Saturday, September 30, 2006

Lost - "A Tale of Two Cities"

Finally! It’s been a grueling 133 days between the Lost Season Two Finale and the upcoming Lost Season Three Premiere, but we somehow made it. Welcome to the first official Lost Blog of Season Three!

Episode Title: “A Tale of Two Cities”

Brian's Deeper Meaning Guess: Great. Once again Lost is forcing me to learn about a literary work that I had thus far successfully avoided in my life. It would be nice if they started referencing novels that I actually read in high school to save me some time. But I digress – sometimes blogging requires you to buckle down and give yourself a crash course in Charles Dickens’ most famous work over the course of a Saturday morning (it’s not all fame, fortune, and gorgeous women like you might think!).

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

Okay – if you’re anything like me, you know the first line of this novel and nothing else. So before we get too crazy (read: deep), here’s your crash course in the storyline of the novel:

The two cities in question are London and Paris. The plot centers on the years leading up to the French Revolution, telling the story of two men – Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton. Darnay is a romantic aristocrat (read: fancy pants), Carton is a cynical English barrister (read: lawyer), but both are in love with the same girl, Lucie Manette (read: hussie!). I’ll save the extraneous plot elements, twists, and turns and give you the ending – Carton ends up sacrificing himself for Lucie, and Darnay ends up marrying her.

One of the big themes of the novel is comparing and contrasting people, places, and events. The other big ones involve fate, imprisonment, and oppression. Sound a little bit like a certain television show we know and love? Let’s get deep…

From a purely literal perspective, “A Tale of Two Cities” could simply refer to the two “cities” on the Island – the Others’ Camp, and the Survivors’ Camp. Although we have yet to see the camp of the Others (more on this later) it stands to reason that there will be some stark differences between the two.

Put as simply as possible, the Others have knowledge, resources, and collared shirts.

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Our Survivors, while doing quite well for themselves living off of the luggage of the dead and random Dharma food drops, definitely are in the dark about what is going on and have been wearing the same ragged clothes since the crash. Furthermore, expect a sharp contrast between the disarray in the Survivors’ camp – who are now missing their two primary leaders (Sayid and Jack) as well as their secondary leaders (Locke and Eko) – “the worst of times”, versus the Others’ camp - which I envision being run like a well-oiled machine – “the best of times”. Everything we’ve seen so far shows the Others to be calculating, precise, and working in tandem. I expect their camp to be no different.

But, if one were to compare the Survivor and Other camps to Paris and London from the Dickens novel, which is which? Initially, you would logically say that the Survivors represent chaotic revolutionary era Paris; while the Others represent stable, established London. However, there’s also a very real chance that my crazy notion of Rebel Dharmites (which I’ve been pitching ever since we saw the Blast Door last year) might prove to be true – and the opposite is actually true.

One of the major themes of A Tale of Two Cities is that of oppression, a ruling class keeping everyone else down. While you could argue that this could be representative of the Others menacing the Survivors, I think it’s more likely to hint at Dharma keeping both the Survivors and Rebel Dharmites down. The Others camp, if currently inhabited by both Dharmites and Rebel Dharmites, might be about to have a Revolution of its own… and Jack, Kate, and Sawyer are going to be right in the middle of it.

Speaking of everyone’s favorite love triangle, how about the parallels between the characters from A Tale of Two Cities to these three?

Charles Darnay is the hero of the novel, full of honorable traits like honor, courage, and respect. Sounds a lot like Jack, doesn’t it? Sawyer is just like Sydney Carton, who was a lazy alcoholic who seemingly cared for no one but himself. Then we have Kate, who doesn’t quite fit into the mold of Lucie Manette, but come on – she’s a girl – that’s close enough. Are we to infer that this means Kate is going to choose Jack? Does this mean that Sawyer’s about to die? I mean, we do see Kate seemingly kissing Sawyer and then crying in one preview…

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Let’s not get crazy. Although I would applaud the ballsiness of the writers to kill off Sawyer in the season premiere, no way that is happening. I think it is likely that we see Sawyer make some sort of “sacrifice” to help Kate, gaining some redemption a la Carton without going all the way of giving up his life for her.

The final major theme of the novel is fate. The funny thing is that in re-watching the Season Two Finale, I realized what a huge theme this has become to the show as a whole. Therefore, there’s much more about fate below – but keep in mind it’s also a big theme of A Tale of Two Cities.

So the only question that remains is how this episode title ties in with the flashbacks of the episode? It’s a Jack-centric episode, so if the flashbacks deal with his breakup with Sarah, we could easily get some more character parallels between Jack, Sarah, and Sarah’s Gentleman Lover and Darnay, Carton, and Lucie – but in this case, I think Jack would be more of a Carton than a Darnay. Does Jack make some sacrifice for Sarah, but end up ultimately losing her anyways?

Maybe we’re stretching here. I think there are enough “on-Island” deeper meanings to the episode title that none are needed in the flashbacks – but I would be very impressed with the writers if there were some in both.

Before we move on, one last quick note I found in my research of A Tale of Two Cities that makes it even more Lost relevant. Check out this line:

“every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other”

That’s Lost in a nutshell, isn’t it? Description: Jack, Kate, and Sawyer are held in unique circumstances by the mysterious "Others". Meanwhile, back on the beach, a struggle for leadership and direction begins as Hurley makes his way back home with bad news. Breakdown: From what we’ve seen in the previews, the Others implemented a “divide and conquer” strategy with Jack, Kate, and Sawyer. What are the “unique circumstances” referenced?

Jack appears to be held in some underground / underwater jail. The previews show him opening a door and having water pour in. Could this be the long rumored “underwater hatch” that Internet people have been chatting about for a year now?

