At the time this episode aired, I was really excited about it. And after the teaser, I was beginning to think we were getting somewhere. But now that we near the end, it really seems like a lot of what we got in '316' was nothing but a great big teaser--- promising answers and giving none.
In the opening minutes, Mrs. Hawking takes those who showed up to yet another Dharma station, located at the basement of the church: the Lamppost. Then she gives a brief lecture (done while dodging a pendulum; very impressive I'll admit) about how the Dharma Initiative founded and how they searched for the island. Problem is, we never got a follow through on any of it. How did they find about the island in the first place? How did they come with the equation? Who was the clever man who came up with it? These questions were never answered, and looking back on it, that's objectionable. Then Desmond, who's been observing this as if he were the only sane man in the asylum (which he is, actually) says he can't believe they want to go back to the island. Furthermore, when he tells Hawking that her son is in grave danger, she doesn't even look surprised. Then he tells them he lost four years of his life (actually, it's three plus a couple of months, but still...) because of this woman, and that they're just pieces in a game, and no one reacts. The only person who seems disturbed is Hawking, who tells him the island isn't done with him, something Desmond just shrugs off before storming out. I got to admit, even now, I'm still with Des, but he didn't know what was coming next for him. Hell, why is Eloise doing all this, if she never had any intention of going to the island with them?
Finally, Hawking tells them they have to go back on Ajira Flight 316, and they must--- to the best of their ability--- recreate the flight. For Jack, this means he has to take Locke's body as a proxy for his father's and must put something of Christian's on it. Then we get yet another tease--- Jack is drinking in a bar, and he gets a call from the rest home where his grandfather Ray has just tried to make a little run from. (It should be noting, though, in this scene, Jack gets a long much better with Ray then he ever did with his father.) While unpacking he finds a pair of Christian's shoes, and takes them with him. Again, we thought that there was something significant about Ray since he was part of the Shephard line, like Aaron. But since it seems clear that Aaron was yet another red herring, it doesn't seem like this meant anything either (though through it, we did at least solve the mystery of why Christian was always seen on the island in tennis shoes)
Speaking of Aaron, Kate shows up at Jack's house, exhausted and without Aaron. She tells Jack that she's willing to go with him, but refuses to say why or what she has done with Aaron. They have sex, but there's no passion it at all. We'll find out what shifted Kate's thinking later in the season, but her role will be that of more of skeptic--- she's becoming Jack, and Jack's starting to think like Locke.
As always, the most memorable confrontation in this episode comes between Jack and Locke, even though at the time Locke is in a coffin. Somehow, Hawking has Locke's suicide note (again, no explanation as to how she got it) and gives it to Jack, for it is addressed to him. Jack doesn't want to open. Then, despite everything he's been through the last few months, despite everything that has led him to this moment, he has these doubts, and apparently can't resist one last chance to talk down to his greatest opponent. Even after putting Christian's shoes on Locke's feet, he can't resist the urge and puts it on Locke's body. Then, due to distraction at the claims desks, the notes ends up back in his hands again. Finally, hours later, he opens it. All it has are seven words: "Jack, I wish you had believed me." The amount of shock that just rolls over his face is astonishing. Even though he was dead at the moment of their confrontation, Locke still managed to get the last word in.
At Ajira, Sayid and Hurley both show up, only Sayid is in handcuffs, and is being guarded by a mysterious woman. Hurley is there, carrying a guitar case (we don't know how it got there), and he is very careful to buy up every empty seat on the flight. He may not be fully committed to this, but he doesn't want anyone else to die.
Hanging over this like a shadow, as always, is Ben. He says next to nothing at the Lamppost, and then we see him with his hands folded at an altar in the church (I'd say he was praying, but I don't think Ben believes in anything.) He tells the story of Thomas the apostle to Jack, telling him that belief is the hardest thing of all, and he may be honest about this, but I'm betting his mind is elsewhere. After all, his last words are to say that he's going to 'tie up a loose end', and since he just saw Desmond, he knows Penny Widmore is nearby. We don't see the confrontation, but judging from the condition he's in when he gets on the plane (honestly, if Ben doesn't look beat-up during a season, it just looks wrong) , things may have worked against him. But considering all the epic effort he put in to getting them to this moment, he seems remarkably blasé by the time the flight is airborne. When Jack asks him what happens to the other passengers when they hit their window, he simply says: "Who cares?" Ben has apparently stopped giving a damn about innocent bystanders after what happened to Alex. And ten hours into the flight, he's calmly and coolly reading Ulysses. (That's a book that I wouldn't read no matter how long the flight) When Jack, who is nervous as hell, asks how he can read, he answers, "My mother taught me," which is, of course, another lie. (Ben's mother died in childbirth.) Considering he's about to return to an island he's spent years trying to get back too, how can he be so calm?
They may be trying to recreate Oceanic 815, and there are certain elements. Jack is in a suit with a body in tow. Kate is wearing a jacket that looks like the one she was wearing on the plane. Sayid is in handcuffs, which makes up for Kate being free. Sun is along, but has Jin's wedding ring (a stand in). Hurley is carrying a guitar case, which may stand-in for Charlie, and is reading a Spanish comic book, like he was on the plane (or it could be a stand in for Walt) And who is flying this particular plane? Frank Lapidus, who's cleaned up since the freighter. (He may not be a believer yet, but he knows something's up: when he sees Jack and the others on this plane, he utters the classic line, "We're not going to Guam are we?" Well put.)
Then, ten hours in, they hit some turbulence. Hurley has the presence of mind to tell the other passengers, "you might want to buckle up." There is a flash of light--- and Jack wakes up the jungle. Hurley and Kate are there, but there's no sign of the plane, Sayid, Sun, Ben, or any other passengers. Then they hear music, and a van with the Dharma sign drives over--- and it's being driven by Jin. What the heck?
A lot of the questions that come to mind are never going to be answered, which ultimately makes '316', despite the appearance of revelations, something of a disappointment in what has been a strong season so far. There were so many loose end, that despite the final revelation (which I have to say, was a lot more of what I'd come to expect of J.J. Abrams other show Alias) made me feel that we'd killed a lot of time, when we could've got some frigging answers. Mrs. Hawking had been such a promising character, but her role in this series would never be adequately explained. What makes the episode work at all is Matthew Fox's performance. Some people complained that Jack was always the hardest character of the group to get behind, but there are few actors who could have seemed so brilliant as him in scene after scene. From the look of hope on his face when he awakens in the jungle to the one of despair when he opens Locke's suicide note, this was Emmy worthy work. We're about to make an even longer trip than we thought, and he's not going to be at all where he thought he would.