Following in the tradition of seasonal penultimate episodes before it, "Follow the Leader" led everyone towards the finale. Aptly titled, following the leader was major trope of the episode: Jack led the Others on a mission to blow up Jughead and change the future; Locke regained his leadership of the Others and caused Richard some consternation by taking them on a pilgrimage to Jacob; Radzinsky usurped Horace's leadership of the Dharma Initiative while interrogating Sawyer; and finally, Dr. Chang led the women and children off the island.
Of all the twists and turns this episode took, two things stuck out. First, both Jack and Kate are being a bit shortsighted in their debate over the merits of using an H-bomb to change the future. Kate seemingly doesn't want to erase the good times (her time with Sawyer and Jack, raising Aaron) at the expense of everyone who died in the 815 crash and thereafter, while Jack is once again determined to fix things and save those people, at the expense of the personal growth of the survivors (everyone WOULD be a lot more miserable if 815 hadn't crashed, and Ji Yeon wouldn't have ever been born, but more people would be alive...Charlie would still be a heroin addict, but he'd be alive) as well as the lives of every Dharma person on the island in 1977 who will likely die when Jughead detonates. But Jack isn't trying to fix their lives, apparently they're an acceptable sacrifice (for the record, I'm siding with Kate, mainly because, in my experience, blowing up hydrogen bombs isn't usually the best solution).
Secondly, there is the implication, suggested by his conversation with Ben, that perhaps Richard, in the end, is no better than Ben when it comes to stewardship of Jacob and the island. For most of the season, as Richard's role as an "advisor" has come to light, the impression has been that Richard has been waiting for Locke. From Widmore and Ellie to Ben and now Locke, he's done his job waiting for the "chosen one", Locke, to appear. Couple that with the fact that he actively assisted Locke in ousting Ben (further implying Locke's "specialness"), and it's disconcerting that Locke's been the Others' leader for less than a day and Richard is already questioning Locke's leadership to the man he helped Locke usurp. Why was Locke so special, why was Richard waiting so long for him, if Richard simply expected him to maintain Ben's status quo (of course, another option is that Richard was merely testing Ben to see how fully subserviant he was to Locke's leadership)?
There's still plenty unknown, especially about Jacob, his relationship to the Others, and theirs to the island, and Richard himself, so it remains tough to make any concrete judgments. For now, the implication that Richard, enigmatic and unaging, might be just as human and disconnected from the will of the island as Ben, especially when compared to the new Locke, is unsettling.
Hurley's attempts to convince Dr. Chang he isn't from the future, particularly the look on Jin's face when Hurley says the Korean War isn't real.
The smiles Locke gives Ben throughout the episode, as he's clearly enjoying the role reversal. In fact, I enjoyed Ben as much in this episode, acting bent to Locke's will, as much I do when he's seemingly in control and manipulating the hell out of people.
The small moment when Miles realized the reason his mom hated his dad all those years was because his dad had to act like a jerk in order to get them to safety.
Tidbits of Note:
The title of the episode could also be an allusion to "Peter Pan," both the book/play (in which "follow the leader" is a game played in Neverland) and the Disney film (in which "Follow the Leader" is one of the trademark, catchy Disney songs). Lost has similarly invoked classic children's stories in its last two finales: seasons three's "Through the Looking Glass" and season four's "There's No Place Like Home." And the island is a lot like Neverland.
It seems likely that Ellie is pregnant: Widmore is seen with his hand on her belly at one point, and is concerned about her "condition." If she is, and she's pregnant with Daniel, it would make him the youngest of the Freighter Four, which doesn't seem quite right. But there it is.
The journal Eloise gave Daniel in the restaurant as a graduation present last episode is the same one he's been carrying around with him.
According to Ben, Richard is an advisor of sorts to whomever is leading the Others; that certainly fits with what we've seen so far, with Richard answering to the Others' leader while also being somewhat outside their authority.
If Richard saw Jack, Kate and Hurley die in 1977, then he must have either known they were going to time travel at some point or been really confused when the Others created their files on the Losties and they contained numerous people Richard knew in the 70s.
This episode presented the flip side of the scene in "Because You Left," when Richard emerged from the jungle to help Locke and give him the compass.
Hurley was worried about being asked who the President was and having his cover blown by not knowing back in "Namaste."
Dharmaville was apparently built over a central terminus of "the tunnels." Does Dharma know that? Is that why the Others move there after the Purge?
There's definitely a part of me that thinks it would have been nice for Sawyer and Juliet's story to end with them sailing off into the sunset together, to live a life of ease after investing in Microsoft and betting on the '78 Cowboys.
The sub departing the island was very obviously CG (and I'm usually terrible at noticing things like that).
Ben apparently killed Locke because he knew/suspected he'd become a problem. Add that to the list of Ben's explanations for killing Locke.
Locke interacts with Ben with the tone of a corporate manage talking to an employee: "thank you for bringing that to my attention," "you're a valued part of this team," etc. It reminded me of their chat in Ben's old office on Hydra Island in "Dead Is Dead."
Is there any significance to Richard's ship-in-a-bottle (is it a replica of the Black Rock?) or is it just an indicator of his character: that he's patient and even-tempered?
How true is Richard's assertion that he watched everyone in the 70s die? Will they die, will he just think they died, or does he know they didn't but has to pretend they did for some reason?
Has Ben truly never seen Jacob? Has Richard? What is Richard's relationship with Jacob, and why was he so insistent on stalling Locke from meeting him?
Does Locke really want to kill Jacob, or is he just effing with Ben? Has Locke learned that killing Jacob is the only way to help him? If he does want to kill him, why? Is Jacob acting in opposition to the will of the island?
I wonder how Sawyer, Juliet and Kate are going to get off the sub next week while it continues to evacuate the women and children.
Jack's off his meds! And he's got a really, really big bomb!