Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"Through the Looking Glass" Instant Reactions!

Brian's One Word Hyphenated Review: Mind-Blowing.

Wow. Someone start the slow clap. Lost just delivered big time.

I'm not even sure where to begin, so let's start with the big one...

The entire format of Lost might have just changed. You know how we all were kinda wondering how long we could keep revisiting different moments from our characters' lives in flashback form, since you would eventually run out of interesting stories to tell without them becoming absurd? Well, there's a chance that "flashbacks" on Lost will now be back to Island-time - with the present time serving as a method to show the aftermath of what happened to our Survivors after they returned to the rest of the world.

If you ask me, it's genius.

One of my big fears was that we would never get full resolution to each character's storyline - that the series would end with them getting off the Island, leaving it up to us to write the story of where they would go from there. For me, this always seemed like a cheap way out. For a show that is basically all about our characters having this opportunity on the Island to overcome their demons and make themselves better - to not see if their time there actually had any effect on them once they returned to their normal lives seemed like an incomplete story. But now it seems that not only will we have plenty of time to see what happened to each character after rescue (48 episodes worth, to be exact), but it helps to switch gears on the show.

Suddenly, instead of the backstory of the Island being the mystery - now the story of the escape off the Island becomes the mystery. I'm sure we'll still have plenty of time to learn the secrets of the Island as we go through the story, but it's like we've just read the first three chapters of a book, got a glimpse of the last chapter, and are now going to work our way through the rest of it - alternating between the last chapter and chapters four through six.

Now there's always the chance that this "flashforward" was a one-time deal, and the show will return to its normal format (much like Desmond's episode featuring his "flashes" seemed to be a one-time deal), but I think going the other route is much bolder, and would allow the writers to tell a much richer, full story. If they went this route, they could still continue to have some "true flashbacks" from time to time, especially ones that fill in the events on the Island that we didn't see the first time through (such as Ben's conversion to the Others) - but it wouldn't force us to sit through another round of "Jack led a self-destructive life" flashbacks three times a season.

Anywho, on to the other big news:

Charlie. After a roller-coaster two episodes teasing and relieving viewers about Charlie's fate, he finally met his match - Patchy and an underwater grenade (do grenades even work underwater?). Although part of me was thinking, "couldn't he just close the door from the other side, and he and Desmond can just put on the scuba gear and swim to shore?", Charlie got his big heroic death, fulfilled his mission of turning off the jamming signal ("Good Vibrations"? Hilarious and punny!), and made Desmond's flashes come true. Even in his final moments, he was able to warn Desmond about Naomi (which also got me thinking, "Can you write on a wet hand with a Sharpie and have it stay on?"). His death was tragic, but one that you could almost see coming from a mile away. Learn you lessons from horror movies kids! Always pump a few extra bullets in your enemies! Don't assume they're dead!

Deaths. Speaking of deaths, by my count we lost 13 Others (including Tom and Patchy), 1 Survivor (Charlie), and the mysterious Naomi. By most counts, that looks like a Survivor victory! Ironically, I didn't include Tom or Patchy on my "Death Watch" (a product of writing it at 11:00 at night and running through characters off the top of your head), so I wasn't even considering them options.

Naomi. So if Naomi isn't really with a rescue crew sent by Penny, the next logical option seems to be that she's with Dharma, coming back to the Island to reclaim it. Is it possible that Dharma wasn't able to send help after the Purge because Ben took control of the Looking Glass and blocked all communications with the Island? If his line about "the sub needing the beacon to find the Island" is true, it's possible - although if this is true, how did Dharma find the Island in the first place? Were they the ones responsible for setting up this "stealth feature" of the Island, and now because of it they can't return? Irony!

Van. Remember how pointless we all thought Hurley's van-centric episode was? Don't you all feel pretty foolish for criticizing it now? Who else wanted to cheer when Hurley came plowing through the Others. Hero!

Penny. So, if Penny's crew wasn't actively searching for Desmond right off the coast of the Island, how was she the first face that popped up on the Looking Glass video monitor? Does Penny just spend her day sending messages out to all frequencies looking for people to respond and mention Desmond's name? Seemed a little forced, but led to good storytelling opportunities.

Walt. Although the "guest starring" text at the beginning of the episode ruined the surprise, it was nice to see Walt acting as Locke's spiritual guide. Are we to assume this was a manifestation of Smokey, or Walt exhibiting his freakish powers a la Jacob communicating with Locke?

Kate. So, along with Jack, we learn that Kate obviously survives and gets off the Island (making both characters "Hella Safe" on the next Death Watch), and is married / dating someone (Sawyer?). There's also the question of who died - with the logical choice again being Sawyer (since no one showed up at his funeral).

Theory. The best part about the shocking ending? It means that my all-time, longest-running theory about Lost is still in play. The Others are good, the Survivors are bad, and getting off the Island is a bad thing. Jack was miserable, and wishing he could return to the Island. The funny thing is, I'm expecting some seriously bad stuff to happen between now and their rescue on the Island (with the forthcoming Others vs. Dharma War and all) - and Jack doesn't have a lot of happy moments in the past on the Island (being kidnapped, tortured, fighting for survival). Does his post-Island life really suck that much?

Arg! There's so much to say. I'm just throwing up thoughts here, so I'll stop until I can get together something more coherent.

Geek out on the Message Board here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lost - "Through the Looking Glass"

Episode Title: “Through the Looking Glass”

Brian's Deeper Meaning Guess: This is it. Shockingly, it’s not only the last episode of the third season, but also the last two hours of Lost until 2008. It represents the culmination of what may be the greatest run of episodes any television show has ever had (pretty much from “Enter 77” on) and depending on what happens in these last two hours, we may be discussing where Season Three of Lost ranks against the all-time great seasons of any television program. Needless to say, it’s time to get excited. Months of training and preparation have all led up to this moment. Fire up that Jock Jams CD, it’s time to get the party started.

The excitement starts with the episode title. When I first read the episode title a few weeks back, it screamed to me. Unlike most episode titles that require a bit of thinking and research to find parallels to the show, this one struck a nerve. While Lost Season Finales have always had pretty solid titles (full of deeper meaning), this one definitely offers the most promise. In Season One, we had “Exodus” – which hinted at a departure for some from the Island (which happened, with Michael, Walt, Sawyer, and Jin on the Raft) and a departure of the rest of the Survivors from the Beach into the Hatch (which never really transpired). In Season Two, “Live Together, Die Alone” seemed to foreshadow that our Survivors would have to band together to overcome the mysterious “Others” and continue their peaceful existence on the Island (which never really happened either). So while both were solid titles, and led to solid episodes – neither hinted at anything that would fundamentally change the world of our Survivors and Lost as we know it.

“Through the Looking Glass” does.

It’s a phrase that is commonly used, but hard to describe - used to indicate entering some sort of “other side”. I foolishly always assumed it was a reference to “Alice in Wonderland”, but in doing my standard googling of the episode title, it turns out it’s actually from the sequel to that book, which is titled “Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There”. The premise of the book is that you can look through a mirror, but can’t see what’s on the other side of it. Alice wonders what lies behind her mirror, and ends going through it – winding up in “Bizarro World” where time runs backwards and everything is opposite. The book is also loosely based on a game of chess, played on a giant chessboard with fields for squares. Most main characters met in the story are represented by a chess piece, with Alice herself being a pawn.

While I haven’t actually read the book (reading is for nerds, cool kids watch TV), a few things should jump out to hardcore Lost fans right away. Little details like “time running backwards” seem like tantalizing clues to the “funky time” on the Island. In the story, there is also a book that can only be read when held up to a mirror (since it is written backwards), which sounds a lot like Ghost Walt’s freaky messages last season that had to be played backwards to understand. Heck, even the “Alice as a pawn” part could be a subtle refernce to our characters just being pawns in some much larger game – perhaps between the Others / Dharma / the Outside World. We think they are the main characters, but they’re really just bystanders to something much bigger and more important than we could ever imagine.

But rather than pick out individual similarities, I think it makes more senset to look at it thematically, simply that “Through the Looking Glass” means that everything is not as it seems. All season, Damon and Carlton have been hinting at some sort of “game changing” event. For me, as soon as I saw this episode title, I realized this episode would be it. This episode is going to take us “through the looking glass”, to turn the Lost universe as we know it on its head.