Sawyer is being held in an oversized cage, which appears to have been built to contain some sort of large monkey (Joop, Lost Experience People?). There are oversized picture buttons to control food release and “corrective” electric zaps to prevent misbehavior.

Kate, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be confined to a particular cell or area. In fact, she’s wearing new clothes and being led around by Tom in some previews. It strikes me as very “King Kong”, putting her in a pretty new dress to lead her to be the “sacrifice” to some Island monster.

So what’s going on? Although I’ve had over a hundred days to figure out why the Others took Jack, Kate, and Sawyer specifically, I’ve still got no great reason. As I’ve said before, they’re not the “leaders” of the Survivors (which would include Sayid), they’re not the strongest (which would include Eko), they’re not the smartest (again, Sayid). Anything that the three of them have seen (such as “secrets” of the Island) were always in the presence of other Survivors as well (like Locke), so that can’t be the reason either.

Really the only argument you could make of what separates Jack, Kate, and Sawyer from the other Survivors is that they’re the most attractive – and while the prospect of the Others kidnapping them to help populate the Island would provide some steamy jungle love scenes, it’s completely ridiculous.

So, it’s time to look at this from another angle.

Jack, Kate, and Sawyer weren’t kidnapped because of some unifying factor – they were kidnapped for individual traits of each of them. Much like Walt being kidnapped, but not Aaron – even though both were “children”, there must be specific reasons why each of them were taken – and it was just easier to get all three of them in one fell swoop rather than individually.

(Unfortunately, it’s impossible to figure out what these traits are. They could be anything from blood type to survival skills to being knowledgeable about specific subjects.)

Meanwhile, a struggle for leadership and direction begins at the beach. Seriously, remember how many critical players are currently missing from the Survivors. Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke, Eko, Desmond, Sayid, Sun, and Jin are all currently away. From our “core cast”, that leaves one of the following left to take charge:

Claire, Charlie, Hurley, Rose, Bernard

None of those really stand out as having any sort of leadership qualities. So who is going to lead our Survivors in this time of need (at least until Locke, Eko, and Desmond return from the Hatch)?

Someone random from the background.

I remember before Season Two started thinking how great it was that there were always random extras in the background of scenes. The writers very smartly rarely identified these people with specific names, or had them appear in multiple scenes. We were always aware that they were there, but never enough to pick any out or associate faces with names. They were just background. The nice thing is that this makes it super easy to suddenly have one of these background characters step forward and become a “main character” (a la Dr. Artz). It provides the writers with a “bullpen” of characters to fall back on without having to explain who they are or how they got there (a la the Tailers). They’ve always been there. We just haven’t noticed them until now.

So what’s going to really happen in this episode? That was a pretty thin episode description compared to some of the paragraph long previews we grew accustomed to last season. My best guess is that we’re due for a surprise of Hatch-like proportions dealing with the Others that will turn the episode on its head. Remember the Season Two premiere that started showing Desmond’s typical day as all of America asked itself “isn’t Lost supposed to be on now? Are we on the right channel?” I think we’re due for something similar in the Season Three premiere. Aside from the opening shot of a single eye opening (which started both Seasons One and Two), I have no idea what to expect – but I’m anxious to find out.

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Lost Reset.

If you’re anything like me, you can’t remember anything that happened four days ago, let alone four months ago. Therefore, to help bring you up to speed on what is going on in the world of Lost, here’s your Lost Reset – of where we left the various storylines on the Island, and where we’re headed in Season Three…

Others. Ever since we saw and analyzed the Blast Door in “Lockdown”, I’ve been a big fan of the theory of “Rebel Dharmites” – that is, individuals originally associated with Dharma / Hanso who rebelled against it either after finding out the truth behind the organization, or being experiment test subjects who have escaped. During Season Two there was plenty of evidence to support this theory, but also some pieces that didn’t seem to quite fit (most notably Ethan being pure evil, while the rest of the Others have been rather benevolent).

Well, I think it’s finally the moment of truth. While I don’t think we’re going to get a full disclosure of who the Others truly are and what their purpose is, I think it will become clear pretty quick if they are indeed Rebel Dharmites or not.

An Other World. Speaking of the Others, one of the big questions of the off-season has been “Where do the Others live?” I did a lot of searching on the Internet to see if I could find a map of what areas of the Island had been explored versus what areas remained a mystery, thinking these could be the potential areas of their camp – but there really aren’t any great ones out there.

Instead, I went back to the Blast Door Map, which I think is really the only accurate map of the Island that we can trust. A lot of the other ones have been pulled together by viewers (quite astutely) piecing together things we have seen in various episodes, which opens the door for a lot of variables. So back to our map…

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We’ve seen the Swan, Arrow, Staff, and Pearl Hatches. For the most part, any travel on the Island has been around the perimeter of the Island. Therefore, the most logical place for the Others to be living – a place that hasn’t been much explored - is at the ? from the Blast Door Map.

(This is all based on my theory that Locke and Eko actually did not find the ? on the map last season like they thought they did -

The only evidence contradicting this site for the camp is the instruction we saw in the Pearl Orientation video referencing taking the Ferry to go to and from the base camp. If this is the case, the Others camp must be some sort of off-Island location – a smaller off-shore Island? An aircraft carrier? An underwater Atlantis, tethered to the Island by the wire that Sayid found when walking along the beach?

The Incident. When I was re-watching the Season Two finale, something struck me as odd about the way Kelvin described “the incident”. He referred to it as “a leak”. I was also thinking about the repercussion of Desmond blowing up the Hatch.

