Can Lost Pay the Piper?

I'm probably well past due to pontificate on this season of Lost now that it's back for the final run. Seasons one and two came out last summer on Blu-Ray and I convinced Karin to watch all of it up to date so I watched the first five seasons again last fall and therefore I'm pretty current on events in the show. I would imagine there might well be spoilers below, consider yourself forewarned.

I was really unsure about the new "flash sideways" at first and as usual it took a couple of episodes to put my finger on the issue. I found it difficult to care about this new storyline. They've changed enough that we can't really assume anything carries over, and although the characters seem to be similar I think that's a false assumption: something the writers are deliberately lulling us into thinking. For example: if Locke isn't angry at his father and is still seeing Helen then is he at all the same character we already know?

Then as a few more episodes aired I began to see what was happening. The "LA timeline" is showing us what happens to these people if the island doesn't exert any influence on the world past 1977. At first I was thinking that we were just seeing them without Jacob's influence (the visits we saw at the end of season five), but it goes deeper than that. Hurley didn't meet Jacob until after the plane crash for example but if the island sinks then the numbers aren't broadcast and therefore Hurley never hears them and won the lottery through random chance, not because he (thinks he) is cursed.

Jacob's influence on some of the characters can be seen as major and when I reflect on those visits they begin to look a little sinister. Buying Kate that lunchbox means she doesn't learn consequences. Giving young Sawyer that pen means he finishes his letter: a letter that warps and dominates his entire life. Maybe Jacob saved Sayyid's life but it seems at least as reasonable to say that Jacob caused Nadia to be in the intersection. Others are less clear. His interaction with Jack seems perfunctory and Locke is debatable. Karin thought Locke was dead and Jacob brought him back to life. I'm less sure that happened but otherwise it is difficult to read much into the Locke/Jacob interaction. I'm tempted to say that Jacob told Locke everything would be alright and that caused Locke to not accept his new situation but I think that might be looking too hard. Certainly in the "LA timeline" Locke is more accepting of negative events and I think he is clearly happier than he was otherwise.

I'm really curious to see Kate's story in the alternate timeline: my guess is that she's on the run for something less grim and possibly that she really is innocent (as she asks Claire if Claire would believe).

One thing I'll guarantee you: this is about good and evil but I don't think Jacob is all that is good and the Nemesis is pure evil. Jacob is smug and manipulative and seems perfectly willing to sacrifice people to advance his goals. Meanwhile the Nemesis makes an argument that all he wants to do is leave the island and Jacob is keeping him prisoner. There is in fact quite a lot of evidence that points to Jacob containing the Nemesis on the island. For the first few seasons it appears the Nemesis was contained in the cabin, ringed in by ash. Of course, the smoke monster was able to roam the island freely and in guises as Yemi and Christian Shepherd but perhaps he was more constrained then. (As an aside that's a rule that works wonderfully: The Nemesis is able to assume the appearance of people who died off the island and had their body brought there: Yemi, Christian, and later John Locke.)

My last theory? I think both Rousseau and Claire actually died before they went feral. I think it happened to Rousseau offscreen, and it happened to Claire when Keamy's men destroyed the house she was in. She seemed remarkably unharmed from that incident but she was weird and distant after that and soon disappeared. For some reason the Nemesis has the ability to raise the recently dead in some conditions. I think we'll learn more about that soon. This means Sayyid, Claire, and Rousseau all have the same sort of condition applying to them. This is pretty clearly drawn with Claire looking and acting so much like Rousseau and the explicit connection Dogen makes between Claire and Sayyid.

Those last two theories bring one interesting point: the Nemesis seems to have taken the form of Alex when Ben was in the temple. According to my taxonomy Alex wouldn't be a form he could assume, Alex would be somebody that possibly got brought back to life and was "infected" - thus more like Sayyid or Claire then Yemi or Christian. I'll be interested to see if we see any more of Alex in season six. (If we do it will likely be in a Ben-centric story. A "live" Alex would probably cause Ben to switch allegiance from the Illana camp to the Nemesis camp.)