How? Well, while it’s tempting to be inspired by the book and look for opposites (“they’re not on an Island at all! It’s really a penninsula!”, “they’re all really dead after all!”, “Kate really isn’t that hot!”), after getting totally burned in the Deeper Meaning Guess of “The Man Behind the Curtain”, I’m approaching this method with caution. Really the only “opposite” that I could see happening is for a main character – with Jack being the chief candidate – that we thought was “good” turns out to be “bad”, working for the Others, Dharma, or the Monster. It’s out there, but not impossible to believe. But otherwise, I’m hard pressed to see any “opposites” that could logically be revealed.

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So what’s our “through the looking glass” moment? Well, if you think about it – our Survivors are already “through the looking glass”. They’re living on this crazy Island full of Smoke Monsters, people who don’t age, weird experiments, and freaky whispers. If we assume there is some sort of “stealthing” of the Island going on, making it invisible to the outside world, they’re the ones that are inside of the mirror, not visible to the outside world… which makes me think we’re looking at the episode title from the wrong perspective. It’s not our Survivors getting out – it’s someone else getting in.

If you remember back to early this season (maybe even before the season started), I was feeling pretty confident that Penny would show up on the Island as either the fall or spring cliffhanger. Since it didn’t happen in the fall finale, I’m putting all my chips down on it finally coming to fruition in the Season Finale… because if it doesn’t, man am I going to look like an idiot!

In my mind, if it is ever going to happen, now is the time. Ever since last season’s final moments with the two guys in the snow called Penny, we’ve had this dangling storyline out there of people (led by Penny) searching for Desmond (and therefore our Survivors). Between Desmond’s vision of Claire and Aaron getting on a helicopter and Naomi’s arrival on the Island, the writers have done a good job of reminding us of the storyline – setting us up perfectly for the pay off for last season’s puzzling final scene. It just feels like everything is hurtling towards it as the logical conclusion.

And talk about giving us a “through the looking glass moment” – having these “outsiders” arrive at the Island would be nothing short of Alice going down the rabbit hole or through the mirror. Penny and Co. would suddenly be thrust into this bizarre world (that our Survivors have almost come to expect) on an Island that is invisible to the outside, full of strange people, occurrences, and history. More importantly, it would also mean that there is hope for our Survivors. You would think that once one crew finds their way to the Island, others can’t be far behind.

With the end date of Lost now in sight, this also makes total sense. We’re more than halfway through the series as a whole. If the writers truly have solid answers to the questions they’ve been throwing at us for the past three years, I would hope they would want to spend as much time resolving the storylines as they did building them up – and I think that resolution starts with understanding how they are going to get off the Island.

So those are the thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head ever since I found out the episode title. What I didn’t count on was last week’s episode adding a mind-blowing literal twist to the meaning… which makes me evern more excited, if that’s possible.

Enter the Looking Glass Station. The place used to block all communication between the Island and the outside world, aside from that of the Others. A place that just might serve as a sort of Ellis Island for the Island – a port of entry that all pass through if they’re coming or going. I always wondered why the Others used a submarine as their transportation method of choice, but now it makes total sense. It’s the only method that would allow them to travel to and from the Looking Glass.

Want an extra helping of Deeper Meaning? How about throwing books and symbolism out the window and taking the episode title 100% literally? Going “through the looking glass” quite simply might mean escape from or access to the Island. Maybe it’s not so deep after all. Much more on this later…

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Episode Description: Jack and the castaways begin their efforts to make contact with Naomi's rescue ship. Guest starring are M.C. Gainey as Mr. Friendly/Tom, Tania Raymonde as Alex, Nestor Carbonell as Richard Alpert, Blake Bashoff as Karl, Andrew Divoff as Mikhail, Ariston Greene as Jason, Sonya Walger as Penny, Mira Furlan as Rousseau, Brian Goodman as Pryce, Marsha Thomason as Naomi, L. Scott Caldwell as Rose, Sam Anderson as Bernard, Lana Parilla as Greta, Tracy Middendorf as Bonnie, James Lesure as Dr. Hamill, Nigel Gibbs as funeral director, Loreni Delgado as pharmacist, Larry Clarke as customer and Kate Connor as doctor.

Episode Breakdown: Wow. You know how sometimes the episode description can seem to tell you exactly what is going to happen, giving away too much about an episode? Well not this time! Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with the shortest episode description in the history of Lost.- one very vague line containing fourteen measly words. As someone who has criticized ABC in the past for revealing too much about episodes in their previews, this is a beautiful thing – it just builds up the suspense for the episode even more because it means that absolutely ANYTHING could happen.

As for this one sentence, it totally ignores the specifics of each of the three “side storylines” that are actually going on and just focuses on the underlying mission of all three combined. If you think about it, we’ve got:

  1. Sayid, Bernard, and Jin setting an explosive trap for the Others, who are attempting to steal their women and kill anyone who gets in their way.
  2. Desmond and Charlie trying to “flick the switch” in the Looking Glass to allow communication from Naomi’s iPhone to be possible.
  3. Jack and the rest of the Survivors heading to the Radio Tower to send a help message to Naomi’s crew once the jamming frequency is disabled.

So even though the episode description only directly mentions Jack’s portion of the mission, without all three parties succeeding, the odds of contacting Naomi’s ship are quite small. Sayid and Co. (which I’ll call “the Gunners”) need to succeed to prevent the Others from tracking and ambushing the rest of the Survivors before they reach the Radio Tower. Desmond and Charlie (which I’ll call “the Swimmers”) need to succeed or else it won’t matter if the other two groups are victorious – because they’ll still be unable to use Naomi’s phone to call for help. Jack and Co. (which I’ll call “the Marchers”) need to succeed or else the success of the other two parties won’t help them get any closer to getting off the Island.

(Note: doesn’t this kinda remind you of the Season One finale, where we had the Hatchers, Beachers, and Rafters?)

It’s a pretty complicated plan, and requires a 100% success rate, which puts the odds of success pretty low. But let’s break it down a little further…

Gunners. Sayid, Bernard, and Jin form one of the most unlikely trios of shooters I could think of – which worries me a bit. It seems like there are definitely other Survivors who seem more adapt at firing guns (Sawyer, Kate, and Desmond all come to mind), which make me wonder why Bernard and Jin were included in the mix.

On the one hand, you could argue that it provides Bernard and Jin with a purpose in the episode, rather than just being background characters in the march to the Radio Tower – and gives Rose and Sun an emotional investment in the mission’s success. On the other hand, it seems like an easy excuse to put Bernard and Jin on the chopping block along with Sayid, keeping other “main characters” like Sawyer, Kate, and Desmond out of harm’s way.

As for the mission itself, the preview (sorry New Zealanders who haven’t seen it) seems to show it’s both a success and a failure. We’ve got shots of Others being strewn in the air after explosions – but also of the Gunners being bound and gagged on the Beach. My hunch is that they get a couple of good shots in, but the crafty Others come in waves rather than all at once, and overtake them.

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So there’s strike one. As soon as the Others realize they were setup for a trap, they’ll radio Ben and the Others to warn them. This will effectively blow Juliet’s cover and alert them to the Marchers’ trip to the Radio Tower. Which explains…

Marchers. It seems that the Marchers don’t get very far until they run into Ben, attempting to stop them from continuing on to the Radio Tower. The weird thing is that Ben seems to be alone, and also seems to end up captured, being taken along with the Marchers on their journey. Isn’t that him on the right with his hands tied together? Could it be that the Others finally stood up to him and said “No”, leaving him alone? Or is this another sort of elaborate scheme setup by Ben and the Others to further hose our Survivors?

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Ben. After last week’s episode, I am leaning towards the Others giving up on Ben. He really seemed to be unraveling last week when questioned about Locke, Jacob, and moving the mission up a night. For someone who has thus far played it cool, calm, and all-knowing, this stood out to me as someone who realizes that their position of power is in serious risk. Even if Ben assumes that Locke dead, the fact that Jacob talked to him indicates that Ben isn’t the chosen one anymore. All it would take is for Locke to return and blow Ben’s cover for him to fall from grace among the Others.

