TV Club

Season 6: Invasion of the body snatchers

Jack, Chad: How do you feel about zombies? More realistic than alternate universes? Metaphorically richer than time travel? It seems Lost has introduced a little body snatching into the mix.

It began last week with Locke, who no longer seems to be Locke. And now we’re told—by our Japanese-speaking, baseball-fondling temple honcho—that Sayid has been “claimed.” Some outside entity is slowly usurping his body. It’s worse for Claire: This “darkness” has claimed her completely.

The terrifying thought of human bodies as inhabitable husks has been around for some time. On film, it’s at least as old as the 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And it’s an enduring theme—we can trace it from Night of the Living Dead in 1968 to 28 Days Later in 2003. It pops up again, with a more technological angle, in Dollhouse (which got canceled a couple of weeks ago).

Sometimes the human husk is zombified into a gnashing beast with no higher-level reasoning skills. Other times it’s hard to tell precisely what, if anything, has changed—you just know there’s something not quite right about your friend. It’s this latter version of the husk concept that I find much creepier and more interesting. It leaves you guessing at every moment: Is that real Locke or smoke-monster Locke? Was that Claire coolly firing those rifle rounds or some creature controlling her limbs? Opportunities for ambiguity and suspense abound.

On the suspension-of-disbelief chart, I think you have to rank body snatching as incrementally less absurd than time travel. Amazingly, though, Kate is dumbfounded by the notion of Sayid coming back from the dead. “How is that even possible?” she asks. Um, honey, you were thrown back in time 30 years. You have witnessed the existence of a man-eating smoke monster. You’ve seen an Indian actor ably portray an Iraqi dude for going on six seasons now. All this hasn’t opened up your mind even a smidgeon?

But wait, what’s that I smell? I think it’s Shafer bait! The writers will surely use this latest trick as a means of tying loose plot strings back together, don’t you think? Why did [insert implausible and inexplicable plot turn] happen back in [insert season]? Because that wasn’t Ben—it was zombie Ben! And zombie Juliet! They were all zombies! You just didn’t know it at the time!

Zombies aside, what did we learn this week? I think we continued to learn that life in the universe where Oceanic 815 lands safely at LAX is eerily bending toward the same outcomes as life in the universe where the plane crashes. Last week we saw Dr. Jack suggesting he could help Locke walk again. This week we saw Kate looking poised to play a role in baby Aaron’s life.

And of course the show unveiled the biggest shockers in its history: One of the temple henchmen is Mac from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia! OK, he first showed up on Lost a couple of seasons ago (as he reminds Kate, who cracked him in the skull with a rifle butt back then). But it was still jarring to see him out of context, looking like he’d walked over from the Renaissance Fair in his buckskin vest. I kept expecting him to pull a plastic baggie out of his pocket and start huffing glue while quaffing beer from a keg cup.

Assignments: 1) Chad, please explain how the Abraham and Isaac story, as recounted in Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, relates to all the father-son Sturm und Drang that seems to infest the Lost mythology. 2) Jack, please swallow the foul-smelling pill I have placed on your desk—over there, to the left of your keyboard. Down the hatch. You’ll just have to trust me on this.

Previously on Lost: What Kate Does