So... first thing's first. Charles Widmore is a frakkin' Other. Now, I'm not usually one to mind spoilers -- I don't watch things for shock value or twist endings, so spoilers don't actually "spoil" the narrative for me -- but since losing interest in Lost over the last two seasons, I've stopped looking up information about the show... and boy am I glad I did. It never even crossed my mind that Widmore was an Other -- which certainly sheds light on his extended Mexican standoff with Ben. Both men claim that the island belongs to them, and they are the rightful owner. So, to put this in perspective, Widmore has been on the island since 1954 (possibly when he was in his early 20s), where eight-year-old Ben doesn't join the Dharma Initiative until the 1970s. I'm still not certain on who the Others' leader is in 1954, but it's clear that Richard doesn't age and that he answers to Jacob. So Locke replaces Ben, but who does Ben replace in the chain of command? Certainly not Richard, considering their civil relationship later on. (Of course, "later" is relative.)
This brings me to the second most interesting point in the show... the exchange between Richard and Locke. It explains why Richard showed up at the hospital when Ben was born, and it gives us an insight as to why the Others had been "waiting" for Locke when he first encountered them and why they were so in awe of him. (For those of you trying to keep track, the Others have always been the Others. They've never switched sides. Ben, however, did. He switched from being part of Dharma -- after mass genocide -- to being part of the Others. But remember, the Others of 1954 were originally referred to as the Hostiles because of their attacks on Dharma. We thought there were two separate Others camps -- Ben's and Richard's -- but Ben only takes over the Hostiles/Others as his own.)
But here's my question... does Richard actually age? Is he immortal? I have been assuming that he time travels or that the rules Faraday laid out don't apply to him. But judging from Juliet's (annoyingly) evasive answer to Sawyer's inquiry, we can infer that "he's really old" actually means that he doesn't age. In the episode "The Man Behind the Curtain," Ben says the creepy line, "It's a birthday present. You do remember birthdays, don't you?" So perhaps Richard stopped aging once coming to the island in or around 1954...? He used to age, but now he doesn't -- and hasn't for a long time.
By the way, can I just mention how much I love Nestor Carbonell? He is a thousand times more engaging than Ben (though I do love Ben, his story arc was a bit silly last season), and Carbonell leaves so much ambiguity in his scenes that he really brings a strong presence to a small role. This episode really benefitted from omitting the Oceanic 6 and focusing on Desmond, Faraday, and Locke. Can we pretty please have more episodes on the island, rather than off? This time travel business -- with my favorite characters, including Miles! -- is infinitely more interesting than people trying to get back to the island.
And now for some mad Desmond love... I don't consider myself a shallow person or one to really focus on physical attributes of TV actors (I'm in for the character development -- honestly!), I have to admit that Henry Ian Cusick was looking damn fine during this episode. His Oxford outfit -- a blazer, a scarf, those matching fuchsia-purple shades -- looked extremely hot on an already dead sexy actor. I could hardly control myself during his scenes. He has to be one of the most beautiful actors I can think of.
But on to more important things... I think Alan Sepinwall really sums up my feelings in his episode recap:
And they are absolutely going to give me a heart attack waiting for something bad to happen to Desmond, or Penny, or both. It's amazing how this couple who've had a tiny sliver of the shared screen time compared to any combination of the Jack/Kate/Sawyer triangle, or of Jin/Sun, have become the romantic pairing I care most about. That's a testament to Henry Ian Cusick and Sonya Walger's performances, and to the brilliant heartstring-yanking climax of "The Constant," and to the way their story seems so integral to what the show is revealing itself to be about. I felt moved by the childbirth scene, even though I've seen variations on that about 9,000 times over the years, and I misted up a bit when I found out they'd named their son after Charlie (whose life Desmond had worked so hard to save, and whose sacrifice helped Penny find Desmond).Indeed, it just breaks my heart knowing that this wonderful couple is heading for a less than happy ending. I don't think either of them will die -- I refuse to believe the writers would be so cruel (KILL KATE, ahem, KILL KATE) -- but I would feel the same level of heartache I feel when HAL sings "Daisy" while being disconnected. There is such truth, such honest emotion in the Desmond-Penny coupling that I need them to have a happy ending. And yet, she agrees to go to LA with Des... where a certain evil man is waiting to avenge his daughter's death... But between this episode and "The Constant," Desmond is definitely the central figure at my favorite episodes of Lost. Besides being unbearably handsome, Henry Ian Cusick brings such sincerity to his role. His exchanges with Charlie about his impending death(s) were so hypnotizing, and the scene where Desmond tells Penny that he's leaving all of it behind them, I just can't think of another actor who could make my heart swell with such a simple scene. When Lost is over, he should have his own show. And he should be on a boat and shirtless.
Two last things to note... I don't think there's any doubt that Faraday's mom is that creepy clairvoyant woman Desmond spoke to during his time-travel episode (see inset). And lastly, Desmond named his son after Charlie. Everybody now: awww.