Sunday, February 25, 2007

Lost - "Tricia Tanaka is Dead"

Episode Title: Tricia Tanaka is Dead

Brian's Deeper Meaning Guess: Remember last week, how I said that some episode titles send me down paths researching old books or movies where I find very intriguing connections to the show (thus, “deeper meanings”), but other titles end up being simple references to lines from the episode (thus, not really that deep)? Well, this week is definitely falling into the second category.

Researching the name yielded no real results, and the phrase doesn’t seem to be a takeoff of any other famous quotes – so we’re left to take it at face value. However, my search wasn’t totally useless – since it actually led me to who Tricia Tanaka is:

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From ABC’s website, I found Sung Hi Lee listed as a guest star for this episode, where she plays the character of “Tricia Tanaka”. So we know who she is… but who is she?

Well, that’s a good question. Since this episode is a Hurley-centric one, I would expect her to be a character from Hurley’s past. I would also wager that her death is the result of Hurley’s “bad luck” that came with his playing the Numbers in the lottery – that puts this episode post-“Numbers”, but pre-“Dave”, somewhere around the “Everybody Hates Hugo” flashback. We know about a few of the tragedies that surrounded Hugo from prior episodes – the deck collapse, Mr. Cluck’s being hit by a meteorite, and his box factory burning down – so it’s likely that Tricia dies during one of these incidents.

As for the underlying theme of the title, it looks to be another episode of Hugo self-loathing, probably blaming himself and the “curse of the Numbers” for Tricia’s death. It’s a theme we’ve seen before and know quite well. One has to wonder if the curse still exists, post-Hatch implosion – since destroying the Hatch symbolically ended the power the Numbers had over the Island. If you think about it, the Numbers have been noticeable absent from most of the episodes in the third season, even when there have been blatantly obvious places that they could have popped up in both flashbacks and Island life.

It’s likely that the flashback deals with Hurley either trying to convince people that the curse exists (pointing to Tricia Tanaka’s death as proof) or Hurley facing ostracism after the curse claims yet another victim (Tricia Tanaka). Either way, I’m a little afraid of a “been there, done that” feel for the flashbacks in this episode. I feel like I really know the Hurley character, his motivations, and his history – so I’m not sure what this episode could add besides just strengthening our understanding of the character by providing more examples of the things that we already know.

Ironically, I think the only thing we don’t know about Hurley is why he’s called Hurley. So maybe we can hope for that little nugget of information to pop-up in this episode.

Episode Description: Hurley's discovery of an old, wrecked car on the island leads him on a mission of hope not only for himself, but for a fellow survivor in need of some faith. Meanwhile, Kate and Sawyer reunite with their fellow castaways, but Kate is still torn about leaving Jack behind with "The Others."

Episode Breakdown: Finally a bit of a longer episode description! Before we get to the sentence-by-sentence breakdown, let’s revisit the Lost Moments from this episode.

Lost Moments. I think this is the last week of Lost Moments, which means the next few episodes should be much more full of surprises. For this week, we can once again look to the Moments to help piece together the episode.

Lost Moment 10Vincent appears with a decaying arm holding a key. Hurley chases after him to retrieve the key.

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This Moment seems to set the stage for the episode, as Vincent’s appearance clearly sets the stage for Hurley’s discovery of the “old, wrecked car”. As I mentioned when this Moment originally aired, Vincent’s reappearance confirms the very puzzling inconsistency from the Season 2 DVDs, where we saw Vincent inexplicitly joining Michael and Walt on their boat when they left the Island in a special feature, something that was not included in the episode itself.

Now that we know that Vincent still remains on the Island, one is left to wonder who is taking care of him these days. With Walt and Shannon both gone, I hope someone is making sure Vincent is getting the food, water, and squeak toys he needs. Once again, it’s clear that Vincent has explored more of the Island than any of our Survivors (confirming that a Vincent flashback remains the coolest potential flashback possible) – this time stumbling upon the VW Van.

For all of those fans of the “Vincent is God / the Monster” theory (Sully, this means you), here’s more evidence. Who wants to bet that this Van somehow symbolically represents a troubled time from Hurley’s past, and his finding it helps him to “overcome” the pain it has caused him (much like Jack’s dad, Kate’s horse, and Eko’s plane). Once again, it seems as though the Island is bringing items and objects from a character’s past onto the Island as a way for them to overcome their demons. Here, Vincent is being used by the Island to bring Hurley to the item – since our Survivors, Hurley in particular, haven’t stumbled upon it on their own.

Aside from the logistic questions about how a Van ends up in the middle of the jungle (although, as we’ve already got a plane and a pirate ship – so this gives us the only missing method of transportation), the question becomes – who is the body inside the Van? Someone from Hurley’s past who died because of his bad luck… Tricia Tanaka, perhaps?

Lost Moment 11Sawyer teaches Jin the only three phrases you ever need to say to a woman, as the two enjoy Dharma Beer inside an old Volkswagen Van.

This one puzzles me, because clearly the first Lost Moment seems to indicate that Hurley is the one who will find the Van – so how do Sawyer and Jin end up there, sans-Hurley? We have to assume that the Dharma Beer was found inside the Van – is this fan the last remnant of the 1970’s hippie-version of the Others, who drank beer, listened to the Dead, and smoked pot in hopes of discovering a way to crack Valenzetti’s Equation? If there’s Dharma Beer in there, wouldn’t it have gone terribly bad about 30 years ago due to sitting out in a steamy jungle? It’s a cute scene with Sawyer, sure – but a lot about this scene doesn’t make sense to me.

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Lost Moment 9Hurley slaps Charlie and tells him to “snap out of it”, saying he has a plan that can help them both – it’s dangerous, but if they don’t die, they win.

On the other hand, this scene makes total sense, and ties back in with the first sentence of the episode description. I’m not sure exactly what Hurley needs to do in order to “overcome” whatever the Van represents, but he’s looking for Charlie to help him – and in the process, help get Charlie out of the funk he’s likely been in ever since Desmond predicted his demise. The only question is what they could possibly do that would be considered dangerous. Bury the body? Fix the Van? Bury the Van? Anything I can think of that involves the Van seems pretty danger-free to me.

That covers the Hurley storyline and the first sentence of the episode description. In other news, Kate and Sawyer return to camp (sans Crazy Carl) and I hope that they are immediately drilled with questions about the Others after they finish their hug-a-thon. If everyone greets them and then goes on with their day-to-day life without trying to understand the Others, their motives, and what it means for their potential escape off the Island, I will be seriously upset (and it will be yet another example of the Lost writers not giving dramatic events the aftermath they deserve).

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Lastly, Kate continues to worry about Jack, and likely begins to recruit a team (read: Locke and Sayid) to rescue him. The problem is – none of them have any sort of boat (since the Others recovered Desmond’s sailboat in “The Glass Ballerina”), so I don’t see how they could get very far in their efforts. Since we’ve already done the “build a boat” storyline in Season One, I can’t see that happening again. Instead, I’m expecting the Rescue Party to set out to find another boat – perhaps back to Pala Ferry? – and eventually rescue Jack… which is where the action should pick back up in terms of storyline.

The writers are also doing a great job in keeping the Kate-Jack relationship full of drama, in true Ross-Rachel style. Think about it. Kate hooking up with Sawyer seemed to indicate the end of Jack and Kate, but now she knows that Sawyer was more of a one-night stand and her true love is with Jack... but little did she know that Jack is currently falling for Juliet. We all know that TV Rule #1 is keep the characters the audience wants to see together apart for as long as possible, and Lost is doing a great job of it.

Okay, since last week I over-hyped the episode a bit (well, technically ABC over-hyped the episode and I fell right into their trap), I’m going to under-hype this week and wrap this post up. Since this is a Hurley episode dealing with a Mystery Machine in the jungle, I’m expecting a light-hearted episode featuring the tearful reunion of Sawyer and Kate with the rest of the Survivors and the buddy hijinx of Hurley and Charlie. I’m not expecting any progress with the Desmond storyline, or any scenes involving Jack and the Others. My gut is telling me this is going to be a throwaway episode – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable.

I’m just not going in expecting any huge answers or heavy plot development, and I recommend you do the same.

Programming Note – Once again, the real world is getting in the way of my blogging. I’m going to be in Montana this week for work, so an “Instant Reactions” post isn’t likely to happen. Heck, I'm hoping I can watch the episode at all. I’ll try and get my full analysis of the episode up this weekend, but until then you guys might be on your own. Behave yourselves and don't burn the Blog down!

"Stranger in a Strange Land" Analysis

After two weeks of episodes that were very strong and semi-mind blowing, this week’s episode definitely failed to keep the awesomeness streak alive. In all honesty, as soon as it ended I sat there wondering “What in the world am I going to write about that?” It all seemed too simple, too neat, and didn’t drop any “clues” that got my mind wandering. But I’ve got a job to do, and I shall do my best. Let’s get analyzing…

Backlash. In reading the comments from the Instant Reactions, it’s pretty clear that a lot of people were upset by this episode. Granted, the previews were misleading about the “mysteries finally revealed”, which led to even higher expectations for this episode than we should have had – and clearly this episode was not as strong as the prior two episodes. But it accomplished what it set out to do – continue building the relationship between Jack and Juliet, separate Crazy Carl from Kate and Sawyer, and get everyone off Alcatraz. My problem was with the way they went about doing it.

