Jen liked it. I didn’t. I can’t think of another episode of “LOST” where our opinions so clearly diverged. Jen felt the show was finally putting out after playing hard to get for so long, and liked that nagging questions were finally addressed. I thought the whole episode was awkwardly paced, poorly written, and amounted to an embarassing stumble in what has otherwise been a surprisingly strong season. Yes, some very big reveals were served up, and for those starved for answers, “The Cost of Living” was probably filling. I just wish it could be more filet mignon, and less Big Mac. And with the promos for next week’s half-season finale unabashedly proclaiming it the best episode ever, I’m very, very worried.
Mr. Eko died. And suddenly, he was a bad person and deserved his violent fate. Up until now, his presumed journey toward redemption was nuanced and dramatic. His drastic switch to evil tonight was jarring and rushed. There are rumors that Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje wanted off the show (or was no longer wanted on it), and perhaps Mr. Eko’s demise was neccessarily abrupt. They went down the checklist: Why was he in London? Why was he inspired to build a church? Even so, of all the character deaths so far, the end of Mr. Eko’s story arc was immensely unsatisfying. Even if the real world forced the hand of the show’s creators, I expected better.
Perhaps Mr. Eko’s backstory and death was unceremoniously shoved into an otherwise promising episode. And indeed, what transpired on the island was significant. But even those moments seemed uneven. Drastic editing, or poor writing? I’d guess the former, but what made it to the screen hints at the latter.
All right, all right, let’s start with the juicy stuff.
We see the smoke monster. There’s nothing hidden and mysterious about it now it looms large and kicks ass. And Mr. Eko’s conversation with Locke about what each saw confirms the tantalizing doublespeak by Damon and Carlton a while back, implying that “the monster” doesn’t look the same to everyone. Locke adds a bright, white light to his previous description of something immensely beautiful. But the creature that stalked and finally executed Mr. Eko was very much the opposite.
We get a peek into yet another station, this one containing a man with an eye patch.
We learn, as suspected, that Ben is dying, that Jack has the upper hand, that Juliet’s resemblance to Sarah was no coincidence, and above all, that Juliet dislikes Ben enough to enlist a near stranger to end his reign and his life.
There were little things I liked, too. I imagine only Michael Emerson could deliver the line “shot to sunshine” and still appear menacing. Ben’s exchange with Jack about believing in god was surprisingly effective. And while the funeral scene and its white tunics was bizarre, a random oldies tune always makes things all right. And it implies our Others have some kind of spiritual bent… or Viking link.
Nikki and Paolo? They truly make me want to kick over the television. Their lines are so contrived, it’s almost like they were superimposed on the episode like “Clippit,” spelling things out like we’re all idiots. That scene in The Pearl where she points out the other monitors, and Locke goes “D’oh!” was about as painful as any I’ve seen in this show.
But even some of our old friends seemed to be missing their usual grace. Hurley is used to spell out exactly why Locke isn’t like Jack in the inclusiveness department. Locke responds to the man in the eye patch with a cheesy quip (“I guess he’ll be expecting us!”) that would’ve made the late, great Jerry Orbach wince. Sayid just seemed dopey, dropped in primarily to be told, “Don’t confuse coincidence with fate.”
And the way in which Juliet got her secret message to Jack? I suppose it was clever. But I wasn’t feeling it. Along with everything else, it seemed about as subtle as a Mack truck.
True, “The Cost of Living” is the lead-in to the half-season finale, and traditionally, those episodes have been weak… basically a catch-all bin to put down some markers in advance of the big show. I guess to really appreciate next week’s episode, we basically needed to know that Juliet wants Ben dead, that there’s another station with a creepy man inside, and that the smoke monster is back. And now we know, and now we wait.
Whew. To be fair, Jen’s busy writing her NaNoWriMo novel right now, so obviously this analysis is biased quite strongly in my grumpy-ass favor. I’d earnestly love to hear from those of you who loved “The Cost of Living.” Because I’d rather think I just missed the point and got it wrong, than think “LOST” could take such a wrong turn.