Michael‘s post-island fate is revealed, along with an explanation of how and why he joined the crew of the freighter.

Written by Elizabeth Sarnoff & Brian K. Vaughan
Directed by Stephen Williams

Flashback

After the two of them escaped from the island back to New York, Walt distanced himself from his father because Michael told him about his murder of Ana-Lucia and Libby. Michael fell into a deep depression and repeatedly tried to take his own life, but his attempts were unsuccessful every time. Libby also haunted him in disturbing visions. He turned Walt over to his mother to raise, feeling unfit to do so himself, but he refused to tell her anything about the island or his escape from it. He swore her to secrecy about the two of them and told her she couldn’t tell anyone that they were alive.

After one suicide attempt where he tried to shoot himself, he was confronted by Tom, who explained that the Others had been keeping tabs on him since he left the island. Tom gave him a piece of particularly shocking news: Michael couldn’t kill himself because the island wouldn’t let him. No matter how many different ways he tried, Michael would always be unsuccessful at committing suicide, because he “still had work to do.”

At his apartment later, Michael tested Tom’s assertion by pointing a fully-loaded gun at his head and pulling the trigger. But it was no use; the gun refused to fire every time. It was then that a news report came on his television about the discovery of the faked wreckage of Oceanic 815.

Confused and devastated by the news report, Michael returned to visit Tom at the hotel where he was staying, and asked about what he’d seen on television. Tom explained that the Oceanic 815 wreckage was an elaborate hoax perpetrated by Charles Widmore, because Widmore wanted the location of the true wreck to be a secret that only he knew, because Widmore wanted to find the island and keep it for himself. Tom said that Widmore dug up a cemetery in Thailand to get the 324 corpses needed to pull off the hoax, he bought an old airplane and painted it to look like Oceanic 815, and funded a freighter expedition to drop the plane and its corpses into the Sunda Trench — a place so deep that none of the remains would ever be identifiable. Tom went on to explain that Charles Widmore’s freighter, the Kahana, was going to be departing from Fiji in a few days, and that Widmore had finally acquired the coordinates of the island. It was Tom that set Michael up with the fake Kevin Johnson ID, and arranged for him to join the crew of the freighter as a deck hand. Tom explained that this job was Michael’s chance at redemption, because he could be responsible for saving the lives of everyone on the island from Widmore’s invasion. It was an undercover mission where Michael’s sole purpose would be to kill the entire ship’s crew.

Michael ventured to Fiji and reported for duty at the docked freighter, where he discovered a large crate had been delivered for him. Tom called him and explained that inside the crate was a bomb, which he was to detonate two days after the ship was far out at sea.

While out at sea, Michael met Frank, who shared a conspiracy theory with him about the Oceanic 815 wreckage being faked. He explained that he signed up for duty on the freighter because Charles Widmore believed his theory.

After meeting several of the crew members and deciding they were good people Widmore was deceiving about his purpose for the trip, Michael wrestled with the decision of whether or not to destroy the freighter and kill everyone on board. But after he met Keamy and his bloodthirsty mercenaries, Michael made his choice. He went to his bunk and opened the crate Tom had sent. Inside was a briefcase, which he carried to the engine room and opened to find several blocks of explosives inside. His vision of Libby returned and warned him not to do it, but he did it anyway. Yet instead of a detonation, a little printed message popped out that said, “Not yet.”

Michael was frustrated by this deception, but he shortly received a call over the ship’s radio that turned out to be from Ben, who explained that the bomb was a fake because Ben wanted to demonstrate the difference between himself and Widmore. Ben claimed he was unwilling to take innocent lives — like some of those on the freighter — whereas Widmore wouldn’t hesitate. Ben asked him to compile a list of names of everyone on the ship, give it to him when he called again, and then sabotage the radio room, as well as the engine. Ben claimed this was how he would save his friends’ lives, by preventing the freighter from ever reaching the island. Though he agonized over the choices he’d made and all the ways he’d been manipulated by the Others, Michael eventually agreed.

Now

An uneasy meeting is held at Locke’s Barracks house, where he’s convened Sawyer, Hurley, Claire, Ben, Danielle, Alex, Karl, and even Miles. Locke tells them everything he knows about the freighter, including the fact that they’ve come for Ben. Sawyer is gung ho about just turning Ben over to them, but Ben points out that if he’s captured, the people on the freighter will kill everyone else on the island. Ben also reveals, much to their shock, that his spy on the freighter is Michael.

After the meeting, Ben gives Alex and Karl a map to the Temple, which he says is a sanctuary that’s effectively the last safe place on the island, and he asks them to go there, for their protection. The rest of the Others are already there, and Ben believes that the people coming for him would use Alex to get to him if they could. Karl and even Danielle agree with Ben’s suggestion, and the three of them set off for the Temple.