Locke. Which brings me to Locke. Although the writers could easily torture us into not knowing his fate for the looooong hiatus after this week, I’m guessing we see John Locke alive and well during the finale. If Ben is ousted from the Others, it might even mean that he indeed showed up, exposed Ben, and took the leadership reigns of the Others… and although this has been my long-running theory for how the Locke vs. Jack showdown would go down (rhyme time!), I’m now wondering if it makes any sense. Because I got to thinking…

Would Locke even want to be the leader of the Others?

I know he brought he followed them, complying with Ben’s request to kill his Father – but that really wasn’t about “joining the Others” so much as “learning the secrets of the Island”. If you think about it, the John Locke we know and love really isn’t a team player. He’s on his own spiritual journey with the Island, and is willing to do anything to accomplish it. After his encounter with Jacob, if he assumes that Ben knows nothing about the Island after all, he may very well assume that none of the Others know anything more about the Island either – making them useless to him. On the other hand, perhaps Alpert can somehow prove to Locke that they do hold the key to the Island’s secrets, and only through joining them can he also gain full access.

It’s an intriguing thought, but it still wouldn’t explain why the Locke and the Others, who seemed a bit taken aback by Ben’s command to “kill anyone who gets in the way” during their raid of our Survivors’ camp, would lead some sort of assault on our Survivors. It’s not as though Locke hates the rest of the Survivors, he’s just indifferent to them on his quest. So what would make Locke join the Others and take on our Survivors?

Keeping the Island secret.

If you think about it, that’s the unifying mission between Locke and the Others. They want to protect whatever the Island Secret, whatever it is – and will do whatever it takes to do so. Keep in mind that in the past few episodes, Locke has blown up the Flame (which could communicate with the outside world) and the Submarine (which could take people to and from the outside world). What’s left?

How about the Radio Tower? Thinking it through, this seems like the logical place for Locke to make his grand reappearance with the rest of the Others, and would pit him face to face with the Marchers. The scene practically writes itself! Jack and the Marchers on the one side, with Ben in tow. Locke and the Others on the other side. Quips flying back and forth, Ben making snide comments to Locke, Ben, and the other Others in the background. Locke giving a speech about not being able to let the Marchers go through with their mission in order to protect the Island, threatening to destroy the Tower. A classic face off. It would be pretty powerful stuff.

It would also go a long way in explaining Jacob’s “help me” comment from a few weeks ago – assuming “me” is the Island, and the help it needs is to stay protected. It would symbolize Locke taking up the cause of Team Island, and bringing the other Others into the fold. Of course, for any of this to even matter, it would mean that the Swimmers were successful in their mission – which is a whole other story.

Swimmers. Probably the most interesting of the three sub-storylines involves Desmond and Charlie’s mission to “flick the switch” inside the Looking Glass. The first intriguing point – which I didn’t get to last week due to the lack of analysis – is the question as to whether Desmond’s flashes will continue now that he’s been knocked out again. Part of me thinks it would be hard to carry them on over the course of multiple seasons, and that it would be nice if they existed merely for the purpose of protecting Charlie until he could have a heroic death saving the other Survivors. On the other hand, it would be nice if they would stick around long enough to get some sort of explanation as to why they started in the first place and what it all meant.

Either way, it looks like Desmond awakes from his oar-induced coma, and makes his way down to the Looking Glass after all.

Looking Glass. So here we are – the long fabled “underwater Hatch”, the explanation for the cable on the beach, and the source of the communication jamming frequency that has thwarted our Survivor’s attempts to communicate with the outside world. Sporting a white rabbit logo (hello more Alice in Wonderland references!), it’s a Dharma station that didn’t even make the Blast Door Map.

Judging from the schematics that Sayid stole from the Flame (one assumes, though this was never shown) – the Looking Glass originally was floating on the water, but has since sunk. As Juliet puts it, there was an “accident” which left the Looking Glass flooded and deserted. Is she telling the truth? Yes. Well, at least she’s telling us everything she knows.

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Assuming the Looking Glass is the key to travel to and from the Island, it would make sense that Ben wouldn’t let Juliet in on the truth about it, since she would clearly attempt to reach it in an effort to go back home – which she wants more than anything. If the Looking Glass is a secret, it’s probably only known to people like Alpert, Ethan, and Ben – people who we’ve seen make trips to and from the Island. It’s secrecy might also explain the need for drugging people when they make the trip to and from the Island – to knock them out so they don’t have any knowledge about the gateway that is necessary for escape.

So what was the “accident” that sunk it? While the easy answer is the Purge, if Alpert is aware of the Looking Glass and its purpose, why would he sink it? To help make it more secret? Ben and the Others might have appreciated the secrecy that the communications jamming of the Looking Glass would provide – it would help control the flow of information (especially critically to keep Dharma in the dark post-Purge), and keep any unauthorized communication with the outside world that might lead to Island discovery.

I think the Looking Glass is extremely valuable to the Others for this reason, and it stands to reason that the rough looking ladies (named Greta and Bonnie) who approached Charlie when he surfaced inside are part of the inner sanctuary of the Others or Dharmites who sided with the Others in the Purge. They’re all on the same page.

Guest Stars. Speaking of Greta and Bonnie, I suppose we should analyze the guest stars listed for the episode. Sure, all the “regulars” are there – Tom, Alex, Krazy Karl, Alpert, Patchy, CFL, Naomi, Rose, and Bernard. Then there are the Others that we don’t really know yet – Jason, Pryce, Greta, and Bonnie. Since it’s a Jack flashback episode, it makes sense that there would be two doctors, a pharmacist, and a funeral director (although one should note there is no mention of Jack’s Dad or Jack’s wife – which makes me wonder when the heck this flashback takes place?). Oh, and then there is one other name – PENNY.

Jackpot. This seems to prove my crazy theory is true, and she’s made it through the Looking Glass to save Desmond! She and the rest of Naomi’s crew are going to show up in a helicopter as the season ends and save Claire and Aaron, just like Desmond predicted. Charlie succeeds in his mission! Hooray! At least that’s what I thought initially. Sitting here, mid-post, I suddenly realize the much more logical and likely explanation.

Keep in mind that Desmond is probably going to begin the episode in some sort of unconscious state as a result of his whacking to the head. It’s entirely possible that Penny simply appears in some crazy dream sequence that Desmond has – perhaps telling him to go and save Charlie, or that she loves and believes in him, or it could be just another flash back in time to pre-Island days for Desmondo.

When you recall that Naomi mentioned she never met Penny, it makes it all the less likely that Penny herself would be a part of the rescue crew. So does that mean that our Survivors aren’t going to get rescued, and the season won’t end with someone coming through the Looking Glass? Not at all. It just means that it probably won’t be Penny herself.

Charlie. Of course, for all of this to come true, it means that Charlie and Desmond have to succeed in their mission to power down the Looking Glass. The preview for this week showed a very tied up Charlie being tortured by the Looking Glass Residents – but I’m still sticking with my original theory from last week that Charlie will indeed “flick the switch” and save the day. You have to assume that Desmond will show up just in time to save Charlie, provide a diversion, and give Charlie the time he needs to get through the giant circular door of the Looking Glass. What will he find on the other side? It could be anything from Michael and Walt, to Naomi’s Crew, to a captive flesh and bones Jacob, looking for help – but it will also contain the switch.

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Like I said last week, the cruelest thing to do would be to have Charlie survive “Greatest Hits” only to have him die in “Through the Looking Glass”… and I’m betting the Lost writers get the same enjoyment out of these cruel twists as I do.

So without further ado…

Death Watch. Here it is – the long awaited, quite morbid listing of which characters seem safe and which don’t in the Season Finale. I’ve included most major characters on the show, listed in order from safest to deadest. If your favorite character is sitting near the bottom of the list, it might be time to start worrying.

Sun = Hella Safe. Sun fans rejoice! In thinking it through, no character seems safer than Sun. Why? Quite simply, she’s the only character whose health and well being is important to both the Others and our Survivors since she’s currently with child.

Claire = Really Safe. Aside from Desmond’s vision of Claire and Aaron getting on a helicopter (which would seem to indicate that not only is she safe, but the first candidate to escape the Island), Claire’s death would pretty much mean Aaron’s death as well, since he’s relying on her for nourishment. I would also think the baby-hungry Others would love to get their hands on Aaron once he is able to survive on regular people food instead of boob food.

