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Lost Recap: Season 3, Episode 5, “The Cost of Living”

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Lost Recap: Season 3, Episode 5, “The Cost of Living”

Call it a coincidence, call it karma, call it the weirdest grand design imaginable, but if there’s one thing you can take away from Lost it’s that the show has no tolerance for moving violations.

Fellow “Tailies” Ana-Lucia (Michelle Rodriguez) and Libby (Cynthia Watros) were arrested for DUI, and eerily, their characters both got written out of the show. Last night’s episode “The Cost of Living” said good-bye to the mysterious and always fascinating Eko, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), who was busted for driving without a license. The charges were dropped, yet after Eko spent much of last night’s episode wrestling with his personal demons over murders he committed in his previous life as a priest/drug runner and eventually coming to terms with his actions, he fell victim to a really pissed-off, mechanized cloud of black smoke and got tossed around like a rag doll until his pulverized body finally expired, but not before offering a parting warning that the rest of the castaways “were next.” Is Lost sponsored by Geico?

More than perhaps any other show on television Lost uses its enormous ensemble like chess pieces, sacrificing characters strategically, using the scent of fresh blood to renew interest among increasingly restless viewers. Everyone remembers last season’s shocking double-killing of Ana-Lucia and Libby by Michael (Harold Perrineau); what they’re less likely to remember is that the massacre came after weeks of middling, hatch-centric episodes where plot advancement was held at a premium. But Eko’s death has to be especially troubling for fans of the show, and not just because this was the only episode of the season where he’s actually done anything. So many of the characters on Lost are easily pigeonholed by their genre-ready back-stories, which often feel as they’re writing themselves, falling into familiar grooves of self-destructive behavior. But Eko, either by virtue of Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s performance or the show’s writers keeping their cards close to their vest, never had a chance to become predictable. Often pitted against Locke (Terry O’Quinn) as a man of resolute faith in the face of mounting skepticism, Eko was one of the bright spots of a show that seems to lose some of its luster with each passing season. He will be greatly missed.

But hey, on the plus side at least we have Nikki (Kiele Sanchez) and Paulo (Rodrigo Santoro) to pick up the slack, right? The new season’s most insufferable new additions keep inching their way closer to the spotlight with this episode. Now that all those pesky “Alpha characters” have been hijacked by the “Others,” its time for the dental hygienist and the soccer player (alright, I’m just guessing that that’s their respective professions) to shine. And what better way for the show to accomplish that than by making the rest of the cast look like blithering idiots?

Somehow Locke, who spent days obsessively re-drawing the map of Dharma’s numerous hatch stations, and Sayid, who seems only minutes away from building a coconut radio, failed to make the connection that the dozens of television monitors on the wall might be for other observation chambers, but the cute blonde with the scrunched-up face figures it out just by picking up on the fact that the orientation video refers to “stations.” As in stations plural, something which should have been patently obvious to everyone else in that room. At one point Locke sheepishly asks, “Why am I suddenly feeling stupid?” I dunno John, maybe the writers are just having an off week.

Meanwhile on nearby “Others island,” cute couple in the making Jack (Matthew Fox) and Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell) appear to be conspiring to kill Ben (Michael Emerson) and make it look like an accident. We’ve known for weeks now that these two are highly dysfunctional even by the standards of most ex-lovers forced to work together, but Juliet’s plan to have Jack kill Ben while operating on the tumor on his spine is positively fiendish. Ben comes across as genuinely vulnerable in this episode, admitting to Jack he’d planned on toying with him till Jack was “broken” but now must depend on his captive’s humanity simply to survive. Ben, and the rest of the “Others” have done nothing but mislead and control the castaways since they first laid eyes on them and I have no reason to believe there isn’t an element of that in the power struggle going on between potential surgeon and his patient. I do feel convinced however that Ben is legitimately ill (we witness a private conversation between him and Juliet that could not have been for Jack’s benefit) and even under the best of circumstances he’s giving an awful lot of power to Jack by calling upon him to help. Will Jack use his newly acquired position of influence to barter for his freedom or will he do the “Lost thing” and merely negotiate for a visit with Kate and Sawyer (this is the sort of show where you feel like everyone comes away with a pocket full of magic beans).

I certainly don’t trust Juliet and Jack would be a fool to as well. He seems to have been dropped into the middle of some nasty internal strife and until he gets a better sense of what everyone’s real agenda is he’d be wise to remain a free agent, fielding offers from both sides for the time being. Still, in a show known for doubling and sometimes tripling back on itself, what do we make of the scene where Juliet plays a video for Jack where she’s been taped silently relaying messages on large cards (“Subterranean Homesick Blues” style) that say “ignore everything I’m saying” while at the same time vocalizing, “I want you to trust me.” Is it any wonder these people are so confused?

But no issue remains more muddled than the island’s “security system” which receives more attention in this episode than in any previous one. In a touch that reminds me of the magic tree from The Empire Strikes Back we get the impression that the menacing snake of smoke also manifests itself as the embodiment of your darkest fears and regrets, which in this instance is Eko’s dead brother Yemi (Adetokumboh M’Cormack) and a group of dismembered militia members Eko had personally dispatched. Just as Locke had once before stared down the “beast” and lived to tell about it, Eko too had appeared to be safe from the still undefined apparition. Yet just as it did to Locke, the “creature” turned on him with fatal results.

If we are to believe the visions of Yemi are connected to the “security system” then we can likely attribute Eko’s death to his lack of contrition when confronted about his “sinful” past. Believing that he has lived a just life no matter how much blood is on his hands, Eko refuses to confess any sins to the man he believes is his priest brother. Yet, with Eko before him on bended knee, “Yemi” scowls, “you speak to me as if I were your brother,” walking away and no doubt sealing Eko’s fate. Is the “security system” the moral compass of the island and would Eko still be alive if he’d only humbled himself a bit? I don’t expect a direct answer any time soon but it’s an intriguing wrinkle to this admittedly bizarre facet of the show.

Next week: the last new episode of Lost till 2007 (or the “fall season finale” as it’s being cynically promoted). Will Jack operate on Ben, and if so will he follow his Hippocratic Oath? Will we get some gratuitous, but no doubt cathartic, prison sex between Sawyer and Kate? Will the show have the guts to kill off another favorite character to make sure we all come back for February sweeps? Let’s just hope nobody swerves across a double yellow line while under the influence. They might be the next island funeral.