Well, that didn't take nearly as long as I thought it was going to. After only six episodes, the survivors look to be largely reunited. The narrative continues to barrel ahead this season, so much so that there's less to time to dig into any one element. What's clear is that the creators have a lot of story they still want to get out.
The Happenings: After last week's episode spent jumping back and forth between Island and mainland, "316" took place wholly in the present day. We open with a flash-forward. Jack, Kate and Hurley awaken to find that they are back on the island. Things then jump back 46 hours as we see Jack, Ben and Sun arriving at Eloise's cathedral, where they were led to a secret Dharma lab. Their host explains that the lab was built on top of a strange electromagnetic signal that Dharma realized could help them locate the Island. More specifically, a smart man realized that the lab (and it's arcana) could provide the future coordinates of the Island. Eloise provides the group with a flight number (316) they must be on, from LA to Guam. The carrier? Ajira Airways. And don't worry, if you have questions, they have a helpful web site to explain.
The group each goes their separate ways to prepare for their flight. Jack, after speaking with Eloise, learns he must place something of his father's (that would be Christian) on Locke's body, which will be traveling Ajira as well. Jack eventually returns home to find Kate waiting for him. Something has happened to Aaron, though she won't say what, and she has now decided to go back to the Island as well. Jack also receives a call from Ben, who asks Jack to escort Locke's body to the plane as he won't be able to. Ben is bloody and appears to have been beaten.
When Jack, Kate, Sun and Locke's body arrive at the airport, they find that Sayid and Hurley have also decided to take the same flight — though Sayid appears to be under the escort of a U.S. Marshal. The board the plane, and Ben rushes to get on at the last moment. In the air, they learn that their pilot is another former friend, Frank Lepidus. After holding onto it the whole episode, Jack finally opens what we've been told is Locke's suicide note. It simply reads: "Jack, I wish you had believed. JL"
The plane begins to go down, there's a flash of light, and we're back on the island. The episode ends with Jin driving up in the VW Bus to find Jack, Hurley and Kate.
The Craziness: Eloise alludes to several "electromagnetic disturbances" around the globe, the strongest of which was the Island.
As he is storming out of the room, Eloise tells Desmond that the Island is not done with him yet.
The return plan devised by Eloise contains a great deal of uncertainty, but also implied volition on the part of the Island. She tells Jack that the group must recreate their original encounter with the Island as closely as possible, and only then will their odds of returning increase.
While waiting for the plane, Hurley reads a copy of "Y: El Ultimo Hombre," a Spanish edition of "Lost" writer Brian K. Vaughn's "Y: The Last Man." Ben reads James Joyce's "Ulysses" while waiting for the plane to go down.
This is, if I'm not mistaken, the first we've heard that Locke committed suicide. Indeed, even Jack seemed surprised. The method, which we actually see in the teaser for next week's episode, was hanging.
The Verdict: More so than most "Lost" episodes, "316" seemed to fly. Perhaps it was the lack of any narrative jumping, or perhaps it was an intentional construction to keep our heads spinning too fast to ask too many questions. In any event, we got hit with a good amount of information upfront, though it's amazing to me how they're able to seemingly explain things, but once we've moved on it feels like we don't actually know much more than we did at the start. We also got to spend time with good old Dr. Shepherd, who remains one of the more consistently enjoyable characters on the show.
We'll likely get a much better idea of where things are headed next week as the entire crew of survivors will presumably be reunited. The many agendas that were introduced in "This Place Is Death" were not touched on here explicitly, though they should come back in a big way soon.
The Wild Speculation: We did get a handful of answers to my four big questions from last week. First, Locke was alive back on the mainland, and had contact with at least some of the crew. We can also probably assume that he and Ben spoke, and that Ben acquired the ring from John's hand (whether through force, or after John's death is up in the air). Though we saw her a good bit in the early going, we really don't know much more about Eloise. Her association with Ben seemed less than friendly, but she ultimately did help the group return to the Island. The biggest question though still remains, why the hell go back?
This episode also served to set up a handful of other story lines to be explored through the end of this season. Why is Sayid being taken onto the plane in cuffs? Who convinced Hurley to participate? It clearly wasn't Ben, as Hurley freaks when Ben arrives on the plane. And juiciest of all, who beat the hell out of Ben? He's cleaned up some by the time he gets to the plane, but he's certainly not looking good.