On the freighter, Sayid and Desmond are awoken in the night by a blaring alarm. They run up to the main deck where they find several members of the crew trying to run escape from the ship. Captain Gault puts a stop to it, telling everyone to sit tight until the engines are fixed and then everything will be okay. He calls on “Kevin Johnson” to clean the deck, and Sayid and Desmond stay behind to talk to have a much-needed conversation with Michael. Michael’s not interested in talking right now, but when Sayid presses him to explain why he’s on the ship, Michael’s response is, “I’m here to die.”

The next morning, Sayid and Desmond find Michael in the engine room, trying to help fix the damage. Michael warns them that the shouldn’t be there, but Sayid grabs him and demands answers. Michael tells him his entire story, including how and why he left Walt behind in New York to join up with the freighter, because Ben convinced him he could save his friends’ lives by sabotaging the ship (see below). Sayid is nonplussed to discover that Michael is working for Ben. He grabs Michael and drags him straight to the captain’s quarters, where he rats Michael out as a spy.

While traversing through the jungle toward the Temple, Danielle, Alex, and Karl are attacked by Keamy and his men, who are on the island now, presumably brought by Frank in the helicopter. Karl and Danielle are both shot and killed by an unseen sniper, leaving Alex alone and terrified. She shouts into the jungle at her unseen attackers that she is Ben’s daughter, and therefore more valuable to them alive than dead.

  • Walt went to live with his grandmother after learning of his father’s murderous sins. Michael had a harder time reentering society, falling into a deep depression over what he’d done and attempting again and again to kill himself.
    Question: How will Michael and Walt reintegrate into society without revealing anything about the crash of Oceanic 815? [2.24]
  • The Oceanic 815 wreckage found in the Sunda Trench is a massive hoax, meant to deter rescue searchers from ever finding the true location where Oceanic 815 went down.
    Question: How can the wreckage of Oceanic 815 have been found elsewhere if it’s really on the island? [3.18]
  • It does indeed. Charles Widmore is the mastermind behind the fake wreck.
    Question: Since Widmore knows that Oceanic 815 didn’t really crash in the ocean, does this mean he is responsible for the faked wreckage in the Sunda Trench? [4.06]
  • Frank signed up for the freighter mission to the island after finding that Charles Widmore shared his belief that the Sunda Trench wreckage of Oceanic 815 was a fake. Frank had no idea that Widmore himself was responsible for the hoax.
    Question: How did Frank join the freighter’s crew? [4.02]
  • Widmore raided a cemetery in Thailand to acquire the 324 corpses he needed.
    Question: Whoever staged the fake wreck of Oceanic 815 — where did they get their hands on 324 dead bodies to plant among the wreckage? 4.07
  • The “errand” is in actuality the true mission that the freighter has been sent for: finding and retrieving Ben Linus, and taking out anyone who gets in their way.
    Question: What is the errand Frank is taking Keamy to the island for? [4.07]

As you may or may not know, the appearances in this episode by Cynthia Watros as Libby were meant to be the first of several. Watros had signed on for a multiple episode arc in order to resolve the lingering mysteries about her character. But when the writers’ strike occurred — the same event that condensed Season 4 from 16 episodes to 14 — the Libby storyline had to be scrubbed until later, making this episode her sole post-Season 2 appearance. Sadly, the show’s producers have stated repeatedly that Watros has expressed no interest in returning a third time to finish things up, even though they continue to extend an open invitation to her.

As some of my readers have pointed out, there seems to be a discrepancy with the timeline in this episode. Michael and Walt left the island at the same time that the Swan station imploded, the electromagnetic shockwave of which destroyed the Others’ ability to come and go from the island at will. Yet here we see Tom off the island after the Swan detonation, confronting Michael in New York City, and we know that he returned to the island because Sawyer shot and killed him there. It was impossible for him to have left the island and returned within this timeframe. Likewise, Ben should have been unable to contact Michael from the island at this time, because the Others’ communications abilities with the outside world were ended with the Swan’s detonation as well. A pair of inconsistencies that can probably be chalked up to oversights on the part of the writing staff. Unless you can come up with a logical explanation…?

The Michael stuff was interesting, but I remember the biggest takeaway I got out of this episode was the tragic, shocking deaths of Karl and Danielle. Danielle especially deserved a better fate after all she had been through, all she’d endured. Living on the island had turned her into a warrior, and she should have gone out fighting instead of being cut down by some faceless sniper (who I’m thinking was most likely Keamy himself). If anyone on the show deserved a happy ending, it was Danielle Rousseau, but she was a tragic character from the start, and ended tragically as well.