Turns out what the show was missing actually was Dr. Emmet Cole after all. In what I would call the show's first truly successful outing, by turns suspenseful, scary, beautiful and touching, the crew spends the episode watching a mysterious tape they found at Cole's last location (per Lena's dad) which plays out what seem to be the final days of old Emmet.
Seems that fight with Russ last week had a little more to it -- like multiple mentions, once again, of Lena's complicity in the oncoming zombie mess -- than we saw originally, but the end result was the same: Cole took the last two Redshirts and the dog mascot with him deeper still into the Boiuna, leaving Russ to his eventual Dutchman fate. The Away Team died and/or disappeared at regular intervals, at which point he broke his ankle, gave himself dengue fever or something, and eventually succumbed to the whistling embrace of a (truly beautifully designed) weather demon.
(...Or did he? No, of course he didn't. He got saved at the last minute and dropped off at some kind of German-United Nations-CDC zombie-creating Dharma facility hidden deep in the jungle and revealed in a pretty shocking, cool way... At which point the -- perfectly edited, multi-angle, multi-camera, boom-miked -- tape made its way back to the original location, thanks to some very helpful native savages.)
But what's great is the 45 minutes we get to spend with Dr. Cole finally, coming to grips with the charisma and genius that has made everybody so obsessed with him the whole time -- and he freakin' delivers. One's left wishing Undiscovered Country was a real show, is how empathetic, brilliant, appealing and wonderful Dr. Cole turns out to have been in his prime. Eating grubs, whistling at demons, rattling off Kipling stanzas, conjuring fire in his hands, invoking dragonfly spirits, walking that line between spiritual ecstasy and schizophrenic break we've been catching glimpses of, it's a tour de force not only for Greenwood, but really too as a quantum leap in what this show is/was actually capable of.
And it's not just him. While that dependable attractiveness once again spackles over some of the believability issues in Lincoln's biggest scene -- in which we realize Cole's last conversation was a neglectful sat-phone call Linc barely bothered to answer -- Tess finally shuts up long enough to be the strong, wounded woman she's been described as this whole time, and the final video-watching scene, as wife and son take over the editing bay to watch what they think is Cole's last few minutes on earth alone, is fairly moving in its own right.
Even Lena gets in on the act, with an affectingly disaffected air in the wake of last week's tragedy, and two fairly major revelations: One, that she remotely activated Emmet's beacon to begin with, forcing this whole show to occur, and two, that she's never noticed that ridiculous birthmark on her own body that marks her as the Zombie Queen. And what Kurt thinks about the bloody wreckage left of the Dharma location once we get there, at episode's end, I couldn't even tell you. Are those his guys? Did his guys kill them? Did both kinds of guys get turned into zombies? I don't even think he knows anymore.
In the end, it's the bitter life-and-death, Pet Sematary grimness that pervades. For all of Cole's high-minded spiritual rhetoric, we learn he's also driven by the loss of Lincoln's older sister, who died young, and his belief that the Source might provide less zombies and more of a window into other states of being. This is mirrored by Tess saying shit like, "I just want him back any way I can have him," Lincoln's own struggle with his father's constant Schroedinger state, the whole living/dead thing with Russ (and before that, with Jonas), and you come up with a fairly bleak prognosis:
If this is a story about grief, the strange no-place that it puts us -- that undiscovered country Hamlet was talking about to begin with -- and maybe about the unholy deals we're willing to make... My brain's been coming up with zombie math this whole time and I never quite knew why, but I guess 3/4 of the way through it's okay to make some guesses, and if I'm right we're looking at a thematic unity here that's both blatant and also really elegiac and sad: A lot less Hamlet, a lot more The Killing. Solaris over 28 Days Later. At which point the cheaper, paranormal, "some things weren't meant to be discovered," anti-science, quasi-racist, anti-spiritual ABC bullshit Lost-knockoff version of this show would actually be emotionally preferable, because here's where my head's at:
A quirky email from a reader turned me onto the seafaring lore behind the name Jonas, which brought up two things: how funny it is that Linc & Lena are totally the Luke & Leia of this show, down to the whole "there is another" vibe, and how sad it is -- in the context of these characters and their sometimes weird names -- to remember that the way you make golemim is by inscribing their foreheads with the Hebrew for emet, "truth." And that you turn them back into clay by scratching that "truth" to "death," met. Closing the window, in Cole's words, and retreating to loneliness.
Making Daddy possibly the biggest zombie of all, for the second time in a row; making zombie a metaphor for something that still hurts to think about, personally; giving all these cardboard daddy issues retroactive weight and a much different flavor. Having finally met Cole and grown over the course of an hour to actually care about him, and by extension the rest of these bastards, surprisingly that would be rather sad. Because as much as I hate zombies as a trope, they just kill me as a metaphor. So here's hoping the show is just as stupid as it pretends to be, eh? I'd hate to miss it once it's over, although I guess we win either way.
Dr. Emmet Cole told Russ to just chill because the Boiuna was testing them and I guess they were failing, since everybody kept dying. Cole and the two remaining crew members took off, leaving Russ to his ghost-piratey fate -- and then somehow the boat got back to where we originally found it and we followed his path once again, right up to where Russ's daughter Lena got to watch him die again. And it was hilarious!
Lena: "Cappy, please stop filming me. It's creepy enough with Lincoln stalking around the boat and staring all the time."
Linc: "Let's backtrack and take her back to civilization, since she now knows what happened to her dad. Now she knows that he was kept chained up in the hold of a zombie boat, even though he was also a zombie. Her tale is told."
Tess: "First of all, today is probably going to be the day we find my husband, Dr. Emmet Cole. And secondly, fuck that girl. I haven't said one word to her on this entire show. She can continue to skulk mournfully around for as long as it takes."
Lena: "Tess is right. I'm no less helpful standing here being sulky than I was before, when all I did was stand around and sulk and sometimes play the accordion or activate the Wikipedia in my head to answer questions nobody asked, about the stupidest things."
Linc: "You are a hero, my lady."
Lena: "Let's be honest."
Per Russ's instructions, the crew tramps in one day what we'll see took Pike's Away Team about a week to do.
Lincoln: "Want to eat some worms?"
Tess: "Kinda. I feel bad about forcing Lena to go through with this ridiculous exercise."
Lincoln: "I've felt that way this entire time and I don't see you cryin' for me. Listen, I know what it is to come to terms with your father's death. I already did that six months ago, before you and your boyfriend decided to emotionally blackmail me onto this mission to find my dad's dead body and watch us both freak out on it."
Tess: "I don't even care if he's a zombie or a golem, I just can't seem to imagine life without my wizard husband."
They do one of those game-show things where everybody splashes around looking for clues! Somebody finds a knife and identifies it as so-and-so's knife! Somebody finds a sweater vest! A bandanna! All of which are identified as belonging to people! A fondue set! Finally Linc finds Russ's camera bag, which is chock-full of video equipment and tapes that apparently the indigenous people edited together, packed right back up and left under a waterfall.*