Well, “Expose” turned out to be quite the expectation roller coaster, didn’t it? Months ago, when we first heard about a Nikki and Paulo-centric episode, everyone feared the worst. Then suddenly, after a few intriguing stories in magazines (Entertainment Weekly) and quotes dropped by the Lost creators (Lindelof and Cruse), there was some honest excitement for this episode. There were rumblings about this being an episode with a “game changing event”, holding the potential to answer “mythological questions about the Island”, and turning Nikki and Paulo into “iconic characters” on the show. Personally, I found myself getting more excited for this episode than last week’s Locke-centric masterpiece.
But in the end, “Expose” turned out to be nothing of the sort. It was cheap fun without much substance, and certainly didn’t change any games or turn Nikki and Paulo into characters central to the show. In my “Instant Reactions”, I summarized the episode as “entertaining”, and that’s exactly what it was. But there isn’t too much to analyze from it, so this should be a fairly short and sweet post. Brian Leonard, you’re right – I should have been in Europe for this episode!
Nikki and Paulo. These two characters appeared in a handful of episodes, never with more than a line or two of dialogue, really only had two very brief pre-Island flashback scenes (but one of them featured Nikki stripping, so at least we got our money’s worth), and died in the first episode where the audience started to learn who they actually were. The big question that a lot of people are asking is "why"?
Looking back at the entire time that Nikki and Paulo spent on the Island, including their flashbacks in "Expose", what contributions did either make to any storylines? You could argue that Nikki helped Sayid and Locke figure out the television screens in the Pearl (although you have to figure they would have eventually figured this out anyways), but otherwise, I'm hard-pressed to come up with any physical or emotional impact that either character had on any storyline or other characters on the Island. Really, they were throwaway characters.
In my mind, this was a huge missed opportunity. If you remember my episode preview, I thought I understood the purpose of the characters, and thought the writers were brilliant in their thinking. Nikki and Paulo could have served as the gateway for the audience to view prior events from different perspectives, gaining more understanding about them, revealing mysteries, and providing information you couldn’t otherwise logically provide to the viewer. Unfortunately, the writers only seemed to get halfway there. Sure, they showed us new perspectives on scenes from prior episodes – but we didn't actually get any new material or understanding from them.
There’s nothing wrong with the way the episode played out – personally I got a sort of nostalgic happy feeling seeing familiar scenes replayed from different angles. But by doing it this way, we’re still left with the fundamental question of "why?” as in “Why did Nikki and Paulo exist at all?”
In my mind, there are two possibilities here, or some combination of the two:
- Nikki and Paulo were originally going to be more “major” characters on the show, but the writers screwed up in their introduction leading the audience to absolutely hate them. Rather than slowly and painfully phasing the characters out, leading to more fan backlash, the writers quickly killed them to clean up their mess.
- Nikki and Paulo existed merely as a representation of the "background" characters on the show, and were meant to simply give a commentary of the isolation and lack of communication between the Survivors of Flight 815. Having served their purpose in delivering this message, they had no further purpose and were killed off.
Personally, I have a hard time believing that the writers could screw up as badly as they did with the introduction of the characters. They were never formally introduced, never had any meaningful dialogue, and just seemed out of place in every scene they were in. Compare these characters to Ben, Desmond, or Juliet. These characters were properly introduced, given a purpose, and are now arguably some of the most popular characters on the show. So I’m tempted to fall down on the second possibility and look at the symbolism of the characters.
How ironic that “major events” on the show such as the discovery of the Beechcraft Plane and the Pearl Station could have been revealed much earlier if the Survivors actually communicated with each other. Heck, Paulo could have single-handedly prevented the kidnapping of Kate, Sawyer, and Jack if he relayed the conversation he overheard in the Pearl.
But instead, each Survivor is truly an Island – fighting their own inner demons and overcoming their own issues rather than banding together with each other. The inclusion of Jack’s “live together, die alone” speech wasn’t by accident. It was meant to highlight the central theme of the episode, and perhaps even the series.
At least that’s the best justification I can come up with to answer the “why”.