More than anything, I fault the writing. There was just too much in this episode that felt clunky – Jack’s flashback in general, the Sawyer and Crazy Carl heart-to-heart, and Jack’s encounter with Cindy in particular.

While the end result of Jack’s flashback did give me the tie-in to the main story that I’m always looking for, getting there was pretty rough. The Achara / tattoo storyline just didn’t make a lot of sense. So Jack is “finding himself” in Thailand and has a fling with a mysterious woman who can “see who people really are”. She then proceeds to tell Jack that he is a “leader and a great man”, but it makes him “lonely and angry”. That doesn’t come across as seeing Jack’s true self – that comes across as a generic sounding fortune telling. How about Jack’s obsessive, self-sacrificing, altruistic nature that has driven him away from everyone important in his life? Doesn’t that more get to the heart of Jack’s real personality?

We’re also lead to assume that these tattoos carry some sort of religious / spiritual meaning to the people of Phuket (which sounds pretty hilariously inappropriate when you say it out loud, by the way) – and Jack, an “outsider”, having one of these tattoos is unacceptable. Thus, the beating he receives at the end of the episode by Achara’s brother and his friends. But why? You have to make some pretty big assumptions here with very little to go on, and even when you do the story doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

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The writers clearly wanted to separate Crazy Carl from our Survivors – he was too liable to spill all the secrets of the Others that they so desperately want to keep secret (more on this later). But does it make any sense to have Sawyer sit down and tell him to go follow his heart and find his true love? No – Sawyer, more than almost anyone on the Island besides perhaps Sayid, should have been interrogating him hard about the Others and probing him for answers about how they can get off the Island. Even though he threw around his typical hilarious pop culture lines (“Bobby from the Brady Bunch” and “Cowboy Up”), it didn’t “feel” like Sawyer. I think it would have been much more realistic (and made viewers much happier) if Kate and Sawyer wake up to find Crazy Carl gone – taking off in the middle of the night – and then the two of them lament the missed opportunity to get some answers about the Others.

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Lastly, we have Jack’s encounter with Cindy, which I have been mega-excited for ever since we saw the Lost Moment containing it months ago… but little did I know that the Lost Moment was actually about 90% of the total scene, and that was all we were going to get out of it. Talk about a missed opportunity. What better way to finally get some reveals about the Others than by having one of the former Tailers, now seemingly a part of them, try and convince Jack that everything the Others have done to our Survivors was for a purpose, and can be explained. Talk about a great opportunity for Jack to continue questioning in the motives of the Others and having Cindy defend them, dropping hints about the true nature of the Others and what they do! We’d all be watching and re-watching that scene like crazy and developing theories about what Cindy meant in her responses.

Instead, we have Cindy’s simple explanation of “it’s not that simple” and “we’re here to watch” and then Jack flips out and drives her off. Missed opportunity.

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Lost writers are infamous for dragging out storylines to the point where the audience starts forgetting about them or caring about them – then finally resolving them without giving enough time to the aftermath (this is probably my number one complaint about the show). What am I talking about?

Remember back in early Season One when Sayid got knocked out when trying to triangulate CFL’s message to determine its source? That was episode seven. We found out that Locke knocked him out in episode twenty-one. After finding out, Sayid temporarily flips out at Locke, but is back to acting normal less than two minutes later. Where was our episode where all the Survivors question Locke’s intentions and wonder if he’s some sort of traitor? Where’s the ongoing distrust between Sayid and Locke?

It’s just one example of a story that could have had some real meat to it – and provided the audience the answer to a small mystery on the Island – somewhere around episode eight or nine. Instead, it felt “tacked on” to an episode much later in the season, when the audience has long forgotten or caring about it, and then dismissed as quickly as it is revealed.

The reason I bring it up, and I hope I’m wrong, is that it scares me that some of the other “smaller” mysteries on Lost, such as the kidnapping of Cindy and the children, will be addressed and dismissed in similar fashion – rather than answering them when they should logically be answered (in the case of these two mysteries, this episode). It’s almost as if the writers are afraid of giving the answers because they think that’s the only thing that keeps the audience watching... or that the answers aren’t that exciting. Like I said, I hope I’m wrong - and maybe in a few weeks we’ll get that Others reveal episode that somehow answers all of our questions and we’ll suddenly realize why we couldn’t get these answers prior to that point. But more than anything, I hope that when we do finally get the answers, we get time to see the characters discuss and process them, to discuss their implications, and act like real people would act in that situation – and they aren’t dismissed quickly, without any impact – such as Michael and Walt’s disappearance, Eko’s death, etc.

Enough bitching. As I said earlier this season, Lost is still the most “important” feeling show on television. This is why I find the comparisons people are making between “Lost” and “Heroes” so humorous. Yes, Heroes reveals answers much quicker than Lost – that’s also because the mysteries are not fundamental to the overall series arc of Heroes. Finding out who Claire’s real parents are doesn’t change our understanding of the show the way that finding out who the Others are would change our understanding of Lost.

Don’t get me wrong – I think Heroes is a fantastic show – I was giddy this week when Peter started using all sorts of powers to escape HRG, and my jaw dropped when the episode ended with Matt and Ted inside the Bennett household. But there’s no part of me that felt the need to analyze the symbolism behind either action – that’s not what Heroes is about. It’s a fun action show with mystery thrown in, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But comparing Heroes to Lost is kinda like comparing a comic book (nothing against comic books – I’ve actually never read one, but I think I understand how they work) to a classic novel. The comic gives you more quick, satisfying entertainment – whereas the novel slowly builds and then gives you a huge feeling of satisfaction in the end once you fully understand it. Is one better than the other? Not at all. They’re just different.

Now that that is out of the way, let’s get to the episode! Like I said, this was a pretty straightforward, so there isn’t that much over-analysis I could find – but I’ll do my best…

Achara. So it seems that the quote about Bai Ling appearing on “three episodes” is inaccurate. When it was mentioned that Juliet was going to be “marked”, I immediately thought – it’s going to be Achara marking her! How did she get on the Island?! She must really have some sort of special powers and knew Jack was going to end up on the Island with the Others – that’s why she tattooed “He walks amongst us, but he is not one of us”!

But then we found out Juliet’s mark was more of a brand, and Achara failed to appear. Suddenly, she became a far less interesting character in the grand scheme of things. She became nothing more than a secondary character in one of our Survivor’s lives who had a minor impact on them. Did Jack’s time with her fundamentally change him as a person? Not that we’ve seen so far. Will we see her again? Not likely.

Luckily, we were also introduced to a far more intriguing character this episode…

Isabel. First, let it be noted that we now have a Dr. Shephard, Dr. Burke, and Izzy on two shows on ABC. That’s funny. Second, the appearance of Isabel as the “sheriff” seems to indicate the Others actually have a complex society that isn’t purely controlled by some all-powerful “leader” (such as Jacob). Instead, they seem to have rules, laws, and people who enforce them.

The Others still feel like a religious cult to me - with their brainwashing, dedication to their “mission”, and the way that one person (Ben) can override any of their laws – but it’s more of a tempered religious cult now… maybe like a religious cult that was created by a bunch of scientists who were focused on saving the world, not blindly following some religious doctrine that they have been passed down. If you remember, Cindy told Jack that they were “there to watch”. After watching the episode, I’m not interpreting this statement as Cindy and the other Others (that never stops being fun to write!) being on Alcatraz (and not their Main Island) to “watch” the judgment / trial of Juliet – not to watch Jack. “Trial” seems like too democratic of a word for the way that the ruling on Juliet was passed down, but the fact that it is done in front of her peers seems to indicate that there is some form of “government” on the Island.

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I would look for Isabel to have a decent-sized role in the next few episodes as Jack enters the world of the Others – her calm, all-knowing, slightly-creepy demeanor fits in nicely alongside Ben’s – but she seems to be “all business”. Whereas Ben seemed much more involved with mind games and an overall mission plan, Isabel seems more concerned with the day-to-day actions of the Others. Also, with Ben looking to be on the IR for a little while during his recovery, it would make sense for Isabel to step up as the “face” of the Others.

Ethan. We also found out this episode that the Others not only have a Sheriff – but used to have a surgeon in Ethan. Suddenly, it makes a little more sense why he was the one who was sent to recruit Juliet. He would be able to “speak her language” per se, and could possibly verify the results of her tests in person to ensure their success. However, if you remember, Ethan was actually working on the plumbing of Juliet’s house during “A Tale of Two Cities”, so he likely was more of a “renaissance man”.

Actually, with the small number of Others on the Island (we assume, based on how many we’ve seen so far – I would go so far as to say the Others present at the “trial” of Juliet compose a large portion of the Others), it would be logical that each of them possessed a number of talents that would make them useful to the group… and it also makes sense why the death of even one of them would cause such a big blow to the Others. When Ethan died, they lost their surgeon… and their plumber… and who knows what else.

(PS - some have wondered why, if Ethan was a surgeon, did Ben need Jack in the first place? Well, I’m no doctor, but I think there’s a pretty big difference between being a regular surgeon and a spinal surgeon – spinal surgery seems more of an intricate specialty that was likely far out of the league of Ethan… much like dealing with infected stitches is far out of the league of Juliet).

Juliet. Speaking of Juliet, where does she stand now with her people? As Ben mentioned to Jack, even as he was about to sentence her to be “marked”, Juliet was still “one of them”. This serves as a pretty stark contrast to the Juliet we saw two episodes ago, who came across as being a prisoner on the Island who wanted nothing more than to go home and was willing to do anything (even kill someone) in order to reach her goal.

