The first Charlie flashback to actually be beyond the scope of "Liam betrayed me, band band band, did some heroin", wow! A decent Charlie story for a change. And then in realtime some cool preparation for the finale, everyone given their roles to play.
As always, flashback first, and loved the first scene, with Drive Shaft on the way to Clitheroe, Lancashire (which actually used to be my neck of the woods). Woods being the operative word, as Charlie rightly pointed out, it is in the middle of nowhere, but a nice reference nonetheless. Next to that swim scene, interesting if the comment I read is true that someone in the background says, "come on Desmond" - another Lost crossover there perhaps? Also I wanted to mention about the playing in the rain bit - was it actually the "real" reality minus Desmond. I got more of an impression that it was just a different day. I mean even in the alternate reality Desmond was like "this happened before", and Charlie was wearing different clothes (you'd think production would at least sort that out). Why couldn't it have also rained on another day I mean its England, and its not like you wouldn't play at the same spot on a different day, right? Finally, the Dextor Stratton thing was interesting - was it a flippant issue or will this sort of history have any future relevance? Why was his ring the family heirloom?
To realtime, and I was quite impressed with Naomi, the first character I've ever seen on US television with a proper Manc accent, "you avin' a laugh?" - well that's more dialect but at least she didn't talk with any posh or clear RP tone.
Next I wanted to address was the Looking Glass station. Like the logo (yeah, Alice and Wonderland reference I totally spaced on Thursday about). It was a bit of a questionable continuity though, the fact that Sayid took that file from the Flame, and so actually probably has details on every DHARMA station. When exactly was he gonna share that? And why hasn't he been the first to go and check em all out? I did like the whole idea though, and it explains the interference rather than its cause of the electromagnetism. Maybe the underwater station will also explain why the tides seemingly circle (why Desmond's boat came back to the Island when he went full-steam West, why Juliet said "they can have fun going on circles" on hearing the Losties had the boat).
The Others flashback was most unusual, I think the first ever non-centric flash that has ever occurred when there's a separate flashback centric narrative going on at the same time (if that makes sense). I'm not knocking it though, it was good, with Ben clearing accelerating his plans after being flustered by Locke, who I guess will probably survive and make a dashing return to rescue everyone in the finale.
Loved the scene after Karl arrived though, with everyone being given their missions. I noticed that they've tweaked the main theme score wise, and I really liked it to reflect the sort of "about to go to war" nature of the scene, quite Buffy-esque actually ala the final season. It just all gave a sense of "some of us are probably gonna die", and it worked really well. I fear for Sayid's group though, Bernard being the generic almost-background third shooter! Its like an Enterprise away mission, the poor random guest star is surely the one who will get killed. I really should add a poll on here so we can all call the five characters we think will die this finale. My predictions, perhaps shocking, are (taking it as it'll probably be 3 Losties and 2 Others): Bernard, Charlie, Jack, Ben and Tom. Controversial?
And that's it really, usually there's much more to address, but I think really this episode was all about building up, and to try and keep that pressure rather than debate-provoking in any great respect. Its definitely waiting for that finale punch, which no doubt will keep us all talking. Evangeline Lilly said it gave her goosebumps and that it was the first development in the show that really got her genuinely excited, but then again, she has to say that when she's there to plug the May sweeps, doesn't she?