Stop and think about this for a second – when the Swan Hatch was originally created, there was no need for the 108 Button pushing. Therefore, the magnetic charges clearly were being released naturally over time without causing any issue. Then there was “the incident”. Ever since then, the 108 Button became necessary. How could Desmond blowing up the Hatch return the magnetic release to their original “safe” state? How could destroying the Hatch “seal up” the leak? If it could, why wouldn’t Dharma have done it a long time ago? I’m thinking the “leak” was in no way tied to the magnetic charge. It was tied to secrecy.

During the Lost Experience, we learned that when Hanso picked the Island for its experiments, he kept the location secret, revealing it only to a few close personnel. What if someone “leaked” the location of the Island to the wrong person? In order to protect the experiments going on there, they would need a way to keep the Island hidden. Say hello to the 108 Numbers.

Dharma Scientists must have found a way to harness the “unique magnetic properties” of the Island to generate a “stealth mode” for the Island, keeping it hidden. However, in order to keep the magnetic force at the proper level, and not allow it to grow out of control, a release was required every 108 minutes. They told the Swan Hatch inhabitants that they were saving the world – but they were really just protecting Dharma. Desmond turning the fail safe simply destroyed whatever Dharma equipment was used to allow the magnetism to build up. It’s now back to the original, natural levels.

The show’s creators have said that Desmond blowing up the Swan Hatch would have huge repercussions for the rest of the series. I’m thinking that Desmond “blowing up” the Hatch opened up the door for the outside world to see the Island using radar / electronic methods / whatever those crazy Portuguese guys were using in the Season Two Finale… and if they can see it, they can find it.

I think we’re going to have some new visitors to the Island in the future. Remember HGI telling Michael that if he left, he wouldn’t be able to find the Island again? Well I don’t think that is true any longer. I think he could easily find the Island again if he wanted to. And if he can, so can Penny Widmore.

Fate. The other really big thing that struck me in rewatching the Season Two finale is the concept of fate, and how important it is to the entire series. I’m reminded of Eko telling Locke “do not confuse coincidence with fate”. Last season, we learned that Flight 815 crashing was not some pre-meditated act by Dharma or Hanso. It was directly related to Desmond deciding, one day, to follow Kelvin out of the Hatch. The Survivors, while having torturous pasts and interconnected lives, are not part of some greater plan to bring them to the Island. This is really a huge fundamental theme of Lost.

One might call all of these interconnected events a coincidence. But it’s not. The fact that there were so many variables involved in each character’s life that led them to the Island shows that it was their destiny to end up on the Island.

The great thing about fate is that it gives purpose to the characters being there. They might not know why they are on the Island, but they are there for a reason. It isn’t all just random, but it also isn’t some huge conspiracy. It’s the happy middle, where your religion of choice can come into play to give your life purpose and meaning. This is what Eko was trying to get across to Locke - that Locke didn’t realize until his tearful apology at the end of Season Two. Locke was looking for some concrete reason from someone about why he was brought to the Island – but there wasn’t any, which caused him to lose faith in everything he was doing on the Island. Eko understood the importance of fate.

Fate brought each of our Survivors to the Island, and as the series goes on, we’re going to find out why.

Previously. Finally, here is your Cliff Notes version of where we left each member of the Survivors at the conclusion of Season Two, and where we should pick up with their stories in Season Three this week:

  • Walt – on a boat with Michael, crazy experiments behind him, headed for freedom. What did the Others really do to him? Will we ever find out?
  • Michael – on a boat with Walt, having killed two people to get his son back, headed for a lifetime of guilt. Will he return to the Island and be a hero?
  • Vincent – who knows? During the Season Two finale, Michael and Walt drove off, sans Vincent. However, in the “making of” feature on the Season Two DVDs, they show Michael, Walt, AND VINCENT in the boat. The big question becomes – who is going to take care of Vincent with Michael and Walt gone and Shannon dead?
  • Claire – on the beach with Charlie, smooching, happily injecting baby Aaron with 4815162342 medicine. In serious need of a storyline other than “will she or won’t she date Charlie?”
  • Sun – on a boat with Jin, puking her guts out. Whose baby is she carrying?
  • Jin – on a boat with pukey Sun. Will he return to angry Jin if he finds out Sun’s baby isn’t his?
  • Charlie – acting a bit odd after the Swan Hatch Blast. Seriously needs a new storyline than “will he or won’t he continue using drugs?”
  • Jack – bound and gagged at the Pala Ferry dock by the Others. Will he finally get some sweet loving from Kate? Why did the Others choose him?
  • Kate – bound and gagged at the Pala Ferry dock by the Others. Will she pick the bad boy or the stable doctor? Why did the Others choose her?
  • Sawyer – bound and gagged at the Pala Ferry dock by the Others. Will he continue to get his ass kicked by every female on the show? Why did the Others choose him?
  • Sayid – back on the boat after being puzzled by the Others’ fake campground. Will he lead the Survivors upon the return to camp?
  • Hurley – making his way back to the Survivors camp, passing along word that no one else should ever go to Pala Ferry. Will he follow these orders or try and organize a rescue group? Will he ever find new batteries for his CD player?
  • Locke – crying like a baby in the Hatch, finding out he was wrong about the 108 Numbers (but not really). Will badass Locke finally return, being cryptic and playing every other character for his own benefit?
  • Eko – shaking off the aftermath of the explosion in the Hatch, his purpose of entering the 108 Numbers now gone. Will Eko go back to church building? Or back to Others killing?
  • Desmond – manning up and turning the fail safe switch in the Hatch, ending the 108 Numbers. Will he lend his knowledge about the Island to the Survivors? Does he even have any additional knowledge?
  • HGI – telling Michael “we won’t hurt your friends, we’re the good guys”, but sounding really scary creepy when saying it. What is his real name? Is he the leader of the Others? Who are the Others?