Is this just Ben being out of touch with reality? Or has Juliet been “initiated” into their group, making her “one of them” regardless of her intentions to leave? Either way, how does this change now that she’s marked?

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I searched around, but couldn’t really find anything deeper in the star-shaped mark that was placed on Juliet’s lower back. Initially, my thoughts turned to the Scarlet Letter – with the Mark being a way to ostracize a member of the Others society. But if that’s the case, why did they put it on her lower back, where it would only be visible during bikini season (which might be all the time, since they’re on an Island, but still…)? It was clear that the Mark was a bad thing based on Tom’s reaction to hearing the ruling – but why?

Based on the lack of clues from this episode, it could be anything from something signifying that Juliet is now fair game for Smokey to munch on to being a sign that Juliet is sentenced to never leave the Island. Or it could just be another way for the writers to “connect” Jack and Juliet, since they now both have markings of sort on their body. Very puzzling…

Kids. But even more puzzling is what we saw with Emma and Zack (the Tailer kids) holding in this episode - their teddy bear. Check out what it looks like now:

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It looks pretty much the same as it did before the kids were abducted:

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Which is to say - totally normal. However, remember that we also saw this teddy bear in between the time when the kids were abducted and this episode. And when we did, it looked drastically different:

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Aside from just looking different (beat up and with tape around the leg), it was also being carried by someone that clearly was not Emma or Zack. Granted, there’s always the chance that there are two teddy bears on the Island – but if that was the case, why go out of your way to specifically show it so many times?

There’s always the possibility that this is just some sort of production error with the prop folks on Lost – but to me, it seems like a puzzling inconsistency. Remember how freaky it was when we saw the mysterious feet of the “Others” walking by, dangling a teddy bear? Now that we see the kids and Cindy seemingly alive and well, the teddy bear still happily with them – it does seem as though the fear we had of the Others was misplaced. Sure, they’re brainwashing people and seem to have a strict set of rules to live by – but there’s nothing “creepy” about them at all. The writers seemed to include that image of the teddy bear as a way to mislead us about the nature of the Others… but now that we see some of their true nature – it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense – in particular the state of the teddy bear.

Jack. Lastly, this episode seemed to solidify the fact that Jack is going to be with the Others for quite some time. He’s slowly becoming more and more integrated into their day to day life, and by the end of the episode, didn’t even seem like a “prisoner” anymore. He is entering into agreements with the Others, and they’re letting him travel around the Island without needing armed guards or handcuffs. A level of trust between Jack and the Others is developing.

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It seems that we’ll eventually reach the point where Jack “becomes” an Other. To me, that would be a fascinating storyline – to have the “leader” of the Survivors of Flight 815 join the “enemy” and happily live among them. He’ll have his romance with Juliet, a valued role as a surgeon (something the Others are now lacking), and the chance to leave the Island, assuming Ben is a man of his word. Remember back when Ben said “I want you to want to help me”? What if the Others’ intentions all along were to get Jack to “join them” as a replacement for Ethan? That would help piece together some of the timeline logic of why they didn’t initially kidnap Jack, but then wanted him once they found out that Ethan was dead.

If nothing else, it’s an intriguing possibility. Our Survivors could stage a rescue operation, storm the Others camp, reach Jack – only to find that he doesn’t want to go back with them. Talk about irony!

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Okay – that’s enough for this episode. I’m not going to lie, my heart really wasn’t into the analysis of this episode (and it probably shows in the above writing). There just wasn’t a lot of “meat” from the episode to chew on. But I’m actually very hopeful for the next few episodes. We’re due to get a full blown look at the Others’ society (where they have backyards!), Sayid and Locke staging a rescue operation of Jack, and supposedly the connection between the Others and Dharma in a few episodes. It sounds like excitement is just around the corner, and when it’s all said and done, we’ll all forget how much we complained about this episode.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"Stranger in a Strange Land" Instant Reactions!

Brian's Two Word Review: Lost Light.

After two weeks of episodes that really made you think, this week we were treated to a number of simple love stories on Lost:

  • Kate and Sawyer - realizing they're not really made for each other
  • Kate and Jack - regretting past decisions
  • Jack and Juliet - a strategic alliance blossoming into something more
  • Jack and Achara - a forbidden love from the past
  • Carl and Alex - a forbidden love in the present

Where was this episode last week for Valentine's Day?

There were a few interesting things (like the big fancy boat the Others have, the branding, the fact that Jack is basically going to become an Other, finally leaving Alcatraz for good), but all-in-all, it was a pretty quiet episode in terms of anything deeper. I'm also fairly skeptical of the commercial for next week's episode, which I've got penciled in to be another episode that's pretty light on any actual story advancement and heavy on Hurley and Charlie hijinx.

Anyways, feel free to comment below. Full analysis soon... I'll leave you with one thought:

Jack, if an Other comes up to you and offers to answer any question, don't ask "Where's Juliet?" Pretty much the worst question I can think of asking in that situation - especially for us viewers!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Lost - "Stranger in a Strange Land"

Episode Title: Stranger in a Strange Land

Brian's Deeper Meaning Guess: While I had some initial ideas about the meaning of “Stranger in a Strange Land”, I started this week’s analysis the same way I do ever week – googling the episode title to see if it’s a reference to some book / movie / song that might give us further insight to the episode. Sometimes, the search is a waste, and it’s pretty clear that the title is either pulled from a line of dialogue (“Not in Portland”) or some central theme of the episode (“The Cost of Living”). Other times, the search reveals a lot of very intriguing results. This week is one of those weeks.

“Stranger in a Strange Land” is the title of a science fiction novel written back in 1961. It tells the story of a man, Valentine Michael Smith, who was born and raised by Martians on Mars (obviously), but then returns to Earth as an adult. It’s a “fish out of water” type-story, where the main thrust of the book is Valentine assimilating himself to the human culture – full of consumerism, violence, greed, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. It’s a sharp contrast to the Martian values that Smith was raised on – which focused on inner discipline, immortality, spiritual bonding, and the concept that all people are God, and we should all love each other. Sounds pretty nice, right? It also sounds exactly like the Others.

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We’ve seen the Other’s love of the Buddhist concepts of discipline and spirituality on numerous occasions, and they actually seem to have a nice little utopian society put together under these guiding principles. Reading the summary of the Martian ideals, it reads like the Others’ manifesto except for one item – immortality. But that got me thinking…

I know the popular Lost theory these days is time travel, and we have long theorized that there is some sort of “funky time” on the Island - but maybe we’re looking at it from the wrong perspective. Perhaps time actually passes normally on the Island, but the people on it are somehow unaffected by the passage of it. It’s not really immortality, as in the book – because we’ve seen Others die – but more of a “life extension” concept (but not in a Vanilla Sky sort of way).

Remember that the original purpose of the Dharma Initiative was to research and change the factors in the Valenzetti Equation, which forecast the extinction of mankind. We also have been told that they failed, and couldn’t change the factors. However, that’s not to say that the scientists stopped their work. What if, once they realized that they couldn’t change the factors, they turned their focus to themselves – to find a way to make them unaffected by them?

There have been plenty of hints at this research – from the decaying skeletons (an early experiment gone terribly wrong?) to the Others wombs appearing much older than their outward appearance (a side effect of the life extension – some parts still age normally?). It could also explain why the Others are reluctant to leave the Island. You could even go so far as to say that the Island is acting as some sort of natural “fountain of youth” due to its “unique magnetic properties”, and the scientists were just finding ways to mess with these powers in their experiments. If that were the case, it could also tie into the Pirate Ship and Ancient Statue Foot – the remnants of former civilizations who sought out this mythical “fountain of youth” and settled the Island.

Wow – that was a pretty big tangent, even for me. Back to the task at hand…

Looking at the current situation on the Island, there are two characters just like Smith in the novel – strangers in a strange land – Jack and Crazy Carl. Since this is a Jack flashback episode (his EIGHTH – far and away the most of any character on the show), it’s probably more likely a commentary on his current state – but Crazy Carl’s situation is actually more similar to the book, since he is the one coming from the “Utopia” and the Survivors represent all the vices of “Earth Culture”. Jack’s is the exact opposite of the book.

But, since I have a creeping suspicion that this episode will deal solely with Jack (we might get some shots of Kate, Sawyer, and Crazy Carl continuing their journey to the Main Island, but I’m banking on Jack taking up about 80% of the screen time), we’ll focus our attention on him and assume Crazy Carl doesn’t hit the beach until next week’s episode.

Jack is in a peculiar situation – he actually kept his word and saved Ben (which should earn him a one-way ticket off the Island), but also held Ben’s life hostage in a rogue attempt to free his friends (which should earn him a one-way ticket to the guillotine). Yet, neither seems to be the case. From what we’ve seen in commercials, Jack is being held hostage there a la Kate and Sawyer. It seems pretty clear that the Others intend for Jack to stick around for a while until they decide what to do with him – and in order to do so, he needs to learn to fit in.

I’m hoping that through these assimilation attempts, we will finally get some major reveals about the Others (although this is – mark it – the third time this season I’m calling for us to learn the true nature of the Others, and I was wrong the first two times). Be it Rave Room brainwashing, having Cindy sweet talk him, or putting him through hard manual labor to “break him”, I’m expecting Jack to go through Others Boot Camp.