Locke = Safe. Although we’re supposed to be wondering if he’s dead or alive, it’s crazy to think that Locke would die before fulfilling his spiritual journey on the Island. I would place money on Locke showing up before the season is over. After one “close call” with death, having him actually die – while it would be quite surprising – doesn’t make much sense. He’s the one with the connection to Jacob, the power to expose Ben, and serve as the spiritual connection to the Island. He’s the soul of the show.

Rose = Storyline Safe. It would seem strange to bring Rose back for an episode, just to have her killed the following episode, especially since she’s basically a “face in the crowd” among the Marchers at this point. While she could end up as a casualty of the battle, it would seem to be nothing more than an excuse to get the apparently quite busy actress who plays Rose off the Island. In my opinion, she still seems to have some stories left concerning her potential cured cancer thanks to the Island.

Alpert = Hopefully Safe. Killing Alpert would probably anger me more than anything, because it would mean the writers teased us with this fascinating non-aging Island Original character, who clearly knows more than Ben about the Island, but that we never got a chance to learn about. Although the actor has recently been cast as the mayor in the upcoming Batman movie, it should film over the summer, allowing him to continue work on Lost.

CFL = Reasonably Safe. We still haven’t had our CFL flashback to help explain what really happened during her time on the Island, since her stories seem pretty inconsistent. Her sudden alliance with Jack is also quite puzzling, but would seem to further strengthen the notion that she has no loyalties to anyone, and is just crazy and wants her daughter back. Having said that, Alex is clearly her kryptonite, and I could see CFL jumping on a grenade to save her. But not yet.

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Alex = Pretty Safe. I can’t see Alex dying before she finds out the truth about Ben and CFL. We’ve got to have the sappy music reunion between CFL and Alex at some point, right? And we need Alex going crazy on Ben once she learns the truth. Plus, you can’t kill kids on TV shows, can you?

Hurley = Borderline Safe. Without Hurley, I’m not sure who would lighten the mood on the show and provide comic relief – which I think is critical when the show gets too dark. I also still don’t feel like we’ve gotten a good resolution to the Numbers and Hurley’s connection to them… even though they’ve been noticeably absent this season, perhaps as a symbolic result of the Swan Hatch Imploding. Hurley’s been wearing a lot of red lately, which worries a lot of people – and while his death would probably be the most gut wrenching and sad (i.e. – making for great TV), I don’t think it happens. If Locke is the soul of the show, Hurley is the heart.

Desmond = Safe, but in a Dangerous Situation. Underwater, trapped by the Others, having visions of your one true love? Sounds like a recipe for disaster right? The only problem is that I’ve got Charlie penciled in to bite the big one, and having both Swimmers die seems extreme. I think it’s more likely that Charlie dies saving Desmond, giving us a little Lion King circle of life action for all the times that Desmond saved Charlie. I’m counting on the Penny / Desmond storyline to be the driving factor behind the rescue of our Survivors on the show, and their love story to be the romance we’re rooting for when the show comes to a close – so unless Penny is really in the Looking Glass, and we get that tearful reunion, Desmond lives another day.

Kate = Shocking Death-Potential. This one would floor me, but the preview showed a little too many tearful shots of Jack and Kate saying they love each other to give me a warm an fuzzy feeling about their safety. There’s not a lot of backstory left for Kate, but without her, where are we going to get our gratuitous underwear shots? There is a definitely lack of hotties on the Island, and without Kate, we’d be down to three female characters on the show – which seems crazy.

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Jack = Slightly At Risk. That’s right – the main character that was originally supposed to die in the Pilot could finally meet his maker this week. Why? Well, I’ve still got this sneaking suspicion that Jack is up to no good. Remember last week, how he wanted to stay behind at the Beach, and Sayid basically forced him to go? Although Sayid gave the “the people need a leader” speech to Jack, I think it was more like “I don’t trust you, Jack”. Going to the Radio Tower wasn’t Jack’s idea either – he just seemed fully consumed with destroying the Others rather than getting off the Island. It’s these sort of actions that make me think he could do something careless to get himself killed. Plus, hello? It’s a Jack-flashback episode! Lost characters always die during their flashback episodes!

Sawyer = Toss Up. As I said a few weeks back, with killing the real Sawyer, our James Ford put himself in a precarious position on the Island because he faced and overcame his greatest demon. Factor in that he’s not really loved by Kate anymore, and his place on the Island doesn’t seem too secure. He was ready to sacrifice himself at the end of the fall finale before Jack intervened, so whose to say he doesn’t do it again, putting his life down to save Kate and the other Survivors?

Juliet = Toss Up. Both Sawyer and Juliet are Toss Ups. Either one could die, but not both. Why? In order to keep the “love triangle” alive, you need three players out of Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Juliet. Juliet seems the more likely to go, since Sawyer is more of a fan favorite, but it would mean that she never got to return to her sister – kinda a bummer. I could see another flashback or two concerning some more of her experiences on the Island (and the rest of her conversation with Ben about joining our Survivors – what did he promise her in return?), but on the other hand, I could see her dying in the process of taking out Ben and revealing his true nature, giving her a sense of purpose.

Jin = Danger Zone. When Jin first volunteered for the shooting, I got a bad feeling about it. It’s like the writers are intentionally putting him in a really bad position, one where he’s likely to die, when we’ve never seen him have any sort of sharp-shooting experience in the past. Having recently reunited with Sun, he’s in danger of falling into the “when you’re happy, you die” trap that is popular on so many shows. The good news is that I could see both Bernard and Sayid dying before Jin – and I don’t see all three Gunners being executed. A tad too morbid.

Bernard = Minor Death Candidate. He’s almost in the same boat as Rose – a character just recently brought back to the show, whose death might free up the real-life actor – but unlike Rose, he hasn’t been healed by the Island. In a way, his story was a simple one, just about love, and it’s already been told. It would be a cheap way to get an emotional death scene out of a character without sacrificing storylines down the road.

Karl = Tragic Death-Potential. There’s almost a Romeo and Juliet feel to Krazy Karl and Alex’s relationship. Both are rebelling against their parents (the Others), they have a forbidden love, and unlike Alex, Karl doesn’t seem to have any major connections on the Island. His death might be just the thing to push Alex over the edge in hating her father – maybe to the point of killing him herself. You have to admit, it would be very Shakespearian. Sure, I’d like to find out where Karl came from, if he has parents, or why he was placed in the Rave Room – but there are about 1000 other questions I’d like to have answered more. He’s served his purpose in warning our Survivors about the Others’ attack, so his days may be numbered.

Sayid = Strategic Death-Potential. I’m hoping for the best, but fearing the worst. All I know is that if I was the Others, I would take him out. He’s the biggest threat, he’ll probably have killed at least a few Others before he’s captured, and with him gone, picking off the remaining Survivors should be easy. Since last week’s Nadia appearance wasn’t a vision, I have hope that he’ll make it through so that we can learn the rest of her story – but I’m still afraid for my favorite Iraqi.

Ben = Days Are Numbered. He’s falling apart. It’s almost sad to see – a formerly proud, powerful leader becoming a paranoid shell of his former self – but it sets the stage for an exit. If Locke does assume the role of leader of the Others, where does that leave Ben? He can’t join our Survivors, he can’t stick around with the Others, and if CFL catches him, she’ll rip him apart. It’s really not looking good for Ben, which is sad – because he’s been one of the more fascinating characters on TV in recent memory. There are still those pesky questions about the fate of Anne, and the missing teenage years that led to his part in the Purge, but those can both be easily told through the eyes of other Others, giving us the opportunity to see Ben once again through flashbacks.

Charlie = Dead Man Walking. Yes, it saddens me to write it too, since last week’s episode actually made me like Charlie – but that’s all the more reason why he’s a goner. You can’t go back from an episode like last week. What would his next flashback be, making a list of the five worst moments of his life? No, when you start taking a hard look at your life, writing down deeply personal things, and basically professing your undying love to someone else, you can’t top that. As beautiful as last week was, it allows Charlie to go out on a high note, with the character as beloved as ever in fans’ eyes. Charlie is going to flip the switch. He might save Desmond’s life. He might die as a hero, saving Claire and Aaron. But he’s going to die. Sorry Charlie (pun intended).