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So there you have it. Everything you need to know in order to watch Lost this Wednesday. I guess technically you could watch it this week even if you didn’t read all my random ramblings, but where’s the fun in that?

Also – here’s the bad news. I’m in the middle of a crazy stretch of three weeks when I’m not going to be home at all due to work and vacation. That means I won’t be able to put up any sort of day after review / analysis of the Season Premiere. My next post won’t be until next Monday / Tuesday – like in the olden days when I only sent out one Email a week. But after that things should be back to normal.

Happy viewing! Click on the Google Ads above if you like puppies!

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Numbers FINALLY Explained!

You know those pesky numbers that show up on Lost once in a while? Well, after roughly two years of wondering, hypothesizing, and mathemetizing, we finally got the answer. Check out the video below:

For my co-workers without sound on their computers (read: suckers!), you can just read below:

Hanso: “I am Alvar Hanso. If you are watching this film, you already know and have worked with Gerald and Karen Degroot, founders and masterminds of the Dharma Initiative. By now, you also know there are many research goals for our joint venture. What you may not know is why we have assembled the Dharma Initiative, why we have assembled the greatest minds in the world and given them unlimited funds and access. As with all you have already been told, you are bound by your honor and commitment to keep what you are about to hear a secret.”

“In a few weeks, after your induction counseling and survival training, you and your colleagues will be shipped to a top secret facility - the precise location of the facility is known only to myself, the Degroots, and a few high ranking members of my organization. Why all the security? All the secrecy? The answer is simple. The research is intended to do nothing less than save the world as we know it."

“In 1962, only thirteen years ago, the world came to the brink of nuclear war. The United States and the Soviet Union almost fulfilled the promise of Mutual Assured Destruction… a promise they continued to foster through a destructive Cold War. After the Cuban Missile Crisis, both nations decided to find a solution. The result was the Valenzetti Equation.”

“Commissioned under the highest secrecy through the U.N. Security Council, the Equation is the brainchild of the Italian mathematician Enzo Valenzetti. It predicts the exact number of years and months before humanity extinguishes itself - whether through nuclear fire, chemical and biological warfare, conventional warfare, pandemic, overpopulation... its results are chilling, and attention must be paid.

"Valenzetti gave numerical values to the core environmental and human factors in his equation. 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42. Only by mainpulating the environment, by finding scientific solutions to all of our problems, we will be able to change those core factors and give humanity a chance to survive.”

"Although the Equation has been buried by those who commissioned it…"

"Panic. It has always been my belief that we ignore warnings at our own peril, and thus the Dharma Initiative was born. DHARMA is an acronym for Department of Heuristics and Research on Material Applications. It also stands for ‘the one true way’, and through your research, you will help humanity…" "

We have constructed several stations on the Island - underground laboratories with the facilities you will need to do your research with optimal expediency. All of the support you need, including regular medicine and food drops, will be made in perpetuity. A radio transmitter has also been erected on the Island. Broadcasting on a frequency and encryption known only to us. The transmitter will only broadcast the core numerical values of the Valenzetti Equation. When, through your research, you manage to change the numerical value of any one of these factors, when you have created through science the… you will know that the one true way has been found. That is the work to which you have commmitted yourself. Change the core values of the Valenzetti Equation and you will change the course of destiny. The fate of the human race is in your hands."

"Thank you… and Namaste.”

Mittelwerk: “We all know what happened. The Dharma Initiative failed, and in spite of every effort of the Foundation, we are gripped in the tyranny of those six numbers. We have tried to change those values by manipulating the environment in many, many ways. We have done our level best, and yet this inscrutible equation is bringing us back to the numbers."

"So now we have to take radical action, and I just want to tell all of you that I trust you to do what is best. The villages of Fallam and Vitualami have allowed us to test our vaccine on them. They think they are infected with a virus carried by a local Macaques, and they believe we are bringing them the cure. So when you go in, you have to keep up your story – to know it by heart. Don’t waver."

"When the deaths begin, you must comfort everyone with compassion and the bodies of the dead must be brought to this station immediately for full genetic work up. We must make absolute certain we are hitting precise genetic targets we have engineered into the virus. The optimal mortality rate is 30%. Our operatives at the Vick Institute have verified this figure. More or less, people succumb, we have failed. We need not take any more lives than is absolutely necessary... Yes?"

Man in Audience: "Tom, these are people - innocent human beings - and we're just going to..."

Mittelwerk: "If you knew with mathematical certainty that you could end all famine, war, and poverty - what would you do? Exactly. You'd find the best way to get it done. Precisely. Surgicially. Without allowing for any more suffering than is absolutely necessary. Sigh. It is not fair that innocents have to die so that we can perfect this virus, but I promise you, someone is going to help..."

"Is there something reflecting in the back?"

Rachel Blake: "Oh God!"

Mittelwerk: "Somebody grab her. We have an intruder!"

Random People: "Who is it? She's got a camera!"

Rachel Blake: "No! Get off me! Get off! Get off! Stop! Get off me! No!"

Random Voice: "We got her!"

So what did we learn from all that?

The Numbers.

Put simply, the Numbers are simply numerical representations of human and environmental variables. What does that mean in English? 4 could be the human population. 8 could be the pollution level in the oceans. 15 could be the Bird Flu (whatever happened to this alleged "black plague", anyways?). 16 could be the temperature of the Earth's core. 23 could be Michael Jordan. 42 could be the Communist China.

So, when entered into the Valenzetti Equation, the Numbers factor in and give us the date of Armageddon (the end of the world, not the Bruce Willis movie). Therefore...