It should be noted that at the end of the book, Smith is murdered… but Lost wouldn’t actually kill off Jack, would they? I don’t care if Entertainment Weekly gave 20-1 odds of Jack dying, the death watch is officially on!

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One more thing – while the book seems like the most likely reference for this episode, there’s also one other possibility. “Stranger in a Strange Land” is also an Iron Maiden song. Typically, I would dismiss this since the nerdy Lost writers don’t strike me as metal fans – but there is something very intriguing about this song:

It’s found on Iron Maiden’s CD entitled “Somewhere in Time”. Seriously.

Talk about a weird coincidence. I looked into the lyrics of the song, but they don’t really look to apply to the episode since they describe an arctic explorer who dies and is frozen, his body being discovered by other explorers one hundred years later (although if we wanted to stretch it, I’m sure we could apply it to the skeletons / Pirate Ship / Polar Bears or something).

But if nothing else, it’s yet another reminder / hint that there is something funky going on with time on the Island.

Episode Description: A power play ensues between Jack and "The Others" as Juliet's future hangs in the balance. Meanwhile, Kate, Sawyer and Karl continue on their journey away from "Alcatraz."

Episode Breakdown: Remember back in the day when Lost episode descriptions were more than two sentences long? Once again, we’re given very little to go on (which in a way is nice, because it makes the episodes more of a surprise), but I’ll do my best.

By the sounds of the description it’s Juliet who is in deeper water than Jack, although technically Jack is the one who almost killed Ben. Not surprisingly for a freaky cult, the Others clearly don’t take betrayal lightly. It’s also worded to make it sound like Jack has some sort of bargaining chip in the whole thing – which I can’t imagine. If they only wanted Jack to complete the surgery (and since he wasn’t on Jacob’s list), it seems that his usefulness is done. I’m more expecting Jack and Juliet to be in the same situation – people who were promised to be sent off the Island even though they participated in some shady shenanigans to get there – and the power play becomes the decision on what to do with the two of them.

The second sentence probably is merely an extension of Lost Moment 12. Which reminds me…

Lost Moments. We need to go through our Lost Moments to find more hints about what lies ahead in this episode!

Lost Moment 12Kate tells Sawyer they need to go back for Jack, Sawyer calls her crazy.

It’s pretty clear that Sawyer is going to win this argument, and the two will continue their journey to the Main Island, where they’ll circle the wagons Buffalo Bills style before attempting a Jack rescue mission. I’m curious if Crazy Carl will remain passed out for the entire journey (or is he just pretending to be asleep so he doesn’t have to help paddle? Lazy Crazy Carl!) to begin offering us some nuggets of information about the Others and how he fits in with them. But that’s probably me being too hopeful – maybe next week.

Lost Moment 8A sexy Asian woman comes into a room where Jack is sleeping, immediately strips out of her clothes and jumps on him. The two roll off the bed.

Obviously from Jack’s flashback, I have some major questions about Bai Ling’s character – mostly because I’ve read that she’s supposed to be on Lost for not one – but THREE episodes. Since this week is Jack’s flashback, it makes sense. But how in the world is she going to show up on two more episodes unless she is actually on the Island? And if she is actually on the Island, where does she fit in? An agent of the Others that was tracking Jack pre-Flight 815 crash? Didn’t we determine that the crash of Flight 815, while attributable to fate, wasn’t a premeditated event by the Others? Is she just going to appear in creepy visions to Jack a la his father for the next three weeks? Or have we just been fed misinformation from those crafty Lost producers, and she really only appears this week? (More than likely).

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At any rate, this flashback also promises to reveal the meaning behind Jack’s tattoo on his arm. For those who don’t know, the tattoo is actually legit – Matthew Fox actually has it. Rather than cover it up, the Lost creators decided to write its origin and meaning into the storyline of the show – and have mentioned that it’s kind of a big deal. Fox himself has always been very tight-lipped on the meaning of it, but luckily for us, there are plenty of Internet Nerds who are versed in Chinese and Lebanese to spill the meaning:

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The first character means "Eagle". The second character means "Strike" as a verb. The third one means "Long" and the final one means "Void".

This four characters are part of a couplet taken from a famous poem written in 1925 by the Chinese revolutionary leader Chairman Mao Tse-tung (Mao Zedong). The couplet can be translated into "Eagles high up, cleaving the space". But the poem itself has a much deeper meaning. In the end of the first stanza, the poet asks, “who masters fate's rise and descent?"

Like most tattoos featuring Chinese characters, the characters are not rendered 100% correctly in Fox's tattoo. The second character "Strike" is a simplified Chinese character while the first and third characters are traditional Chinese characters. The last character, "Void", can be considered as of either form. The reason for this mismatch could be that the form of "Strike" in its current Simplified Chinese form is very similar to the triangular shape above the characters.

As for the shape above the Chinese characters, it seems like a Lebanese Phalange party symbol (Phalanges Libanaises). The Spanish phalangists also have a similar symbol. The shape looks like a Lebanon cedar tree and similar symbol also appear in the national flag of Lebanon. Also, the Maronite Cross has similar shape. Phalange also means the bones of the hand and foot. In human beings, there are 5 fingers or toes on each limb. That may be the reason there are a number 5 under the phalange symbol and 5 arrows pointing out from the phalange symbol.

The Falange (Phalange) movement is generally considered a right-wing political movement inspired by the Italian Fascism. In Spain, the Falange was an authoritarian political organization founded by José Antonio Primo de Rivera in 1933 in opposition to the Second Spanish Republic.

In Lebanon, The Phalanges Libanaises was founded in 1936 by Pierre Gemayel after seeing the discipline and authoritarianism of Nazi Germany. Its initial aim was to protect the Maronite position in Lebanon; in 1958 it entered the political arena to oppose growing Arab nationalism.

Finally, the "BC" characters on the far right of the arm seems to mean "Bad Character".

So are we in store for a Chinese and political history lesson this episode to garner the meaning? Not likely. I’m betting that we get a simplified explanation of the Chinese phrase dealing with fate (very Losty), and the 5 being a reference to Jack’s “5 second rule" about letting the fear in that he’s mentioned numerous times on the show.

Still, it’s pretty cool.

Lost Moment 5Jack wakes up in a cage, surrounded by Others… and Cindy. He asks Cindy how she ended up with them. Cindy tells Jack they are there “to watch”.

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Also known as the best of all the Lost Moments, this is the reason I’m so excited for this episode. If you recall, Cindy was a member of the Tailers, but she wasn’t kidnapped during the first few nights on the Island. Rather, she was picked off during the journey across the Island to meet up with our Survivors. This brings up a few very interesting questions:

Is she a “good one”? If so, why wasn’t she taken right away like the rest of the kidnapped Tailers? Did it take longer for the Others to decide if she was worthy or not?

What happened to her? She seems to currently be a card carrying Other. Was she a member of Dharma all along, who just used the trek across the Island as an opportunity to sneak away and rejoin her Other comrades? Again – this would seemingly indicate a “master plan” about the crash of Flight 815 that goes against all the evidence we have. Or has she simply already gone through “Other Assimilation” in the Rave Room?

What does she mean by “we’re here to watch”? Are they acting as guards, learning their lesson from Kate and Sawyer that it isn’t too hard to climb out of those oversized cages? Or are they “studying” Jack, a rare chance to observe someone from the outside world – like an animal in a zoo?

Or… have the Others decided to use Jack as a guinea pig for their wacky experiments? If so, they may have already done some sort of experiment on Jack, and Cindy and the Others are observing the results and any reactions that Jack might have? If you buy into the “life extension” or even the “funky time” theories, it’s not too far-fetched that they’re studying him to see how he has changed since he’s been on the Island. This seems like the most logical answer, but getting to it would require some pretty major reveals about the nature of the Island and the purpose of the Others.

It’s sweeps – a guy can dream.

We’ve had two kickass episodes of Lost since the break, and I look for this week to continue the trend. The commercials for this week’s episode promise three big reveals. The meaning behind Jack’s tattoos are one, but I think it’s a stretch to call that a “big reveal”. I think most people could really care less. However, the other two do offer the potential to be huge – an explanation about why the Others kidnap the children, and what happened to Cindy after she disappeared.

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If we actually get explanations about those two, they could potentially change our understanding of the Others, their purpose, and how our Survivors fit in to everything… which could potentially eliminate a lot of the potential theories floating around out there, and open up some new ones. But it would push us one step closer to a greater understanding of the show. Once we understand the Others, we can shift our focus to answering some questions about Smokey… or the magic powers of the Island… or the Pirate Ship… or CFL… or the Four Toed Statue… or how to get off the Island… or the two skeletons… or any of the hundreds of other questions we have about the show.

But hey – it would be nice to cross at least one mystery off the list.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

"Flashes Before Your Eyes" Analysis

I find that one of the problems with taking a few days to formulate and write my analysis to an episode is that by the time it actually gets posted on the Blog, it either seems like a re-hashing of ideas that have already been posted in the Comments section, or that I’m flat-out stealing the theories of others and claiming them as my own. It almost makes me wonder if it’s necessary to go through such analysis, since my conclusions often mirror those of others, who get them out much more quickly than I do. But I guess without knowing what my thoughts are, my future predictions and analysis wouldn’t make any sense. Plus, I usually try to pull together all the theories and ideas out there into one cohesive post for the masses too afraid to venture into the Comments section. That somehow justifies their purpose, and the amount of time I spend on them, right?

Enough of my blabbering. Without further ado, here is my outdated, much-influenced analysis of “Flashes Before Your Eyes”.

