using the toilet, etc., etc. Thanks to the writers for actually throwing in a few lines to clarify that Paulo and Nikki aren’t part of the “inner circle” that Arzt previously complained about, and throwing them that bone via Locke’s new leadership ethic of inclusiveness. It’s a far better way to introduce the characters than that whiny start Nikki got earlier. Why do I get the feeling that Paulo and Nikki are there as amalgamations of Shannon, Boone, and Ana Lucia, though?