Is he a farmer? Is he a hunter? Who really gives? He’s John Locke, he has a sweat lodge, and he is a badass.
— “Further Instructions” is a strange episode. Let’s start with the good.
— It’s so refreshing to see Locke return to form: consulting the Island for guidance, throwing knives, tracking wild animals, saving people from certain doom.
— The first ten to fifteen minutes feature Locke without a voice; whatever happened in the Hatch blew his damn voice out. So he speaks with rudimentary sign language and cue cards. All he needs is that damn orange peel smile and he would be absolutely perfect.
— Locke’s vision in the sweat lodge is fantastic. My pal Brian Phares laments that after season one, LOST lost some of its signature trippy visionary juice. I don’t think that’s totally true, and “Further Instructions” is a testament to that. We get to see Boone again, albeit with an awful haircut. We go back to the Sydney Airport, and everyone is paired off in ways that either speak to their current situation, or foreshadow their upcoming dilemmas. (“They’ll be fine … for a while,” Boone says of Charlie and Claire. “For a while” is actually pretty short for Charlie, but he ain’t wrong about Claire, either.) When Locke emerges from the vision and the sweat lodge, he stands, knife in hand, and knows what his purpose is.
— LOCKE: "I’m going to save … Mister Eko’s life."
— Shout-out to the Smoke Monster, who is totally operating via Boone in this scene, telling Locke to clean up his own mess, instructing him to go get Eko. Monster Man wants one last run at Eko; if he fails the final test, he’s done. More on that tomorrow.
— Shout-out to Naked Desmond and Tie-Dye Desmond.
— Shout-out to Time-Travel Desmond and my nerd Hurley for starting to put that sci-fi shit together.
— Shout-out to Charlie Pace’s new mullet; it’s gross but kind of great at the same time.
— Shout-out to the hilariously clumsy way Nikki and Paolo are introduced to LOST. These two are terrible but their existence is responsible for “Expose,” one of my favorite episodes of the series. Nikki and Paolo are the collective butt of one of the series’ greatest jokes.
— Okay, so now for the bad, and really, it’s just the flashback.
— Just like the numbers, the “Further Instructions” flashback is baaaad. The only redeeming quality is that it features John Locke as a pot farmer, and that’s sort of a hilarious concept. But it’s absolutely worthless otherwise. There’s no reason for it. It doesn’t advance Locke and his story one iota. There’s nothing we learn here that we couldn’t learn in a better-constructed sequence.
— The whole point of it is to get down to a very simple question about Locke: is he a farmer, or is he a hunter? Is he a good man, or a bad one?
— That question, which is certainly important to the mystique of Locke and the driving force behind his often questionable actions, doesn’t need to be asked here, or at least not in this way.
— ”Further Instructions” is a vision quest for Locke. The Island tells him what to do through this bizarre, surreal airport sequence. Then he goes out and he does it. And I keep coming back to that. That scene is so damn good. So pleasing. So weird and wonderful and positively LOST.
— It would have been so weird and wonderful and positively LOST if the visions were the flashbacks for this episode.
— After all, John is tripping balls, straight-up. Dude smashes up the paste stuff that he gave to Boone back in "Hearts and Minds," and swallows a big chunk of it. He has his vision, it lasts however long — probably only a few minutes if Charlie was patient enough to stand guard the entire time — and when Locke is through it, he’s done tripping balls.
— I wish the whole episode was Locke tripping balls. Seeing visions of the past, visions of the future, visions of whatever the Island (and Smokey McSmokesalot) wanted to show him. It’s not like LOST hasn’t messed around with format before; see “The Other 48 Days,” “Maternity Leave” and “Three Minutes” for more.
— Maybe the lesson was learned. Later in the season, we get “The Brig,” which flashes back to parts of Locke’s Island experience we hadn’t seen before. Maybe the writers looked at “Further Instructions” and thought, “Yeah, wow, that pot farmer shit was weird. We can’t do that again.”
— Because, really. The pot farmer shit was weird. Doesn’t hold up at all.
— Everything else about “Further Instructions” is great, but the flashback does a hell of a job keeping this episode from being one of the greats.
— “Every Man for Himself” suffers from a similar problem. The flashback ain’t really worth a damn. It’s better than “Further Instructions,” but it’s still sort of pointless.
— The idea of James Ford in prison is fantastic. The execution? Boring. What, we really need to see Sawyer pull off another con? Every Sawyer episode has to feature a confidence scheme? Come oooon.
— And I do believe this is the final Sawyer flashback, not counting “La Fleur,” which makes it an extra bummer that the Sawyer-in-Prison story wasn’t pulled off better.
— But there are some worthwhile things here. Namely, we learn about Clementine, Sawyer’s daughter that he never knew he had. He puts all of the money he earns from this latest con into a secret account for Clementine, and makes sure she can never learn who she got the money from. It’s a sweet moment. I like sweet Sawyer.
— Plus, the flashback has Mack from Predator and Javier from Felicity, so it can’t be all bad.
— The on-Island stuff doesn’t fare much better. There’s the great “do you love him” beatdown, and the panicked “yes I love him” reply. There’s Ben shaking the bunny and earning the nickname Captain Bunny Killer. There’s the introduction of Ben’s whooping stick. There’s the “Of Mice and Men” banter. There’s the revelation that Hydra is a smaller island just off the greater Island. There’s Paolo playing golf, and you bros know I love LOST golf. There’s Desmond using a golf club to make sure Charlie doesn’t get electrocuted, more proof for Hurley’s time-travel theory.
— But there’s also the pacemaker plot and it’s pretty boring.
— You know, the first six episodes of season three are considered a bit of a hump. As of this writing, I have watched the first six episodes. (You get my blog on “Cost of Living” and “I Do” tomorrow, if I can get my damn self back on schedule here.) I really think it’s just these middle two that are kind of meh. “Further Instructions” is great minus the flashback, and “Every Man for Himself” is straight-up meh. But “Tale of Two Cities” is lovely, “Glass Ballerina” has some awesome stuff, and “Cost” and “I Do” are totally epic.
— It’s these middle two that give this first six-episode chunk a bad rep. Good to know.
— Tomorrow, Eko ain’t apologizing for shit and Mal Reynolds hits the beach.
NEXT: "The Cost of Living" and "I Do"