Flashbacks. In a way, it's ironic that after two and a half years worth of Lost episodes featuring character flashbacks, only now are we really starting to question them. Up until this point, it was assumed they were merely plot devices used to develop the varied characters that were thrown together after the crash of Flight 815. But after this episode, people are wondering if they might represent something more, something deeper - something that could actually be key to the greater purpose and mysteries of Lost Island itself. Deep stuff.

Before the episode, we were told that it "would feature and use flashbacks in a way we never have before and never will again. It'll either blow people's minds or chase them away for good." Based on the extremely lengthy and heady comments people have already made in the comments section from my "Instant Reactions" on the episode, the former seems to be the case… (although ratings might tell another story - but I blame that more on the episode airing at 10:00 pm than anything else. Heck, it's even tough for me to stay awake for the whole episode… and I've got a lot more vested interest in each episode than the average American!)

So what was so different about the flashbacks this episode? Well, the fundamental difference between Desmond's flashbacks and those of most everyone else over the past few seasons is that he was cognizant of his future and "aware" that he was in his past. Desmond was proactively trying to change his flashbacks, interacting with them, and doing things differently than he did when these moments in his life originally happened. This is a striking contrast to the flashbacks of the other Survivors that just seem to be passively viewing moments in their pre-Island lives in their minds.

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The question becomes – what made Desmond different this episode? What was really happening during his flashbacks? After much deep thought and consultation with my Magic 8 Ball, I've narrowed it down to one of two possibilities, each with their own logical strengths and weaknesses:

Desmond was time traveling. He was actually re-living the events (and changing them). It’s definitely the sexier and much more complicated theory. There are countless variations of what actually was happening – call it “time travel”, an “out of body experience”, a “parallel reality”, or whatever scientific explanation makes the most sense. But the important thing with this theory is that Desmond was physically back in the past, interacting with real people.

From this assumption, there are a number of ways to explain why things happened the way they did, and what it means to the numerous outstanding mysteries we’ve encountered on Lost. But in the end, if Desmond did travel back in time, it really just comes down to two important (but very contrary) points:

  1. Desmond still ended up on the Island.
  2. Desmond told others about his future.


Well, Desmond discovered that fate is a very powerful thing. As Ms. Hawking (creepy old jewelry store lady) told him, the Universe has a way of “correcting itself”. Even if you can travel back in time, things that are destined to happen are going to happen (the “Final Destination” theory). This flies in the face of the “Back to the Future Theory” where the slightest changes in the past can have dramatic effects on the future. However, this goes a long way in explaining all the random events that led our Survivors to the Island. It wasn’t some grand master plan by Dharma or the Others that brought them to the Island – it was merely fate.

Upon viewing this episode, some began to hypothesize that maybe all of the flashbacks we have seen aren’t really just flashbacks, but opportunities for our Survivors to correct their pasts and right their wrongs. But if you look at Desmond this episode, he tried to correct his greatest mistake and found that no matter what he did, he couldn’t. So even if the rest of the Survivors were cognizant of themselves in their flashbacks, it wouldn’t matter – you can’t change your path in life. Kinda depressing, right?

Well the good news is that the other point is much more hopeful, optimistic, and intriguing… and it fits in with Back to the Future Part II. Remember when Marty returned to “Alternate 1985” where everything was different due to his actions in the past? Well, assuming that Desmond actually did go back in time, we’re currently looking at “Alternate Island” because he told his friend Donovan about the future and what was going to happen to him.

By doing this simple act, Desmond might have opened up the door for the rescue of everyone on the Island. While Donovan initially dismissed Desmond’s claims about the soccer (futbol) game, the bar fight, and his race around the world, eventually he would come to realize that Desmond was actually right – he was just a day off in his predictions. I don’t know about you, but if my friend told me that he was going to disappear on a race around the world and then a few months later he actually did, I would start telling people about it.

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So who is this Donovan character? Well, we know he’s a physicist who we meet while he is finishing up a conversation that sounds very much like he’s discussing the possibilities of alternate realities existing. He seems like someone who wouldn’t chalk up his encounter with Desmond to “crazy-talk”, but rather the proof that his theories about time travel / alternate realities actually could exist. From here, it’s easy to see the storyline progressing to Desmond telling Penny, who has the resources to fund setting up a “detection system” for any space-time anomalies around the world… and queue the Arctic Scientists at the end of Season Two.

Because Desmond went back into the past and told Donovan about his future, Penny knows how to find and save him – simply by waiting for the “Electromagnetic Anomaly” to occur (the result of Desmond going back into the past), and then tracking it. The curious thing here is that, if you remember, the Arctic Scientists made a comment about “we didn’t miss it again”, as if there was already one that had already occurred, but they didn’t track. This brings up the interesting concept of a “time loop”. That could either mean that Desmond has done this multiple times, trying to change his past through a variety of ways only to find it futile... or the flashbacks of the other Survivors are actually time travel as well. Since we’ve seen nearly 60 flashbacks from other characters already, I think the former is the more likely – otherwise, the Arctic Scientists’ detection devices would be going off nonstop over the course of the past two months.

But so far we’ve only been talking about Desmond’s time travel to the past. What this episode showed us was that he also has the ability to see the future. His time travel experience wasn’t limited to a one-time event when the Hatch imploded because he’s now saved Charlie TWICE. This is pretty key. If he only saved Charlie once, one could theorize that his entire life flashed before his eyes – past, present, and future – and he knew Charlie was going to die because he already experienced. But by saving Charlie from the lightning bolt, he effectively changed the future. If Charlie was also in danger of drowning, the only way Desmond could have known about is if he saw the future again, after the lightning incident. But is Desmond actually going into the future and interacting with it, as he did with the past? Or is he just getting “visions” of the future as some byproduct of his powers? Does he have any control over this power? How far into the future has he actually seen? Are his visions limited to only seeing others in danger or can he also use this for gambling purposes?

As you can see, the questions start piling on pretty quickly – and trying to formulate reasonable answers for them is enough to make the brains of even the most over-analytical among us start to hurt. But if you remember at the start of this rant, I said one of two explanations was possible. Time travel is just the first. The second is much simpler, and much more logical.

Desmond was dreaming. We're all over-analyzing this a bit, and if we look strictly at the facts from the episode, it's much simpler. When the Hatch imploded, the blast carried Desmond clear out of the Hatch and onto the ground of the jungle some distance away - this clearly knocked him out… at least temporarily - and this is thing that sets his flashbacks apart from everyone else.

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Typically, when a character on Lost has their "flashbacks", they are awake, interacting with others, in the middle of doing things, and otherwise cognizant of what is going on around them. They're almost daydreaming about the past, seemingly inspired by things that are currently happening on the Island (when the writing is good and the flashbacks don't seem forced, that is). At least that's the way they are presented to the viewer.

On the other hand, Desmond's flashback occurred while he was seemingly unconscious (aka “dreaming”) from the blast of the Hatch, between the time when he turned the Failsafe Key and the moment he woke up in the jungle outside... and this might help explain the difference between the two. When Freud studied dreams, he found that more often than not, dreams don't gratify wishes. He noted that some dreams represent attempts to master or overcome a past traumatic experience. It’s the brain’s way of trying to go back and “fix” things from the past that it wishes were different.

Sound familiar?

Desmond was dreaming that he had a chance to do it all over again – to replay the events in his life that led up to his arrival on the Island in hopes of changing them. However, what he found is that dreams don’t always grant wishes. What happens next is an intriguing battle between the left and right sides of Desmond’s brain. His left side is serving up the logic and facts about the present and past. We even have Ms. Hawking acting as a physical manifestation of Desmond’s subconscious – the rational left side of his brain telling him that he can’t actually change the past and needs to accept his current state. Since the left side is the practical, safe side of the brain, she even goes so far as to give him some comfort about his current place in life on the Island with her “If you didn’t push the button, we all would have died” speech. On the other hand, the right, dreaming side of the brain is telling Desmond that he can indeed change his past actions to achieve a different, better future.

In effect, Desmond was just dreaming, not having a “flashback” like everyone else on the Island has. His life “flashed before his eyes” and he tried to change it, but realized that the Island was his fate. No matter what he tried to do, this is where he was supposed to end up. Once again, fate controls all.

It’s all pretty neat and easy, right? Well, the problem is that none of this would explain his future seeing. Sure, Desmond could have had a trippy dream as the result of being knocked out – but how does this explain that how he knows very specifically how Charlie’s life is in danger?


The two are not connected.

Who says that Desmond’s dream has anything to do with the ability to see the future? If we accept that the “flashback” was nothing more than a dream, then it would be in no way tied to the potential magnetic mumbo-jumbo that Desmond could have received from the Hatch Implosion. Think about it. How different is Desmond from Walt seeing the future? What about all the other “visions” that the other Survivors have had on the Island? Desmond’s are just a little different – almost a combination of the two.

Maybe Desmond is somehow temporarily “flashing” outside of the normal time of the Island due to the Hatch Implosion, and the whole point of the dream in this episode was to serve another purpose – to show Desmond coming to grips with his life in the present.

For a show whose constant underlying theme has always been redemption, it would make sense. Here we have Desmond, who has been told that he isn’t good enough and would never amount to anything, ending up on an Island pushing a button where he may or may not have saved the entire world. In the process of saving the world, he somehow gained the ability to see the future, and sees this gift as having the potential for him to do something even more positive with his life – saving others. The Island / Smokey may be giving him this gift as a way to overcome his past demons – that of feeling not worthy – by practically making him a hero.