So there you have it. If I was a betting man, I’d expect Ben, Charlie, and someone like Bernard or Karl to die before tomorrow night is over. But as you can see from the list, there are actually very few safe characters right now. Assuming the show is about to go “through the looking glass”, it’s actually the perfect time to kill off a bunch of people to spin the show in a different direction.

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Who else is amazed that I wrote 6,416 words from a fourteen word episode description? I have a problem.

How do I think it’s going to end, you ask? Well, I’ve made it this far with my theory about a rescue team arriving, so I’ll stick with it. I think we’ll have a showdown in the Looking Glass, a showdown on the Beach, and a showdown at the Radio Tower. Each will result in some death. The Radio Tower might be destroyed, the Looking Glass switch might get flipped back on, and the Others might take control of our Survivors – but not before at least one helicopter sneaks through the Looking Glass, rescues Claire and Aaron (and others?), and takes off, promising to send more help. We might see good characters turn out to be bad, or bad characters turn out to be good. Heck, we might even find Michael and Walt tied up inside the Looking Glass. But whatever happens, I’m expecting to be blown away, and left wondering where in the world the show is going to go from here. I’ve got a hunch that we’re going to learn that there is something much bigger going on than just our Survivors finding a way off this Island – and that storyline is going to propel the remaining seasons of the show. After feeling disappointed with most of the other season finales this year, I’m ready to be blown away.

Enjoy it.

WARNING – about two weeks ago, I saw a few websites mention that spoilers for the finale were leaked to a few websites. Proceed with caution in reading Lost-related websites for the next 24 hours. I’ve basically cut myself off from all non-Blog Lost sites over the past two weeks out of a deathly fear of accidentally stumbling upon a spoiler. I recommend you do the same.

Complain about me waiting until the last minute to post and tell me how I'm wrong here!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"Greatest Hits" Instant Reactions!

Brian's One Word Review: Beautiful.

Everything about "Greatest Hits" was beautiful. I don't know if they pumped in some extra sappy music in the episode without me noticing, or if there was the nagging thought in the back of my head that I was watching the last Claire-Charlie or Hurley-Charlie interactions, but it was a pretty emotional episode.

The way that they used Charlie's flashbacks as a "greatest hits" montage of his life was genius, sparing us from any scenes that felt like "filler" that might take away from the action on the Island. I was actually looking forward to them, waiting to see what moments would rank as the best in his life (although I saw the Claire meeting being number one from a mile away).

It was also beautiful the way that the episode built up to what seemed to be Charlie's assured death (aside from a very scary moment when I thought Desmond might take his place) - it gave sufficient attention to the story, giving the audience one last episode full of Charlie, and I must say, this was easily the best Charlie-centric episode we've ever had.

Lastly, it was beautiful the way that the episode set up the season finale. For all you other TV shows out there (yes, I'm looking in your direction "24"), this is how you write a story arc. Have multiple story lines that have all been sufficiently developed over the course of the season (or multiple seasons), all coming to an unavoidable head all at once. I don't know about you guys, but I'm more excited for this season finale than I have been for either of the first two seasons.

But before we look ahead, what do we need to discuss from this week?

Nadia. She appeared in a flashback! Does that mean Sayid is dead? Judging by the brief scene from next week showing Sayid, Bernard, and Jin tied up with guns to their back - it's not looking like he's out of the clear yet. Sadly, thinking about it - killing off those three characters makes a lot of sense. We've already discussed the logic behind Sayid, Bernard has been basically absent from the season anyways, and Jin's death would turn Sun into even a bigger badass than she already is. On the other hand, wouldn't that be too obvious?

Looking Glass. Whoa! Remember when there were all those rumors about Jack being held in an "underwater Dharma station" before the season began? Turns out there actually is one! And it's called "The Looking Glass". Can I start working on next week's Deeper Meaning Guess now? It's entitled "Through the Looking Glass", and it is now seeming pretty obvious what it means. But I'll restrain myself.

The more intriguing thing is that either Juliet was kept in the dark about the functionality of the station, or there are two groups of Others - some in the know, and some on the outside. Based on the preview for next week, Patchy looks to be in the know, along with a few other Others (perhaps Ben's recruits vs. Island Originals?) or Juliet really is a mole / spy and is setting our Survivors up. I think the first seems more likely at this point. I don't know how, but whenever I start to distrust Juliet, she totally wins me back over a few scenes later. Witchy woman!

So what is the function of the station? Clearly it's to keep a tight control over who can come and go to the Island, as well as who can communicate with the Island... which is why Patchy's involvement there makes sense. If Ben was somehow able to gain control of it, it would also go a long way in explaining how he was able to get into a postion of power among the Others. He who controls the information controls the rules.

Ben. Speaking of Benjamin, he's pretty much gone from potential evil mastermind to crazy person over the course of two episodes. Alpert has to be catching on to his erratic ways - not explaning what happened to Locke, claiming that Jacob told them to attack a day early, instructing the Others to kill anyone that gets in their way - all of this would seem to fly in the face of the hippie Dharma culture and the assumed peaceful ways of the Island Originals. How long before someone steps up and challenges Ben? John Locke, time to make your entrance.

Radio Tower. Think about this - the radio tower is one of the first places of mystery ever introduced on Lost (in the Pilot!), and now we might finally get a chance to see it. In this episode we got a new Dharma Station and an expedition to the Radio Tower? Talk about getting more reveals than we got for most of the first season!

Charlie. So, the good news is that Charlie survived this episode. The bad news is that, as I said in my episode preview, the cruel thing to do would be to have Charlie survive this episode, then die next week. I stand by my prediction. On the other hand, if Charlie dies, that means that Claire and Aaron get rescued in a helicopter - so that can't happen, right?

Wrong. I'm ready to make my annual outlandish Season Finale prediction. Some of our Survivors will be rescued (or appear to be rescued) before this season is over. Mark it. I'll go into further detail with next week's episode preview.

Which brings up one last point. I'm actually going to be gone for the better part of the next four days, so my "full analysis" of this episode will probably just be a "brief analysis" tacked on to next week's episode preview. The good news is that I didn't catch a lot of extra "hidden" items (although I'd like to take a closer look at the Looking Glass Map that Sayid somehow produced), so I think I hit most of my major thoughts in this extra long Instant Reaction. Hopefully it will tide you over.

If not, feel free to curse my name and complain on the Message Board and Comments Section.

Or you could always discuss the episode amongst yourselves until I return here.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Lost - "Greatest Hits"

Episode Title: “Greatest Hits”

Brian's Deeper Meaning Guess: …and so, we finally arrive at the Charlie-centric episode originally scheduled to air as the sixteenth episode of the season. Back then, it was titled “The Truth About Lying”, and probably was going to center on Charlie’s reveal to Sun about his involvement in her kidnapping. Instead, the Charlie flashbacks got pushed back to the second to last episode of season and the “reveal” about Sun was tacked onto the Paulo and Nikki-centric “Expose” (remember them? Wow, haven’t thought about them for the past two months!). But the question becomes, why the scheduling change?

The obvious answer is that by pushing the episode back towards the end of the season, it would keep the suspense up about whether or not Charlie lives or dies. Ever since we learned of Desmond’s “flashes”, the audience has had him on deathwatch in each episode. However, it’s not that simple. Unless there were some serious re-writes of storylines in order to push this one back, there was never any risk of Charlie dying in “The Truth About Dying”. If Charlie were to die in the sixteenth episode, how could he have been around for Desmond’s “Catch-22” episode the following week? Wouldn’t that episode have lost a lot of its moral dilemma and suspense if Charlie were already dead? I think so.

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So it seems that although the centricity of the sixteenth episode got changed, the major plot surrounding Charlie remained the same. If Charlie is going to die, he was always going to die late in the season. Moving back his centric episode merely gives the writers an opportunity to toy with the audience even further, as we all know that characters seem to die in their flashback episodes. It probably also brought a higher degree of importance and poignancy to the Charlie flashback scenes, which is quite welcome in my book (I’ve always said Charlie’s flashbacks have been the weakest of any character on the show), but I wonder if the flashback itself had to change with the scheduling change to make it more “relevant” to the show – or if they kept it the same. While that runs the risk that the flashbacks might seem out of place, with as fantastic as the second half of this season has been, I have nothing but faith that the decision was made by the Lost writers, not some ABC network suit, and this episode will be nothing short of great.