Because of this, part of me is tempted to ignore some of the analysis of these two characters – to toss them out as “exceptions to the rule”, rather than hold their experiences on the Island up to the same logical analysis as other characters – because if you include them, some of the commonalities we’ve seen over the course of the series don’t match up… in particular their deaths.
Every other character on the show seems to have found some sort of peace before they died – either on the Island or in their flashbacks (Boone got over Shannon, Shannon learned to love, Ana-Lucia gave up her “tough girl” act, Libby got over her crazy, Eko accepted his past actions, and Arzt learned a valuable lesson about the dangers of dynamite). But if anything, Nikki and Paulo were worse off right before they died. They seemed to have forgotten about the diamonds and learned to love each other mid-episode, but at the end they were as hateful and greedy as ever. They didn’t get their peace that the writers have given every other character.
Does this mean that they are truly “bad people”, and everyone else on the Island is really “good” at heart? Or is it more that everyone else was supposed to die, and these two were not – merely victims of bad luck? Or is it just a product of the “quick exit” of these characters, that the writers didn’t have time to exhibit character growth? I’m not sure – but it’s not something I’m going to dwell on. It’s almost like this episode taught us to not worry about the background characters on the show. It showed that even if we did get to know these people, we wouldn’t like them, wouldn’t want them eating up screen time from the core characters we already know, and wouldn’t miss them if they were dead.
Jokes. Which brings up another interesting point: more than any episode of Lost ever, this seemed to be an episode where the writers were talking directly to the audience. I remember one of the early explanations for Nikki and Paulo from the writers was that they “represent the audience, viewing the action on the Island, but not being a part of it.” Therefore it’s fitting that the writers used their episode to throw out a number of “inside jokes” and references to the hardcore viewer. Things like…
- Sawyer and Hurley's argument about what Eko meant when he said "you're next". Did he mean Locke was next, Nikki and Paulo were next, or all the Survivors were next? This is a question we all asked after the episode, and the characters on the show are asking the same thing.
- Paulo being afraid to climb up into the Beechcraft plane to look for a radio out of fear it will fall – which we all know Boone foolishly did, and eventually led to his death.
- Nikki accepting her death on the television show “Expose” because she was just a guest star… just like on “Lost”.
They all made me laugh, and made this one of the most tongue-in-cheek episodes of Lost ever. But again, these are all just stylistic and subjective thoughts about the episode. Is there anything we actually need to analyze? Just a few things…
Ben and Juliet. It seems as though the Others used the Pearl Station to observe our Survivors once the entered the Swan Station, and this is how Ben formed his plan to get Jack to perform the surgery on him. It’s important to note that this further confirms that Ben was well aware of his tumor back before the Hatch Implosion, when he still (in theory) could have gone back to the mainland to have the surgery performed. He definitely is not willing to leave the Island for whatever reason. It also reminded us of the former ruse of the Others, trying to look derelict to keep our Survivors in the dark about their knowledge and power. It all ties back into the “we are protecting a huge secret and they can’t find out” theory I mentioned a few weeks back.
Ben also mentions the need to cover the Hatch entrance to the Pearl with the Beechcraft Plane. For one thing, I find it quite ironic that Locke (who was so consumed with figuring out a way to get into the Swan Hatch) was basically standing on top of the much easier to open Pearl Hatch when he and Boone first found the Beechcraft Plane. Later, this dragging of the airplane over the top of the Hatch may have led to the apparent image of a question mark that was seen from above.
We can also assume that the Others used tunnels to get to and from the Pearl Station after the plane was moved – which makes it curious that none of our Survivors tried to follow them when investigating the station. Are they hidden? Will we finally see them when the Search Party tries to leave the Barracks?
Smokey. Yes, I know that Arzt said that the Medusa Spider emits a powerful pheromone that would attract other spiders, logically explaining why they would have attacked Nikki at the end of the episode. But go back and watch it. Before the spiders show up, when Paulo is still giving his heartfelt “I thought the diamonds would break us up” speech, the Smokey Chatter starts. Nikki looks up and around, frightened. She hears it too, and seems to know what it means. It’s this noise that distracts her from noticing the Medusa Spider climbing on her leg.