The whole point of Dharma was to somehow change these values. Using my examples above, Dharma was trying to use "science" to keep the world population in check, eliminate pollution, kill all birds (there are a suspicious few birds on the Island - hmmm...), lower the Earth's core temperature, assassinate Michael Jordan, and overthrow Communist China.

But in reality, let's think about what we know so far about the "experiments" that Dharma was carrying out on the Island:

- The Hanso Life Extension Project
- The Hanso Foundation Electromagnetic Research Initiative
- The Hanso Quest for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence
- The Hanso Mathematical Forecasting Initiative
- The Hanso Cryogenics Development Imperative
- The Hanso Juxtapositional Eugenics Development Institute

Reading those through, it seems like the variables were actually things like how long people could live, the powers of magnetism, the existence of other-worldly life forms, getting Walt Disney back, solving the Pythagorean Equation, and "selective breeding".

Any way you cut it, it's clearer than ever that Dharma was trying to cheat death by building a better human race. One that could withstand whatever is coming that is going to wipe out the human race. So the bad news for you and me is...


The Dharma Initiative failed. We are all gonna die. As Mittelwerk over-dramatically puts it, "we are gripped in the tyranny of these six numbers". Dharma wasn't able to build a better mankind, and gave up (or ran out of money, or had their "test subjects" overthrow them, or something like that). Which brings us to present day. Mittelwerk is talking to a group of people, perhaps the last remnants of the Dharma Initiative, briefing them on the "radical action" they're taking - murdering innocent people.

The villages of "Fallam and Vitualami", which I can only imagine are somewhere in Africa or the South Pacific, have been tricked into thinking that they are sick and Hanso offers the only cure. The trick is that they aren't really sick, and the "cure" is probably fatal.

Stop right there. Remember "The remedy is worse than the disease" that we saw scribbled on the Blast Door? Remember all of CFL's crazy ramblings about her crew being down with the sickness? Remember the shots Ethan had to keep pumping into baby Aaron? Sounds like we're on to something!

This could go one of two ways.

1. The "sickness" actually just represents some innate human condition that we all have. Dharma is trying to create a super-race that doesn't have this sickness through their "cure" - the downside is that it will kill 30% of the population. The upside is that 70% will live through the apocalypse.

2. The "sickness" is truly some sort of disease that mankind is about to catch. The "cure" is similar to any vaccine - containing a weakened form of the virus. Again, the bad news is that 30% of people are going to be killed by it.

Either way it's pretty creepy. But at the end of the day, it seems like they are actually doing what is best for mankind.

The question becomes - what does this mean for our Survivors on the Island? Here's my newest whacked out theory:

After Dharma "failed", they realized that this "vaccine" was their only answer. The remaining few Dharmites on the Island (the true believers in the cause?) decided it would be better to isolate themselves from the rest of humanity (aka - the "sickies") and form a new Eden, a lush Island with nice weather, friendly Smokey Monsters ,and perpetual food drops. What's not to like? Led by Hanso himself (who has been missing for a while, remember?) they all inject themselves with the vaccine for good measure and happily build jungle forts and have misadventures with the Harlem Globetrotters. They even find a way to use the Island's unique magnetic properties to cloak the Island and keep any would-be vacationers out. Everyone is happy.

Then people start crashing their party. Sickies. These innocent people represent the enemy and need to be dealt with - thus the killing of CFL's crew (who had "the sickness"). The problem is that there aren't many of these Dharmites left. When Flight 815 landed, they outnumbered the Dharmites, so a quick slaughter was impossible. Flight 815 also offered something the Dharmites have been looking for - Dharma: The New Class, represented by baby Aaron (thus the kidnapping, injections, etc.)

They were probably confident that the Survivors wouldn't last too long on their Island (what with their security system (Smokey) and lack of television or Internet), but the Survivors turned out to be more resilient than they bargained for. But there's still one question...

The Others.

So where do the Others fit into this little story? Are they really the Dharmites? As you know, I always thought that they were an entirely separate entity on the Island - Rebels, if you will. But based on their knowledge of the Island (and its hatches, ferries, buildings, etc.) it sure does seem like they might be Dharmites. We also saw Ethan (who told Claire about "the sickness" and injected Aaron with the "cure") interact with Tom / Zeke / Mr. Beardy, who is clearly in cahoots with HGI and the other Others from the Season 2 Finale.

I'm torn like Natalie Imbruglia. My gut tells me they are Rebels while logic seems to say they are Dharmites. I'll remain undecided at this point.

The good news is that Season 3 is supposedly all about the Others and I have a hunch that we're going to get some answers to these questions sooner rather than later.

So, at the end of the day, what did this whole wild-goose chase for clues and video clips on the Internet give us (besides a Lost-related distraction over the summer)? Well, we learned what Dharma stood for (fun!), we learned what the Numbers are (finally!), and some people got free candy bars (yum-o!). Not too shabby.

The nice thing is, none of these things make any difference to the storyline on the show. Someone who doesn't know what the Numbers represent can still follow along and just know that Dharma is creating some "vaccine" for some "sickness". They don't need to know the details. What Dharma stands for? Who cares! Knowing it doesn't make Kate any hotter or debunk any Nanobot theories.

In a nutshell, The Lost Experience (I talk like it's now over, even though allegedly there's still one more "phase" to come) did exactly what it should - gave the obsessive among us something to geek out about without alienating the average Joe who watches the show.

Well played.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

2006 Fall TV Guide

A few people have requested an “Emmy Reaction” post – but I don’t think one is necessary. I pretty much got all my thoughts about the Emmys off my chest prior to the show even airing (

What I will say is this – Conan was fantastic, and should host every year. Stephen Colbert is right – it’s unconscionable that he lost to Barry Manilow. There were multiple times during the show that I cursed and proclaimed “I am never watching the Emmys again!” only to continue watching because deep down inside I had hope that worthy shows would finally pick up some awards. In the end, the big wins for “24” and “The Office” did leave me with a good taste in my mouth (that, and the Wendy’s Vanilla Frosty I was eating).