Which brings us to “Greatest Hits”. Although it’s a pretty common phrase, I kept the tradition of Googling it before I started writing this post. Not surprisingly, the search revealed little to nothing relevant to Lost, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the number one search result was Journey’s Greatest Hits. Don’t stop believin’! It looks like we’re on our own for this one.

The “Greatest Hits” of an artist are usually put out when they are past their prime, looking to claim one last paycheck by profiting off a reissue of classic songs they produced years ago, rather than their new, less popular songs. It usually signifies the end of the creative career of an artist or band (there are exceptions of course – like U2), but provides fans one last chance to relive the best of their catalogue in one convenient place.

Being a Charlie-centric episode, it’s pretty obvious to see the parallels to Driveshaft – his once world-famous band that fell apart Oasis-style. In Charlie’s previous flashbacks, we’ve seen him try to reconcile with his brother to get the band back together, sell-out with cheesy diaper commercials, and even buckle down and get a sales job. Attempting to produce a Driveshaft Greatest Hits CD seems like it would fit in nicely with that timeline.

But from a deeper level, a lot of people fear that we’re not only talking about reminiscing about the good old days in terms of Driveshaft music… but also with characters on the show. The writers have been hinting that there are going to be some deaths coming up before the season ends, so this episode could serve as “one last hurrah” with the whole gang together. While I don’t think we’ll be subject to a sappy musical montage of scenes from over the years, be on the lookout for a lot of “moments” between characters that will remind us of the good times… such as this one from the preview between Charlie and Claire.

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Enjoy them while you can, because I’m thinking some seriously bad times are right around the corner.

Episode Description: While Jack devises a plan to do away with “The Others” once and for all, Sayid uncovers a flaw in “The Others’” system that could lead to everyone’s rescue. But it requires Charlie to take on a dangerous task that may make Desmond’s premonition come true. Guest starring are Tania Raymonde as Alex, Blake Bashoff as Karl, Nestor Carbonell as Richard Alpert, Mira Furlan as Rousseau, Brian Goodman as Pryce, Marsha Thomason as Naomi, Neil Hopkins as Liam, Joshua Hancock as Roderick, John Henry Canavan as Simon Pace, Jeremy Shada as young Charlie, Zack Shada as young Liam, L. Scott Caldwell as Rose, Sam Anderson as Bernard, Andrea Gabriel as Nadia, Lana Parrilla as Greta and Tracy Middendorf as Bonnie.

Episode Breakdown: In keeping with the “Greatest Hits” motif of the episode, we’ll start with the guest stars – which read like a roster of every minor character on the show that has gone missing over the past few weeks. Not only do we have the return of Krazy Karl, but also Alex, CFL, Rose, Bernard, and… Nadia? At first I thought it must just be a coincidence – but nope, the actress is the same Nadia from Sayid (and Locke’s) past! For those who don’t remember, here’s a brief refresher of her story…

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Nadia was Sayid’s childhood friend, who ended up being held prisoner in Iraq where Sayid was the “interrogator”. However, Sayid couldn’t bring himself to torture his old friend (plus, she was kinda hot), and instead helped her escape. He has been unable to find her ever since, though not for lack of trying. If you remember, the whole reason that Sayid went undercover with the CIA (ratting out his friends, leading them kill themselves) was in exchange for a reveal of the location of Nadia. We also saw Nadia in Locke’s flashback, buying a house in LA – but the weird thing is that Sayid told CFL that Nadia was dead when she asked about the picture of her that Sayid carried in Season One.

Now do you remember? All this brings up the following quite interesting question – does Nadia appear in Charlie’s flashback, or as a “vision” to Sayid on the Island?

On the one hand, the quick and easy answer is that she appears in Charlie’s flashback. We’ve already seen her show up in Locke’s (who could have foreseen that connection? Is Charlie any less strange?), and have seen other characters popup in numerous character flashbacks (Sawyer, Kate’s Mom, Jack’s Dad), so it could just be another case of the Lost writers reminding us that we’re all connected to each other, and it’s a small world after all (without the annoying song and animatronics).

On the other hand, there is the far more intriguing (and troubling) possibility that she is some type of vision that Sayid has on the Island – in the same vein as Jack seeing his dad or Eko seeing his brother (Smokey?). With all the talk about characters dying on the show in the next two weeks, this worries me – because having a sort of “reconciliation” with a ghost Nadia might just give Sayid the “release” of his emotional baggage that makes a character prime for dying. As valuable a character as Sayid is, the resolution of the Nadia storyline is really the only dangling mystery from his past. Killing him would put our characters at a distinct disadvantage against the Others (losing their most “battle-tested” and “strategic” Survivor, as well as the most technologically-savvy), making their odds for success even less – just the kind of underdog story that makes for great TV and movies.

So is Sayid a goner? It’s hard to say. While he’s one of my favorite characters on the show, that just means his death would be all that more powerful and moving to the audience. As much as it pains me, I would definitely include him as one of the most likely Survivors to bite the bullet before the season end (full death-watch list coming up next week…) Sayid fans out there, be praying for Nadia to appear in the background of Charlie’s flashback. If we see that, I think we can consider him safe, at least for now!

As for the other returning characters, it’s clear to see some obvious ways that each would fit into the storyline. The preview showed Sayid teaching Rose and Bernard how to fire a gun. Remember Jack and Ana-Lucia’s brief conversation from last season about needing to “start an army”? Well, after sitting on the shelf for over a year, it looks like it will finally be coming true. If our Survivors are banding together for one big battle, it makes sense for Rose and Bernard to make their first appearances of the season – as you would think we would actually see all the Survivors working towards a common goal for perhaps the first time in the series’ history. On the other hand, if we’re counting on Rose and Bernard to be shooting guns and taking out Others, I’m not sure how much of a chance our Survivors have.

Luckily, the preview also showed Sayid tackling someone that I can only assume was Krazy Karl, warning our Survivors that “they’re coming”. This could be a huge gain for our Survivors. If Karl and Alex show up to provide them with detailed information about the Others’ planned attack, it would allow our Survivors to better plan and go on the offensive, rather than sitting and waiting. If you think about it, Krazy Karl and Alex switching sides makes perfect sense. We’ve seen Alex’s clear distaste for Ben, the rules of the Others, and their treatment of her boy-toy Karl. Heck, she’s already helped Sawyer and Kate escape from Alcatraz. Likewise, we’ve seen Ben attempting to keep Alex and Karl apart, and we all know what happens when you try and keep young lovers apart (see: Romeo and Juliet, Corey and Topanga) – it just adds to their rebellious energy and hatred of their society. Here’s a crazy thought – what if that ridiculous scene with Sawyer and Karl from earlier this season where he taught him about girls will actually have a payoff! Maybe it taught Karl that he could trust our Survivors, prompting him to warn them about the upcoming attack!

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Lastly, there’s the wild card – CFL. I’m on record saying that CFL will show up mid-battle, TNT in hand, and help deliver our Survivors from danger at the hands of the Others. Conveniently, with Alex on our Survivors’ side, this means she’s also helping her daughter – setting the stage for a tearful reunion! However, there’s still that hint of distrust about CFL and her motives. Her appear, then disappear nature doesn’t necessarily mean that she’ll be the great ally that I’m anticipating. In fact, maybe seeing Alex will cause her to lose all focus, and squander her opportunity to deliver a severe blow to the Others.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. With all this talk about big battles, deaths, and Boy Meets World, you’d think this was the Season Finale. One has to assume that the majority of the battles, deaths, and shocking twists take place next week, not this week – and that this week will merely set the stage, bringing us to the brink of the climactic finale.

So what will happen this week?

While Jack devises a plan to do away with “The Others” once and for all, Sayid uncovers a flaw in “The Others’” system that could lead to everyone’s rescue. But it requires Charlie to take on a dangerous task that may make Desmond’s premonition come true.