Again, how different is this than the Island showing Boone visions that helped him get over Shannon, or having the Island appear in the form of Yemi to try and get Eko to repent for his past sins? What better way to help Desmond find his worth than having him save the world? And like the other Survivors, Desmond is finding that getting over your demons isn’t an easy thing. He’s facing the harsh realization that fate is a very powerful thing, and it may not be possible to change it not matter what he does.

So which theory is correct? Well, I think there are three critical pieces of information that tip the scales one way or the other.

The Picture. The first piece of evidence is the picture of Desmond and Penny. Before we analyze too much, it should be pointed out that there is one glaring issue with looking at the picture too closely – that it has changed over the seasons. When we first saw the picture, the actress for Penny had not yet been cast – thus the difference between the picture we saw inside the Hatch at the start of Season Two, and the picture that Desmond currently has.

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So throw any discussion about that out the window. But the interesting thing here is that both Desmond and Penny have a copy of that same picture. Sure, it’s possible that Desmond and Penny had the picture copied prior to Desmond’s race around the world, but what if they didn’t? If Penny and Desmond both have a copy, that could mean that Desmond has gone back in time and that event has happened twice – once where Penny keeps the picture, and once where Desmond keeps the picture.

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Advantage: Time Travel.

Ms. Hawking. First of all, this is two weeks in a row with obvious Stephen Hawking references (he also wrote “A Brief History of Time” featured in last week’s episode). Without getting too in-depth, it’s worth noting that Stephen Hawking is theoretical physicist who specializes in theories on space and time. However, when you look at the character of Ms. Hawking, the important thing is that she knows a whole lot about Desmond’s future. This isn’t like Richard Malkin, the creepy psychic from Claire / Eko’s flashbacks who talked in sweeping generalities and later “admitted” that he was a fraud. Ms. Hawking knows very specific details about Desmond’s future, as well as his intentions to try and change it.

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If Desmond is really time traveling, how do you explain that? Is she an agent of Dharma that can also time travel and is trying to prevent Desmond from changing things? I think that’s a little too far out there, even for someone who just made logical arguments supporting the possibility of time travel. No way.

Desmond’s assumption that she is his conscience is much more plausible, and not a total rip-off of the Matrix movies.

Advantage: Dreaming.

Stuff. What about all the Island Items that we saw in Desmond’s past?

The 1:08 Clock.

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The Beeping Microwave.

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The package “for 815”.

The Polar Bear / Buddha / Namaste Picture.

One note about this – at first it looks like the word “Namaste” is written backwards, which is kinda creepy – and that the picture disappears after we initially see it!

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But actually, what we are originally seeing is the reflection of the picture in a mirror on Desmond’s right side (thus, the backward word), and the real picture is on his left side:

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If you think about it, these are the strongest indications that Desmond was indeed dreaming, and not time traveling. Sure, you could chalk up the items up to coincidence, foreshadowing, or even a Widmore-Dharma connection, but the much more reasonable explanation is that they were just random images that his mind was inserting into his dream. Scientists have found that people often interpolate items from their day-to-day life into dreams in very strange and unexplainable ways.

Advantage: Dreaming.

So, after thinking through both theories and comparing the facts – I think the answer is that the events we saw during “Flashes Before Your Eyes” were just that – Desmond’s life flashing before his eyes in a dream. However, the events that we didn’t see – the future events that also “flashed before his eyes” seem to indicate that Desmond has gained some sort of “future seeing” power from the Island. So in a way, everyone wins. But more specifically (and accurately), those who said “Desmond can’t time travel, but he can see the future” are actually the big winners.

My brain hurts. Two last quick things before I go…

Charlie. In this episode, we discovered that Charlie’s middle name is Hieronymus. His parents must have hated him, right? Well actually, Hieronymus Bosch was a Dutch painter back in the day, famous for works concerning religion, Adam and Eve, sin, etc. Plenty of symbolism there!

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But the more pressing question is – “Is Charlie Doomed?” It’s funny, Desmond said that no matter what he does, he can’t save Charlie – yet ironically he’s now saved him twice. But how long can Desmond keep this up? Does the Island want Charlie dead? Is this a product of fate? Is Dominic Monaghan just looking to get off Lost to do more Hobbit movies?

As much as I hate Claire’s character on the Island (due to her incessant wining and general lack of development), Charlie has to take the cake for having the worst flashbacks of any character on the show (see: “Homecoming”, where Charlie tried to sell copiers and “Fire + Ice” where Charlie does diaper commercials). Based on that alone, I wouldn’t shed too many tears if he actually died.

But will he? Well, as much as we like to claim Lost surprises us – how about this fun fact? No major character has ever died in an episode that wasn’t his or her flashback (Libby being the one exception). Charlie isn’t due for a flashback for quite some time (at least not in the next six episodes), so he should be sticking around for a while at least. Or perhaps Desmond will discover that he can change fate (it just takes a lot of tries and hard work) and Charlie will truly be saved.

Either way, we look to have Charlie around for a while, so we won’t put him on “death watch” quite yet.

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Hobbes. I would be amiss if I went through this entire post and didn’t comment on hobbes’ excellent theory from the Comments section below. For those who didn’t read it, here you go:

Hobbes said:

"if something is meant to happen, it's going to happen" - Brian

Well more to the point in physics there is a strong notion that it is ALL THAT can happen. Due to a multitude of belief systems out there some of you may not appreciate this notion or like this next analogy even less. But I certainly hope I don't basterdize it too much too insult all the physisists out there who really know what they are talking about.

Now imagine the universe is like a big loaf of bread. It is for all intensive purposes, everything. On one end you have the past and on the other you the future. And what if we can make a slice to see from one end to the other? Well, this of course should start to provoke some thought that if indeed the universe is static, then what does that do for free will? And the notion that we have choice? Remember, the loaf is static, all that happens is all that can. There is not to much you can do once the loaf is made, you can't change it. Life, is what it is, brothos' & sistos'. Like I said I may have ruined the actual physics analogy but I think I got the basic premise.

Now this brings me to the Swan hatch and it's Grand (albeit, still hypothetical) purpose. What if the purpose of the Swan hatch was to generate a bubble or a pocket of "Lost Time" in which the area of the island is in a phase shift from the rest of time. Effectively removing that area of spacetime from the static (hard coded) nature of the universe. Wow that was overly wordy. But stay with me hopefully I am making as much sense as it seems in my head. And hey its been awhile since I've had a crazy Lost theory of my own. And like any Lost theory it has holes.

Now I am loosly following this up with things like Juliettes remark about there still being "Free will on the island". And Ben's (HGI at the time) comment about how "God can't see us here"(something to that effect). Well duh! when you are not entirely plugged in with the rest of the universe perhaps there is a way to change things. To alter fates path.

So maybe with this (the Swan Hatch generator), there actually was a way for the initial purpose of the Hanso Foundation/Dharma initiative to succeed in creating a way to directly affect causality, and free ourselves from the "tyranny of those numbers" (the variables in the equation). And ultimately to change the morbid destiny of humanity via altering aspects of the human genome and implimaneting those on a global scale. "The bodies must be examined to insure specific genetic markers are being made" -Mittlework. After all if enough of us can survive...

But more importantly now that the bubble is popped and the island has phased in with the rest of the universe, what now?

Alright I'll take my bruises now.

Awesome theory. While I pretty much throw out the “time travel” notion of this episode, I’m still a big fan of a theory that the Island exists on some sort of “funky time” – and this concept of a “bubble” outside of the normal timeline of the universe makes a lot of sense. It ties in nicely with the ARG from this summer, where Dharma scientists were working to change the Valenzetti Equation and, in doing so, save the world. What better way to create more time to work on saving the world than to develop an Island where time moves more slowly than the rest of the world? They could spend years working on a solution while only hours pass in the rest of the world.

Granted, there are still holes with the theory – the Red Sox World Series footage being the biggest. Jack was shown this footage after roughly one month of “Island Time” had passed. Flight 815 crashed on September 23. The Red Sox won the World Series on October 27. That makes the timeline of the Island nearly identical to the timeline of the rest of the world.

So in the end, I still have no idea how – or even IF – there is “funky time” on the Island. There are so many hints towards it, but no theory seems to match up all the facts and hold up to the overwhelming evidence to discredit it… and so we soldier on in our quest for the truth about Lost.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

"Flashes Before Your Eyes" Instant Reactions

Brian's Three Word Review: What the f...

As in "fate". That was definitely the central theme of the episode - that no matter how many chances you might get to re-live a moment in time, if something is meant to happen, it's going to happen.

I definitely need some time to digest the episode. But here are the discussion points for the morning after:

  1. Who or what was the older lady who wouldn't sell him the ring?
  2. Was the Island giving Desmond a chance to find his redemption, but he screwed it up (again), thus he returned to the Island instead of dying in the Hatch Implosion?
  3. Why did Desmond break things off with Penny when he seemed so hell bent on changing fate just moments earlier?
  4. Is Charlie doomed? Why can't it be Claire?!
  5. Does Desmond continue to "flash" both forward and backward in time - or was it once back, and now all forward?

Homework: research "The Time Traveler's Wife" by Audrey Niffenegger (at the suggestion of tmcnew) and re-watch Back to the Future. Full analysis once the homework is done!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Lost - "Flashes Before Your Eyes"

Episode Title: Flashes Before Your Eyes.