But rather than dwell on the past, it’s time to start looking forward to the promise of a new Fall TV Season. Old favorites are back to resolve their season finale cliffhangers and newcomers offer the hope of filling the holes left in our TV watching schedules (and lives) by cancelled shows last season. With so many channels and options available, it can be difficult to pluck the worthwhile shows from the worthless, even in this modern age of Tivo, DVR, and iPod downloads.

I’m here to help. Without further ado, here is my second annual Fall TV Guide, breaking down each night with what you should be watching and why.

8:00 p.m. - Prison Break (Fox, August 21) – Returning Favorite

Cliff Notes Review: Prison Break meets the Fugitive.

Last summer I saw a sneak preview of a little show called “Prison Break” and it instantly hooked me. The first season didn’t disappoint. While it dragged on a bit in the end (a product of the show’s popularity, resulting in the need for more episodes), Prison Break frequently provided more “edge of your seat” moments than any other show on TV (yes, including “24”). The show created this tense atmosphere that had you holding your breath every time Michael Scofield snuck out of his cell. But the big question is this - How can a show entitled “Prison Break” succeed now that the show’s main plot and namesake is in the past?

Well, luckily, during its first season, the show layered itself with enough additional storylines to keep the viewer interested post-Break. While unraveling the conspiracy behind Lincoln Burrows’ incarceration figures to take the stage as the main storyline of the season, there are enough lingering side-stories (the race to buried treasure in Utah, Lincoln’s son going to prison, Abruzzi looking for Fibonacci, T-bag looking for revenge) to provide a full, complex storyline. To keep it fresh, they’ve introduced new characters, like former-creepy-guy-from-that-alien-show-after-Lost, William Fichtner as Agent Mahone, who plays antagonist to both Michael and Billick.

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While it may not achieve the same level of excitement as its first season, there is little doubt it will be an entertaining ride. Prison Break has become a modern-day “The Fugitive”, which isn’t a bad thing.

9:00 p.m. - Heroes (NBC, September 25) – Promising

Cliff Notes Review: A real-life version of “X-Men”.

Thanks to this newfangled “Internet” you’ve probably been hearing a lot about, I’ve actually seen a good deal of the new shows airing this fall, so I can give educated opinions about their worth. “Heroes” was one of the first shows I downloaded. While it isn’t great (not even close to approaching the giddy joy I had while watching “Lost” two summers ago or “Prison Break” last summer), it intrigues me.

So what’s it about? The show starts with the following prologue:

“In recent days, a seemingly random group of individuals has emerged with what only can be described as “special” abilities. Although unaware of it now, these individuals will not only save the world, but change it forever. This transformation from ordinary to extraordinary will not occur overnight. Every story has a beginning. Volume One of their epic tale begins here…”

Sounds like some sort of superhero comic book, right?

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The pilot deals with a handful of people (located all over the world) who are figuring out that they are a little… different. A cheerleader in the south discovers she can’t be hurt. A hilarious Japanese guy thinks he can bend space and time. A New Yorker is having dreams that he can fly. A hottie in Vegas can’t shake the feeling that she’s being followed by some sort of evil twin that we see fleeting glances of in mirrors. Stuff like that.

The surprising thing is the amount of time that is dedicated to developing each character without giving away any hint of “super powers” whatsoever. In fact, most of the episode revolves around these people (and their family and friends) doubting they have any special abilities at all. Also, most of these people don’t seem to have any desire to “save the world”, and no “bad guys” are introduced in the first episode. That’s what sets it apart from some generic fan-boy remake of “X-Men”.

I’m pretty curious to see how (if ever) these characters interact with each other. Like I said, they’re scattered all over the world, speaking different languages, living unique lives. Will some “big bad” appear, forcing them to work together to defeat them? Will the show focus more around the people coming to grips with being “different”? I have no idea, but this show is different enough to keep me watching for the first few episodes.

10:00 p.m. - Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (NBC, September 18) – Promising

Cliff Notes Review: Drama / Comedy set behind the scenes of a SNL-type show.

Aaron Sorkin is back with another show that feels… exactly like every other Aaron Sorkin show. For those unfamiliar with his work, Sorkin was the mastermind behind “Sports Night” (drama / comedy set behind the scenes of a Sportscenter-type show) and “The West Wing” (drama / comedy set behind the scenes at the White House). “Studio 60” is a drama / comedy set behind the scenes at a SNL-type show. See the trend?

I’m giving this one the benefit of the doubt. This is the show that I see on the top of every critic’s “must see” list for the Fall, so I’ll include it on mine as a public service to my readers. The pilot was solid, and I love Matthew Perry and Amanda Peet, but there was nothing that inspired me.

It centers around what happens when the chief writer for “Friday Night in Hollywood” (SNL) flips out and rips apart the show for how lame it has become (NBC, are you listening?) Peet, a new executive at the station, brings in Perry and Bradley Whitford to be the new head writers.

There were a few humorous moments, but nothing laugh out loud funny. The seeds were planted for future storylines (Perry is now working with his ex-girlfriend, who he just broke up with, Peet challenges her boss, Whitford has a drug habit) but they all seem pretty predictable.

I have no doubt that this show will be solid, and we all know how much Hollywood loves shows about itself, so look for “Studio 60” to come up big at next year’s Emmys – but for me, it’s just a well-made show about a subject matter that isn’t overly interesting to me. But hey, at least it’s not a procedural crime drama!