Jack’s plan seems pretty simple. As we’ve seen in the commercials, they’re going to wait for the Others to come to steal their pregnant women (just Sun?), then blow them up (with TNT from the Black Rock, one assumes). The problem is I still don’t trust Jack 100%. His line last week about knowing the Others plan, but not knowing how to deal with it didn’t sit right with me. If you find out that a group of other people are in danger, wouldn’t you tell them right away and come to a group decision about how to prevent and deal with the danger? Instead, Jack seemed to decide that he was the only one who could arrive at a logical decision, and left everyone in the dark on the matter until they called him out on it. In my eyes, this almost sounds like a lame cover-story for Jack’s true intentions. I don’t have any hard evidence, so I’m not ready to call Jack out as a mole among the Survivors – but it wouldn’t surprise me at this point.

Meanwhile, Sayid discovers a flaw in the Others’ system that could lead to everyone’s rescue. What is this “system” that they are talking about? Given that Sayid is the most technical Survivor, you’d have to think it has something to do with communications – either figuring out a way to make Naomi’s iPhone work through bypassing the electromagnetic “block” of the Island, or finding a way to use the Others’ existing communications channels with the mainland for their own purposes, to send an S.O.S. call.

The only problem is, I don’t see how either of these fit in with the current story, because you would think that either would require Sayid to go on some sort of mission – to the remains of the Flame, to another Dharma Station, to the Radio Tower transmitting CFL’s signal – somewhere other than the Beach. Yet we see that he is on the Beach training Rose and Bernard how to handle weapons in the clip in the preview. Very puzzling... but also another reason to put Sayid on death watch. Going on a mission means going away from the safety of the Beach, putting yourself in danger of stumbling into one of CFL’s traps or Smokey’s Fist. Factoring in that Nadia appears in this episode, you could almost piece together a storyline with Sayid traveling through the jungle on a mission to make communications with the outside world, only to discover a vision of Nadia – talking cryptically, looking for him to repent for his past sins… and then going crazy on him, just like Eko. Uh-oh.

Lastly, we arrive at the heart of the episode – the fate of Charlie Pace. It seems that whatever the key to Sayid’s discovery is, it requires Charlie’s help. I honestly cannot come up with any sort of task that would require Charlie’s help any more than any other Survivor, aside from guitar playing and drug taking, but I hope there is something, other than Sayid telling Charlie “you’re the only one who can do it” without any rationalization to back it up. Given the strength of the writing lately, I have fate – I just can’t figure it out myself at this point.

The weird thing about Charlie and his death sentence is that after seeing Charlie hesitant to do anything that may put his life in danger for a few episodes, we saw him embrace a crazy van ride with Hurley in “Tricia Tanaka is Dead”, which seemed to symbolize him facing (and overcoming) Desmond’s forecast of doom. However, in "Catch-22", he seemed to revert to his old ways, hesitant to partake in any sort of mission that seemed overly dangerous. Therefore, I find it hard to believe that even if Sayid tries to convince him, that Charlie would go on some dangerous mission, even if it meant saving everyone else. As a character, Charlie just doesn’t strike me as that altruistic… unless Sayid can somehow spin it as doing it for Claire.

So will Charlie end up going on this mission? Of course. It only seems logical that the main action of this episode will center around Charlie once again tempting fate, even when Desmond warns him that his actions will result in death. Expect yourself to be on the edge of your seat as the writers constantly tease Charlie’s demise around every corner. But will he die?

Well, ever since we learned about Desmond seeing Charlie’s death, I’ve said yes. After working so hard to keep the deaths of previous main characters a secret, I thought it would be brilliantly ironic to have the next main character death be told to you weeks before it would happen. It’s almost like reverse psychology – with the audience thinking “they can’t kill him, because they said they would kill him”, a show known for twists and turns delivers a perfectly straightforward storyline. The surprise is that there is no surprise. Charlie dies.

Two scenes from the preview further strengthen my opinion. The first is of Charlie kissing Claire – either kissing her goodbye as he leaves on his mission, or kissing her as a sign that their relationship has finally rekindled – finding romance is a sure-fire way to end up dead on most TV shows, since it leaves another character deeply affected by your loss. Look at the difference between the deaths of Boone, Shannon, or Libby (all loved by other characters) vs. Ana-Lucia or Eko (no strong relationships with other characters). You felt the emotional resonance of the deaths of the first group, because the characters mourned them, sought revenge, or were changed because of it. The second group? Not so much. Getting Charlie back with Claire ensures that she’ll become a much more interesting character once he dies than she is today.

The second sign? This strange picture of Charlie’s Driveshaft ring sitting on cloth (a crib?):

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To me, this just feels like a kind of “memento” left behind. Either for Aaron to remember his adoptive father, for Claire to remember Charlie, or as a sort of funeral item, it just feels like something that signifies remembering Charlie once he is gone.

Now if I were writing this episode, I would have Charlie live… only to kill him in the season finale. I like the cruel twist of having Charlie survive his flashback episode where everyone is expecting him to die, only to have him die in the opening scene of battle the following week. What can I say, I have an evil side.

That’s all for this week. Looking back, this is a pretty weak episode preview – but I find myself going into this episode as clueless as I have been for any episode this season. After last week’s mind-blower, I really have no idea what to expect… which is pretty exciting.

Happy Losting!

Shower me with praise and adoration on the Message Board Comments Section!

...or use the regular comments section below, where it’s all business with no polite niceties.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Extra Long "The Man Behind the Curtain" Analysis!

Wow. I don’t even know where to begin. You would think that through the hours of analyzing, researching, and thinking about each episode in writing my previews, I probably would have gone over most possible outcomes in my head. So, even if the episode doesn’t turn out the way I anticipated and wrote about, it probably would turn out in a way that I could have reasonably foreseen during my thought process. You would be wrong.

I have to admit, before this episode, I was feeling pretty confident not only that I knew what was going to happen in “The Man Behind the Curtain”, but also where the storyline would go in the remaining episodes of the season. I was sure that Locke would expose Ben as a fraud, and become the new “leader” of the Others. This would lead to the long-awaited Jack vs. Locke battle (brewing since Season One!) as Locke leads the Others versus the Survivors in the season finale in an effort to keep the Island secret. Jacob wasn’t going to exist at all – he was going to be just like the Wizard from the Wizard of Oz… a lot of smoke and mirrors to keep people in line, happy, and believing in a greater purpose. Ben’s flashback was going to reveal a softer side to him, showing him as an Island Original (Other) who had to conjure up Jacob to keep people on the Island protecting its great secret (something about living forever) instead of being swayed by the glamorous technology and luxuries of Dharma. He was to be the last of a dying breed, a character we felt sympathy for, which was to lead up to Ben actually dying in the season finale battle, leaving the audience to wonder who we should be rooting for – the Survivors, or the Others.

So you can imagine my surprise when the storyline from this week not only proved my “The Man Behind the Curtain” predictions totally wrong (I told you I don’t have any inside connections! Or did I intentionally post something wrong to throw you off? Mwa ha ha ha!) – but probably blew my theories for the rest of the season out of the water as well. But to be honest with you, I couldn’t be happier.

One of the drawbacks of spending so much time thinking, analyzing, and obsessing over Lost is that you lose a lot of the “shock value” from the episodes. You start to foresee things like character deaths and the broad strokes of the storyline (the details are still often hard to predict). So when an episode like this comes along, I can’t help but tip my hat to the writers on Lost for coming up with huge surprises like this week, even when there are thousands of people around the world analyzing, predicting, and researching their every move. It’s episodes like this that humble you, make you realize you really don’t know what is going on with Lost (no matter how much time you spend on it), and it almost makes you want to stop thinking about it and just enjoy the ride. If they can pull out surprises like this week now, I can’t even begin to imagine what’s coming up in the season finale.