Brian's Deeper Meaning Guess: A couple of obvious references jump out at me here. The first, most literal meaning is likely tied to the flash of the Hatch Implosion (which everyone calls "the sky turning purple" - even though it pretty much looked bright white to me… but I digress). Keep in mind that Desmond was at ground zero for the Hatch Implosion - underneath the floor, literally staring into the face of the source of the energy… and he wasn’t wearing sunglasses! An enormous bright, piercing light flashed before his eyes.

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Based on this title, I am betting we learn a little more about what actually happened when the Hatch imploded. I've learned my lesson from last episode's predictions, when I was ready for a full-out reveal of the Others - so I'm not expecting a total explanation of the repercussions of the Hatch implosion (although it is Sweeps! What better time for a big reveal?!). But I am expecting a reveal of what Desmond saw, what he remembers (or doesn’t remember), and what has been happening to him ever since he turned the Failsafe Key. From this, we should be able to develop some theories about what really happened and what the repercussions actually are from that event, which Lost creators have continually told us is one of the most important things that has happened on the show thus far.

The second meaning lies in the classic expression of one’s "life flashing before your eyes" - typically used to refer to someone on the brink of death, who relives all the memories of their life in an instant, very rapidly, knowing that it's almost over. Clearly Desmond would have had this experience prior to turning the Failsafe Key, since based on everything he learned from Kelvin, doing so would result in death… thus, the reason he went and got “Our Mutual Friend” – the last book he wanted to read before he died – right before turning the key.

All of this brings up a very interesting possibility. Did Desmond die? I know it's a bit out there, but look at the facts from Hatch Implosion. It resulted in a powerful bright light and piercing sound wave that was literally bringing people on the other side of the Island to their knees. How could a person survive such a thing? Then look at how we found Desmond post-Hatch: lying in the jungle, totally naked, body in the position of a cross, looking like a bearded Jesus-esque hippie. Talk about some heavy religious "rebirth" symbolism!

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Of course, if this were the case, it would instantly launch Lost well past the realm of “scientific believability” that it has so far maintained, so I wouldn’t bank on it. But clearly Desmond has been changed – to the point that you could argue “old Desmond” died, and “new Desmond” now exists, complete with freaky super-powers. But again – aren’t freaky super-powers verging on too unbelievable for a show based in science as well? Maybe… but maybe not.

When you look at exactly what New Desmond’s Super Power seems to be – it’s basically just knowledge of events before they occur. Although we don’t technically know how he is able to do this, one can assume that he is seeing these events as if they are happening normally in front of him – thus, the surprise he displayed when questioned about his comment about Locke’s speech. He was surprised that Hurley didn’t know what he was talking about, because to him, it was something that happened and Hurley was standing there when it happened. This indicates it’s really not some sort of conscious power that he’s using to proactively view these events, but more that he’s a helpless victim of this power.

So what the heck is going on? Well, let’s start piecing this puzzle together. The Lost theory-de-jour is that there is some weird time-warp action on the Island… either time on the Island is slowed down, sped up, or some combination of the two. We’ve received confirmation that the Mittelos anagram is in fact “Lost Time”, and that’s a major clue. We’ve seen Others’ girl parts aging much more rapidly than their bodies are, Hatches seemingly be in full use on minute and totally abandoned and derelict looking the next, and skeletons and statues that point towards much more history on the Island than maybe there should be. Either way, there have been a lot of hints that the space time continuum isn’t acting like it should be on this Island.

It’s a logical assumption that whatever is going on with the funky time, it is tied to the unique magnetic properties of the Island (only because we haven’t really learned about anything else about the Island that could potentially explain it). When Desmond turned the Failsafe Key, it messed with it… and messed with him.

Repercussions for Island life aside (since this feels like far too big of a reveal to come so quickly), I think what we’re looking at is Desmond suddenly, sporadically finding himself “outside” of the funky time that everyone and everything else on the Island are following. He’s temporarily “flashing” forward in Island time (at least his mind is), experiencing these events, then returning to the same wavelength as everyone else. I admit, it all sounds a little too Back to the Future, (but in my head I’m picturing Doc Brown at the chalk board outlining the different space time continuums) but I think it’s actually the most logical explanation. It’s more “scientific” than someone just being able to predict the future, isn’t it?

Granted, this brings up a ton of technical questions from the time travel nerds among us, but lucky for us – we’ll never have to really answer them. Why?
  1. I would wager that the majority of America bases their understanding of how “time travel” works on the Back to the Future movies. We’re willing to accept a very general explanation from any character on the show (read: Hurley making a comment about “dude, you got messed up by the magnetism and now you’re jumping back and forth in time”) and then we’ll just fill in the logic based on what we already know from Marty McFly and Doc Brown.
  2. There really is no way they can ever give us a scientific explanation on the show. It’s clear that our Survivors, even the smartest among them, aren’t experts in the studies of magnetism or time travel. It’s also been made evident that the Others don’t know what happened when the “sky went purple”. Who does that leave? Patchy?

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I’m honestly predicting we get some solid views of these “Flashes Before Desmond’s Eyes”, and will be left to piece together the logic on our own.

Episode Description: A suspicious and determined Hurley enlists Charlie to help him wrangle the truth out of Desmond, who has been acting strangely ever since the implosion of the hatch.

Episode Breakdown: Last week, the only Survivors we saw were Kate, Sawyer, and Jack. I’m predicting that this week, we don’t see any of those three, as this episode will represent what has been happening on the main Island during last week’s Alcatraz-centric episode. That sets up the big reunion for next week. But I digress…

Lost Moments. Once again, we’re given very little in the way of episode description. Hurley and Charlie try to get some information out of Desmond about what happened to him post-Hatch. He’s been “acting strangely” (read: seeing the future). Not much there to chew on.

Luckily, we’ve gotten a very generous look at this week’s episode from the “Lost Moments” that aired over the hiatus. So what Lost Moments take place during tonight’s episode? Here are my guesses:

Lost Moment 4Desmond races out towards a barely visible Claire in the ocean in an attempt to save her, as Charlie follows when realizing what is going on.

Although we’ve seen Desmond exhibit his clairvoyance in the past (actually, once by saving Claire’s life!), it won’t be until this incident that Hurley finally puts two and two together and starts questioning what the heck is going on with him. I’m guessing that Desmond and Hurley are mid-conversation and not even in the general vicinity of the beach when Desmond takes off running for the ocean – confirming to Hurley that there’s no way he could have seen / known that Claire was out there.

Lost Moment 1Charlie questions what Desmond is doing, calls him a coward. Desmond flips out and tells him “you don’t know what happened to me when I turned that key”.

After Desmond saves Claire, Charlie is going to be all pissy (that’s a British expression for mad, right?), thinking that Desmond is somehow responsible for Claire nearly drowning in the ocean. I mean, how else (Charlie will think) could he have known she was out there? Unfortunately for Charlie, Desmond is on edge and kinda freaking out due to his newfound ability and jumps on him, hinting that it’s tied to the turning of the Failsafe Key… but not coming out and saying that.

Lost Moment 2Hurley asks Locke if they could have developed super powers after the Hatch implosion, and mentions that Desmond seems to be “future seeing”.

Based on Desmond’s lack of full-disclosure about what happened to him, Hurley will seek out the only other person in the general proximity of the Hatch when it imploded – John Locke. The two will talk, and discover that neither of them seem to be any different from the incident, and Locke will dismiss Hurley as reading into things too much. But this won’t be enough for Hurley and Charlie, who will continue to hound Desmond until…

Lost Moment 3Hurley and Charlie are going through Sawyer’s stuff, Desmond approaches and asks both of them to come with him.

Desmond, thinking he’s going crazy and realizing that he needs to confide his experiences with someone else, finally relents and approaches Hurley and Charlie to try and explain what happened. But where is he bringing them? Back to the hole where the Hatch used to be? To demonstrate his “future seeing ability”? To show them the dead body of “old Desmond”, that didn’t survive the implosion?

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Ironically, when we saw these Lost Moments over the hiatus, these were some of the lamest ones – the ones that led us to disregard Lost Moments as waste of time showing pointless snippets of conversation. But now, I’m as excited about this episode as I was for last week!

Claire. One important point to bring up here is that based on the previews for the episode, Desmond will have twice saved Claire’s life. First from the lightning bolt, now from drowning (unless he doesn’t save her – man, that would be a fantastic fulfillment of one of my Lost wishes since Season One…). So what gives? Why is Claire the only one in danger?

It would be very easy to think about movies like Final Destination, which have the message of “When it’s your time to die, you’re going to die no matter what you do to prevent it.” Is Claire’s number up, with Desmond just prolonging the inevitable? When you factor in some of the earlier themes from Lost, about those who find their peace being the ones who end up dead (Boone, Shannon, Ana-Lucia) it would seem to indicate that Claire has come to grips with whatever demons she’s been wrestling, so her death becomes logical. Except for one problem:

What demons has she come to grips with?

Sure, she was a single mother with a crappy ex-boyfriend. Sure, she tried to sell her baby to bleeding-heart liberals in Los Angeles. But how has any of that changed? Unless she has some greater, deeper issues that we’re not seeing (and won’t see this episode, since it’s a Desmond-centric one), she hasn’t really bettered herself since crashing on the Island (with the exception of getting that bloody baby out of her, so she’s thin again).