So while we can’t jump to the conclusion that Smokey caused the death of Nikki and Paulo, his (her? its?) near appearance could be indirectly attributed to them. Does this mean that Smokey wanted them dead? Is Smokey an Island Grim Reaper, nearby whenever someone dies to judge their souls? Or is this all a coincidence? There’s really not enough evidence to come down on any sides here, but it’s nice to know that the writers haven’t forgotten about one of the biggest mysteries on the show. We’re due for another Smokey attack any time now, aren’t we?
Dead! I know a lot of people have speculated that Nikki and Paulo could still rise from their grave in the next episode, but I would bet pretty heavily against it. While Locke’s line that nothing on the Island stays buried for long might hint at the possibility, doing so would cheapen the most shocking deaths that Lost has ever seen and would seemingly undo what this episode was at least partially trying to accomplish – getting rid of Nikki and Paulo.
Miscellaneous. Just a few other miscellaneous items, not warranting dedicated paragraphs:
Vincent. He knew that Nikki and Paulo were alive, and was trying to save them. He continues to be one of the most knowledgeable characters on the show, but unfortunately he can’t talk. If he could, I’m pretty sure our Survivors would all be off the Island by now.
Big Bad. The “reveal” in “Expose” about who the Big Bad (Buffy term for “main bad guy” of a season or series) truly was at the end of Season Four has some wondering if the same will be true for Lost. It would tie in with the original planned five or six season arc of the show – find out the bad guy, then have a season or two to overcome them – but who would it be? It’s pretty obvious that the Others aren’t the bad guys. I’m still a big fan of our Survivors being the bad guys, but there are also options like Hanso coming back, Island Savages, other Outsiders, etc. But again, I think that introducing this Big Bad would be the best way to get our Survivors merged with the Others, so I’d like to see it happen by the end of THIS season, not next season. We shall see…
Shannon and Boone. I love that Nikki asked Paulo to promise they wouldn’t end up like Boone and Shannon, fighting with each other. Ironically, they ended up exactly like them in more ways than one, since all four characters died on the Island. There was also some quote about a gay character being revealed in this episode which some have assumed meant Boone based on Shannon’s comment about flirting with other guys to him. But wasn’t that just in jest, meant to mock Boone rather than a commentary of his sexuality? I don’t buy it.
…and that’s all I’ve got. Some episodes I look back at my Instant Reactions and think “man, I must have been tired when I wrote that” because after a day or two, my thoughts about an episode have totally changed. But with this episode, they still ring true. This was an easy episode - in a way, ironically designed for the hardcore fans even though it centered around their two most despised characters and didn’t reveal anything. But for me, that’s fine. Every episode doesn't have to be earth shattering or continue one big long plot. Standalone episodes like this provide a breath of fresh air from the sometimes over-powering season long plots. As long as it's entertaining, I'm happy – and this definitely was entertaining.
Quick Update on the Control the Blog contest. I’ll be sending out a request to everyone who expressed interest asking that they write a few paragraphs about something – an episode preview, an episode analysis, some sort of thematic point about Lost, whatever – just so that I can get a feel for who can actually put together coherent thoughts in English sentences, and who writes in text message shorthand and misuses homonyms. They’ll be judged, and I’ll pick out the winners, who will be assigned one of the following tasks:
Episode 3.16 Analysis
Episode 3.17 Preview
Episode 3.17 Analysis
Episode 3.18 Preview
Episode 3.18 Analysis
…and maybe Episode 3.19 Preview, since I’m likely to be totally swamped the week I get back. I think it should all work out pretty great, and am excited to see some different writers on the Blog rather than my own quote-and-parentheses-heavy, overloaded-sentence style of writing.
I leave you with some pictures of Nikki in bikinis. Think of it as a montage to a character who has just died (I’d recommend humming along “One Shining Moment” to get the full effect), or as an excuse to put up an inordinate amount of pictures of a scantily clad girl on the Blog. Enjoy.