8:00 p.m. - Jericho (CBS, September 20) – Promising

Cliff Notes Review: The end of the world (?) through the eyes of Middle of Nowhere, America.

The second of three new shows I’ve seen that have a chance to be great. The funny thing about this one is that, I kid you not, I had this same idea for a show / movie / book earlier this year, and it was pretty much identical to the pilot episode. Pretty freaky, huh?

The story is set “Jericho” is a small town in Kansas (not real), where residents see a mushroom cloud appear to the west (“over Denver”) and have all communications (and eventually power) stop working. One resident has a voicemail from his parents (in Atlanta) also cut-out midway with his mother screaming “Oh God!” right before it ends. The question becomes – what the hell is going on? Are we under attack from Aliens / Arabs / Australians (we never saw it coming!)? Is Jericho the last civilization left on Earth? Or is everyone just over-reacting due to suddenly being disconnected from the rest of humanity?

To me, this is a fascinating storyline. In this day and age of being constantly connected to everyone in the world via TV, Internet, and Telephone, what would happen if we were suddenly all alone?

The pilot episode introduces a huge number of characters (residents of Jericho), but stars Skeet Ulrich (creepy guy from “Scream”) as a former-resident, returning briefly to his old home town. There’s something mysterious about him, as he tells a different story to everyone when asked where he’s been during the years away from Jericho.

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I’m not sure how a show with a storyline like this can sustain more than a season or two without getting stale, but until then it should be a good ride.

9:00 p.m. - Lost (ABC, October 4) – Returning Favorite

Cliff Notes Review: The Survivors enter “Others”-territory.

I think I’m more excited for the third season of “Lost” than I was for either of the previous two, if that’s possible. Coming off a season finale that had more action than the entire first season, I feel like we’re at the edge of a number of huge reveals about the show that has been teasing us with mysteries from the start. The writers seem determined to “wrap up” the lingering storylines of the first two seasons in order to open up a set of brand new ones with the third.

When the show returns in October, we’re looking at a six episode, self-contained story arc dealing with the capture of Kate, Jack, and Sawyer. We’ll finally get a glimpse of the Others’ camp, begin to learn about their experiences on the Island, and determine who the good guys and bad guys really are. Even better, two of the more dynamic characters from last season, HGI and Desmond, are back as series regulars. What more can you want?

Obviously, there will be much more written about Lost as the new season draws near. For now, pick up the Season 2 DVDs this Tuesday and start getting excited – Lost is poised to have its best year yet. Emmy voters be damned.

10:00 p.m. - Kidnapped (NBC, September 20) – Promising

Cliff Notes Review: A badass cop, bodyguard, and bounty hunter work to recover the kidnapped son of a rich family.

This show was nowhere on my radar two weeks ago. After seeing the pilot, it’s one of my top three new shows of the fall (for those of you keeping track at home, those shows are “Heroes”, “Jericho”, and “Kidnapped”). Not to be confused with the not-so-great “Vanished”, which airs after “Prison Break” (don’t be tricked!), this show comes at you fast and hard – briefly introducing the main characters before a violent, bloody kidnapping leaves numerous people dead and kicks off the storyline.

What’s great about this show is that it isn’t a straightforward “Police trying to rescue a kidnapped person” story. There are numerous parties at play here. The family’s bodyguard and his agency, the FBI, the police, and a hired “bounty hunter” are all involved – all with the same goal of rescuing the kidnapped, but all using different methods, with different motives and methods, playing by different rules. Their interaction keeps the tension high throughout the pilot.

The characters on this show are fantastic. Jeremy Sisto as Knapp and Mykelti Williamson as Virgil Hayes are both Jack Bauer-esque in their badassness. Heck, the victim himself is fascinating – he’s a seeming genius boy obsessed with setting the record for holding your breath underwater.

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Even better, there are hints of a huge conspiracy lying just beneath the surface – which should develop as the season progresses. Why does the family speak French to each other and English to everyone else? Why do they only need a bodyguard for their son?

I can’t wait to find out.

10:00 p.m. - The Nine (ABC, October 4) - Promising

Cliff Notes Review: Flashbacks tell the story of nine people involved in a bank robbery.

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One of the two shows on my radar for the Fall that I haven’t seen (along with Six Degrees – blasted ABC, let your shows leak on the Internet!). It seems to take a page from “Lost” and rely on flashbacks to flesh out characters involved in a hostage situation at a bank.

It sounds interesting enough, with each episode beginning with a flashback of another 10 minutes of the hostage situation – but here’s what I want to know – what is the point / storyline of the show in the present tense?

It’s got a solid cast (Kim Raver – aka Audrey from “24”, Scott Wolf – aka Dreamy Boy from “Party of Five”) so I’m going to give it a try. Once I figure out what this show is actually about (is it just a regular drama about how a situation like this changes your life? Or is there something more to it?) I’ll let you know.

For now, keep an open mind for this one.

10:00 p.m. - Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County (MTV, August 16) – Returning Favorite

Cliff Notes Review: More teenage drama for rich kids in California.

Like “Prison Break”, “Laguna” has already aired a few episodes of its new season. Although the new cast pales in comparison to the old cast (I can’t say that I really like any of them, although I do hate Cami with the burning passion of 1000 suns), the show is still beautifully shot and a great guilty pleasure to voyeuristically look into the lives of the rich kids of Laguna.

While it has no redeeming social or intellectual value, I watch it to keep in touch with the kids, so that I can learn their lingo and what is popular with them these days.

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10:00 p.m. - Top Chef (Bravo, October 25) – Returning Favorite

Cliff Notes Review: Aspiring chefs compete in fun food challenges.