So why is she on death’s doorstep, causing so much work for Desmond to constantly be saving her? Is this a product of the Island trying to get rid of her, since she has done “her job” of having Aaron and is no longer of any use? Is she suffering some sort of post-partum depression? Is she under a hypnotic spell, like when Ethan abducted her? Or is she just injury prone, making all this just a coincidence?

Penny. Finally, it wouldn’t be a Desmond-centric Episode Discussion without bringing up the lovely and talented Penny Widmore. I’ve already predicted her arrival on the Island once unsuccessfully (the fall finale), so I’ll refrain from predicting it again this episode... (maybe the season finale?) I do expect that we’ll see a little more of her relationship with Desmond pre-Island, pre-race around the world, to help the audience start rooting for these two lovebirds to get together a little more. But here’s the thing that puzzles me.

Normally, I would expect her to appear in standard flashbacks that the characters have about pre-Island life. But then Damon Lindelof made this comment in Entertainment Weekly about the episode:

“Flashes Before Your Eyes” will use flashbacks in a way we never have before and never will again. It'll either blow people's minds or chase them away for good.

Based on that, I would assume that the flashbacks won’t be to pre-Island life at all. If anything, the “flashbacks” in this episode will be Desmond’s forward “flashes” in time, when he experiences events before they happen. While extremely exciting, if that’s the case, I don’t see how Penny could appear in the episode… unless Desmond flashes forward very far in the future, to a point where he is rescued from the Island and is happily reunited with Penny.

Talk about blowing people’s minds – that would confirm that he is eventually rescued… except for the people who would debate that he was only dreaming. We would also be left with a downright distraught Desmond, who temporarily experienced the joy of reuniting with Penny only to be yanked back to present-time reality on the Island.

It would be awesome… but might effectively wreck the mystery of the show… and this is why I do not write for Lost.

Devil Music. Okay, okay – I read you loud and clear. You want a breakdown of the freaky devil music from Crazy Carl’s Rave Room from “Not in Portland”. As many of you already know (if you frequent the Comments section of each post, which you really should), if you play the music from the Rave Room backwards, a woman’s voice says “Only fools are enslaved by time and space.” You can listen to it here, but be warned – the gentle voice talking over the jarring backwards techno beats is pretty freaky. Don’t watch alone!

First of all – hats off to Lost’s creators for inserting this and AV junkies for finding this. Wow. It’s really impressive. Secondly, factor this in with our other “Lost Time” hints from the episode (Mittelos, A Brief History of Time, Aging Girl Parts) and you might think this is the nail in the coffin that the Others have figured out a way to “bend” space and time to achieve their goals.

Lee Corso style, not so fast my friend!

Before taking that quote literally, think about this – according to the Buddhist perspective on Time and Space, “The wise know how to use time and space perfectly; they lead free and harmonious lives. Fools are enslaved by time and space; they are busy running around all day. Wise or foolish, the difference is obvious.”

Maybe this quote isn’t so much proof of the Others going Hiro on us, but just more evidence of their very clearly Buddhist ways (note the pictue of Buddha shown in the video, as well as the “Plant a Good Seed” quote).

While I agree that the double-meaning behind the quote, as well as how well it was hidden is worth noting, it may be nothing more than a subliminal message to an Other-in-training that they need to make good use of their time in order to transcend and find true happiness. But good and creepy fun, nonetheless.

Viewer Mailbag. Lastly, I figure it’s a good time to pull out the viewer mailbag and comment on the many great comments that are tucked away in the Comments section. I don’t always get the chance to reply to them all, so here’s my opportunity to catch up!

Anonymous said: “my question is, did juliets sister really get pregnant or did someone from mettelos force her to say she was as a way to get Juliet to go. Because it was her sister and her exhusband that were in one way or another preventing her from going. All of a sudden both were out the way.”

Great question. While it would be very easy for the very powerful Dharma / Hanso group to fake Juliet’s sister’s pregnancy (I mean, they killed a guy – this would be child’s play!), the question becomes why? Why would they want Juliet if she really didn’t have the ability to make babies where babies should not be? I think the Others’ reproductive issue is very real based on their kidnapping and experimentation of kids that end up on the Island. Why would they want Juliet if she was just a semi-hot doctor? No – I think Juliet’s sister was indeed pregnant – all the more reason she wants to get off the Island.

Anonymous said: “The Clockwork Orange video read "God Loves You Like He Loved Jacob" its in past tense so is Jacob dead or gone or did he become an outcast just like Jules has apparently become?”

Well, the biggest argument for Jacob being alive is that he made a list from our Survivors (that Jack, Kate, and Sawyer weren’t on). Last season seemed to indicate that the crash of Flight 815 was accidental, not pre-meditated, so Jacob couldn’t have made the list before they crashed. I’m guessing he’s still alive.

Stu said: “Why did ben let himself get captured?”

It boggles my mind to this day. Was he just there to stir things up and try to find weaknesses for the Others’ eventual attack on our Survivors? Did he go on a dangerous mission in exchange for Jacob allowing him to kidnap Jack, which in turn allowed him to have his surgery and live? I don’t know. Since Ben was only originally scheduled to be on Lost for a few episodes, I feel like this was one of the story threads that wasn’t fully planned out, and changed mid-stream. Which means we might never get a good answer. But I hope I’m wrong.

Rutkowskilives said: “So Pickett is dead, and Carl is now with the Losties, and Juliet is probably going to be ostracized... and I'm left to wonder, are the Others running out of people?”

Agreed. I’ve thought from the start that the reason the Others “left our Survivors alone” was because they couldn’t take them if they tried because they were outnumbered. They needed to pick them off slowly, let the Island claim a few, and then they could stage a fight if they needed to. We’ve seen the same few characters around Alcatraz, and even the little neighborhood on the main Island didn’t look to have more than 20 houses or so. Factor in that they can’t make new Others due to their baby issues, and I think it’s a real concern for the Others.

Stormko said: “What is the meaning or significance of the two skeletons that Jack and Kate found in the cave of season 1?

CUSE: The answer to that question goes to the nature of the timeline of the island. We don't want to say too much about it, but there are a couple Easter eggs embedded in [the Feb. 7 episode], one of which is an anagram that actually sheds some light on the skeletons and hints at a larger mythological mystery that will start to unfold later in the season.

LINDELOF: There were certain things we knew from the very beginning. Independent of ever knowing when the end was going to be, we knew what it was going to be, and we wanted to start setting it up as early as season 1, or else people would think that we were making it up as we were going along. So the skeletons are the living — or, I guess, slowly decomposing — proof of that. When all is said and done, people are going to point to the skeletons and say, ''That is proof that from the very beginning, they always knew that they were going to do this.''”

After reading that, given all our funky time talk, I had to go back and re-watch the scene. Here is what we get from it:

Per Jack, there is no trauma on the skeletons – meaning they died naturally. They have been dead for 40 or 50 years “at least”. There is one male and one female, which Locke dubs “our very own Adam and Eve”. Charlie comments that this means “there were people on the Island before us.” Jack picks up a bag from one of them, which contains one white stone and one black stone.

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So what does it all mean? It’s easy (and I think some of you have already jumped to this conclusion) to think that there is some sort of cyclical nature to time on the Island, like they’re stuck in a loop. Jack picking up those stones means that eventually he (and Kate?) will die and become those skeletons for the next Jack and Kate that come along in the future. Way too trippy, even for me (probably because this concept wasn’t discussed in Back to the Future).

But based on Lindelof and Cuse’s comments, it’s clear that they are tied to the funky time on the Island. I would look for a simpler explanation – perhaps the bodies of Karen and Tom Degroot, founders of the Dharma Foundation who somehow ended up on the wrong side of the funky time warp on the Island (an experiment gone wrong?) and aged fast – really fast. Thus, the skeletons look to be much older than they really are. The skeletons are a hint of the time warp on the Island, nothing more.

Anonymous said: “What about Smokey btw and Mr. Ekko's ominous last words that "you're next"?”

Part of me wants to discredit this, since it’s been made known that the Lost writers didn’t want to kill Eko until later in the season, but the timeline was pushed up due to the actor’s wishes. It makes me wonder if Eko had died later in the season, if it would have even been at the hand of Smokey? However, if we assume that Smokey would have gone punchy on Eko no matter when it happened, I think the “you’re next” indicates that whatever is controlling Smokey (if anyone) is done playing games and is back to the scary, pilot-eating beast that it used to be. Our Survivors have been warned to stop snooping around the Island, entering Hatches, and exploring more and more of it – and I think the security system (Smokey) is punishing them for it, guarding the rich chocolate center of the Island.

Hobbes said: “I still think this is Ben's primary concern; to save humanity at any cost. So if this goal is his true or ultimate purpose in life and everything the Others are doing revolves around that. Then Danny's comment "he would rather die..." could support the total belief and dedication to that goal. Come on? What's more important then staving off the extinction of the human species?”

I agree – this would tie in nicely with the whole “Valenzetti Equation”, Dharma Initiative, and Numbers that we learned about this summer through the ARG. It would help explain how the Others can seem so good and so bad at the same time – they’re blinded by their righteousness, and all logic / normal rules of right and wrong are thrown out the window.

Great stuff, loyal readers. I know it’s an alleged “holiday” tonight that might prevent some of you from enjoying the Losty goodness – but I say what better way to spend Valentine’s Day than with your significant other on the couch TV watching Lost? You can make-out on commercials and do the patented “yawn arm reach” move that is money in the bank.

Lost brings lovers together. Trust me!

Enjoy Lost.