Currin and I stumbled upon this show last year and it quickly became a favorite of all the cooking competition shows we watch (of which there are many). What sets this one apart is that the challenges are damn fun (create a gormet meal out of ingredients bought from a gas station, candy bar and snack food taste tests, etc.) It’s a breath of fresh air compared to the standard cooking competition shows on Food Network (which I also love, don’t get me wrong).

If you’re a fan of the Food Network or watching people cook and eat food, you need to check this show out.

8:00 p.m. - My Name is Earl (NBC, September 21) – Returning Favorite

Cliff Notes Review: Man works to right the wrongs in his life to gain karma.

There’s a lot to like about this show. Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee, and Jamie Pressly all turn in career performances in a feel-good show about turning your life around. Deep down inside, I have a fear that the show will start to feel stale since it’s pretty much the same story every week – but thus far they’ve done a great job in introducing new characters and having enough laugh-out loud moments to the show work.

Now on Thursdays at 8:00, I kinda feel like “Earl” is the new “Friends” and “The Office” is the new “Seinfeld” – I can only hope NBC is smart enough to place “Scrubs” on Thursday nights this spring to complete a great comedic “Must See TV” night like the glory days of yore.

8:30 p.m. - The Office (NBC, September 21) – Returning Favorite

Cliff Notes Review: The humorous and sadly accurate life in Cubicle World, USA.

Somehow, out of all the dramas on TV that did their best to create a buzzworthy cliffhanger that would keep people talking all summer, the show that did it was this quiet, smart comedy. Trying to figure out what is going to happen to Pam and Jim keeps me awake at night (that, and the fear of clowns living under my bed). In typical TV fashion, the writers need to keep these two apart, but leave the door open for the possibility of them getting together (see: Ross and Rachel Rule, Section IIa). My best guess is that Pam calls off the wedding, but doesn’t get together with Jim either.

The Office has created one of the best ensemble comedy casts in recent memory – and there really isn’t enough time in each episode to give them all enough screen time. I mean, we all love Jim, Pam, Dwight, and Michael – but even characters like Ryan, Stanley, and Kevin are hilarious, even though they sometimes get one or two lines a week. Would it be so wrong to expand the Office to one hour? Seriously, what other comedies does NBC have?

Isn’t it ironic that a show that was almost cancelled by NBC a year ago came back with a strong season, won an Emmy for Best Comedy, and is now set to become one of the top comedies on TV? It’s great to see the show grow out of its British counterpart (which only lasted 15 episodes or so) and start paving its own path.

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With “Arrested Development” finally moving on to that big banana stand in the sky, “The Office” secures its place as the funniest show on TV.

9:00 p.m. - Grey’s Anatomy (ABC, September 21) – Returning Favorite

Cliff Notes Review: Sex in the City meets E.R.

The best show of last year moves to a new night and a new time in hopes of creating the same magic they had last year. Hopefully, they’ll continue to build on the momentum of their bloated three hour finale last year that had both the hottest scene of the season (the mega-hot finale scene between Meredith and McDreamy), and the saddest scene of the season (“he was a good Dog”).

There are also a ton of outstanding questions from the finale. Is Izzy gone? (no way) Will Meredith pick McDreamy or McVet? (temporarily choose McVet, then go back to McDreamy, see Ross and Rachel Rule, Section IIb)

Here’s hoping for more crazy medical situations that offer symbolism into the characters’ personal lives, hot doc-on-doc action, and a fantastic soundtrack. It might not be the meatiest show on TV, but it sure is fun.

10:00 p.m. - Six Degrees (ABC, September 21) - Promising

Cliff Notes Review: That Kevin Bacon game in a drama from JJ Abrams

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“Alias” and “Lost” were great. “Felicity” and “My Name is Brian” were / are serviceable. I’m curious to see where “Six Degrees” falls in the JJ Abrams scale.

In what seems to have spun out of the flashbacks from “Lost”, where we see how interconnected we all are, even if we don’t realize it – “Six Degrees” takes this theme to the forefront, and spins an entire show out of it. It’s a great idea for a “feel good” show, but I fear it will become a standard TV romantic drama pretty quickly. Here’s hoping it can build interesting characters and themes to keep me interested.

The other show that I didn’t get to preview; I’ll give it a try and let you know how it works.

8:00 p.m. - The Amazing Race (CBS, September 17) – Returning Favorite

Cliff Notes Review: Teams of two race around the world completing challenges to win big bucks.

“American Idol” might get all the viewers, and single handedly affect the TV scheduling of every other network, but “Amazing Race” gets all the Emmy love. Continuing its tradition of being the only show to ever win the “Best Reality Show” award (four in a row!), Emmy voters proved that they at least get some categories right.

The least trashy and exploitive of all reality shows, here’s hoping for another group of contestants that are likable, following in the footsteps of the Linz Family of two years ago and the Hippies of last season. While the star of the show for me might be seeing exotic locales, it’s always nice to have a team you can get behind.

Here’s hoping for some token hot girls, token funny guys, and token “bad guys” to root against… as well as some stops in Deutschland.

So there you have it. Looking at the schedule, it’s a strange fall. Wednesdays are super-loaded (potentially five and a half hours of worthwhile TV!) whereas there is nothing on Tuesday nights. All in all, we’re looking at twelve and a half hours of worthwhile TV a week – that’s up from eleven hours I was looking forward to last year. But with six of those hours being new shows with potential, odds are we’ll be well below ten hours of TV a week by Thanksgiving – well within the USDA’s daily recommended allowance!

Think I’m hopped up on goofballs? Tell me how stupid I am by commenting below. Want to leave some love? Tell me how smart I am by commenting below (and clicking on the ads above…)