It almost makes you want to stop thinking about it. For me, until I get my head wrapped around an episode, I can’t move on to the next week. (Note: watching two episodes back to back once I got back from Europe was killer. I still don’t feel like I’ve properly digested them.) I keep thinking about the episode, wondering about it, trying to piece it together in a logical way. As I’ve said before, it’s really just a product of my arrogance telling me “you’re smarter than this TV show – figure it out.” Thus, without further pointless ramblings, let’s get to it…

Patchy. Who could have predicted the large role that Patchy would have had in the second half of this season? He’s now probably had more screen time than any other Other besides Ben (and Juliet, if you count her). This week, we learned that he survived the seeming deadly sonic waves from the pylons around the Barracks because they weren’t turned up to full power. As lame as this explanation is (medical experts out there, can you really survive blood shooting out of you ears? It seems like that is something fairly serious), I am thankful that we’re not dealing with a “the Island brings people back from the dead” storyline, where we would have to start wondering about the true fate of every character that has died on the Island thus far. If you think there are a lot of “Christian Shepherd is alive and behind it all!” theories out there now (which are all clearly wrong), they would be twice as popular if Patchy had somehow been brought back to life by the power of the Island. So we all lucked out there.

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The other interesting thing is that when Locke started to pummel Patchy, Ben asked Richard and Tom to help, and both just sat by and watched. Even if they were sick of Ben and his baby-making endeavors and were tired of taking orders from him, you would think they would have jumped out to help Patchy, since he’s one of their own. While it’s possible they just hated Patchy and his weird reclusive ways - I think the more likely explanation is that they do not want to mess with John Locke.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve learned that the Others have a fascination with Locke due to his amazing recovery on and communion with the Island. Somehow he has seemingly been “let in” on Island secrets and powers that no outsider ever has… maybe even more so than Island Originals like Alpert himself - and that intrigues them. I don’t think it’s too far of a stretch to think that they view him as some sort of savior, prophet, or leader – and he suddenly makes Ben’s alleged connections with the Island seem pretty weak.

This is why there was so much shock among the Others when Locke announced he was going to see Jacob – if Locke was able to visit and communicate with Jacob, it meant that Ben was no longer anything special – Locke would now seemingly have all the power of Jacob and then some. It symbolized a changing of the guard… one that the Others probably had been waiting for as they grew tired of Ben’s single minded-obsession. The only thing they needed was for Locke to come back with a message from Jacob and Ben would have been history. Unfortunately, Ben made sure this didn’t happen.

Ben. As I said earlier, I expected this episode to reveal a “softer side” of Ben, revealing a tragic past that would make the audience sympathetic and understanding of his ways (note: this would help go along with my long-running theory that the Others end up being good and our Survivors end up being bad. Remember Ben’s comment to Jack in last season’s finale: “We’re the good guys”) – and for the first half of the episode, I thought that was exactly what we were going to get. He had the no good drunk father blaming him for his mom dying and never remembering his birthday, he was haunted by a freaky image of his dead mom (more on this later), and to make matters worse, he was an uber-nerdy kid who didn’t really talk, which clearly would have led to many after-school wedgies. The stage was set.

But in his last flashback, we saw another side of Ben – a vengeful, conniving side. A side summed up in his speech to Locke at the end of the episode about “doing what needed to be done to not end up in the pit”. While this helps explain the character that exists today on the show, the shift from the quiet loser kid to the cunning ruthless leader means there are still some major questions surrounding Ben (the kind of questions that would prevent him from dying before he gets a second flashback, I would think).

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Since Ben was born 32 miles outside of Portland (conveniently close to where the Mittelos Bioscience facility is! Which came first, the chicken (Dharma) or the egg (Ben)? I’m thinking the chicken), and not on the Island – it helps explain why he got cancer, but still could claim to Juliet, “None of the people on the Island has ever had cancer.” It seems to indicate that whatever “power” exists on the Island that cures people / makes them live forever / keeps them healthy is limited to Island Originals (like Alpert) and not transferred to outsiders, like Ben - no matter how long they may spend on the Island (it’s safe to assume Ben has been there for what, 30 years?).

This also sheds a little more light on why Ben sorta flipped out when he found out about the cancer – it was a reminder, thrown in his face, that although he was acting as leader of the Others, he wasn’t truly one of them – no matter how much he wanted to be. Want another reason why Ben hates Locke? The Island cured Locke the instant he arrived on the Island, while he has spent a lifetime there without receiving the same benefit. But this also brings up a huge question from the episode… how in the heck did Ben end up as the seeming leader of the Others?

Others. Three strikes. I’m out. Yet again, I was expecting a reveal about the origin / nature of the Others, once again I was wrong – big time. Somehow we made it through an entire episode featuring flashbacks of the Dharma / Others Era on the Island without learning anything substantial about the Others. Part of this is tied to the fact that Ben turned out not the be an Other at all, but instead a Dharmite… perhaps even a “Rebel Dharmite”? My theory from midway through season two finally resurfaces!

For the new readers out there, way back when we saw (and went crazy with analyzing) the Blast Door inside the Swan Hatch, my main takeaway theory was that there must have been two groups in the Dharma community – the card carrying goody two-shoes Dharmites, who blindly followed the rules and teachings of the organization, and the beer drinking, rock-and-roll listening Rebel Dharmites who were sick of the structure, questioned authority, and generally raged against the Dharma machine.

After hearing of “The Purge”, this theory kinda died off, because it seemed like the Others, not the Rebel Dharmites, were directly responsible for Dharma’s downfall. Also, it’s been over a year since we had any other new information that supported the theory. However, after this episode, I’m ready to resurrect it like a Patchy through the Pylons.

I’ll draw your attention to what Ben said at the end of the episode – “I’m ONE OF the ones smart enough to not end up in the ditch”. Maybe Ben was the mastermind behind the Others’ attack on Dharma, but he wasn’t the only one – which helps explain a lot, like how the Others could have overtaken the seemingly more powerful and better equipped Dharma soldiers, gotten through their pylon barriers, and had the weaponry to successfully “purge” them off the Island.

My thinking is that although we only saw the initial conversation between Ben and Alpert, there were many more over the years. These meetings eventually swayed Ben to the Others’ way of thinking, pointing out the faults and weaknesses of the Dharma society… and Ben recruited other Dharmites to his point of view. These “Rebel Dharmites” eventually planned a coup. They were willing to kill their fellow Dharmites in exchange for gaining access to the super secret club of the Others – and potentially the magical powers that went along with it.

I also think it’s a very real possibility that there was some sort of “initiation” for each of these Rebel Dharmites to officially join the Others – something symbolic to show that they were ready to “let go” of their past lives and start a new, fresh one. In Ben’s case, it probably meant killing his father (which he did). Is it coincidence that it happened on the same day as the purge? Is it coincidence that this was precisely the same request he made of Locke in order for him to gain access to the Others’ community? I don’t think so.

So based on all of this, the only true Island Original that we know of is Alpert. I think Tom could very easily have been a Rebel Dharmite, but it’s definitely open for debate. Given how much everyone seemed to listen to and follow Ben, there’s no real way to tell who the Original Others are and who the Rebel Dharmite Others are – but I’m guessing that will become more clear down the road.

The other thing that isn’t clear to me is why the Others felt the need to “purge” the Dharmites in the first place. The episode hinted that the two parties didn’t get along and couldn’t live in peace on the Island, but there must have been something more than that. Hey, I brought back my “Rebel Dharmite” theory this week – I might as well throw out my “Experiment Reject” theory as well – that Dharma eventually started recruiting / using Others as test subjects for their wacky experiments (perhaps trying to figure out why they didn’t age? More on this later...). This seems like something that would drive you to battle. The other possibility is that the Dharma destruction of the Island to pave roads / build stations and setup a society somehow was infringing upon the natural order of the Island, and the environmental hippie Others weren’t going to take it anymore. Either way, while the Others were the ones who eventually did the killing – it seems to me that they were provoked, and not acting aggressively on their own.

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You could reason that the Rebel Dharmites could have kept in touch with their Dharma headquarters, keeping up the charade that all was well on the Island by living in the Barracks, wearing Dharma clothes, and keeping communications with the mainland – which may explain the continuing food drops and access to Dharma funds and resources. Heck, maybe a higher up at Dharma became a Rebel Dharmite himself (Hanso?) and willingly gave the Others all the power and funds they needed to ensure that their mission on the Island was able to continue.

Which brings me to something pretty ironic (don’t you think?). We were told that this season would be “about the Others” in the same way that the second season was “about the Hatch” and the first season was “about getting to know the Survivors”. However, here we sit with two episodes left in the season and we don’t know much, if anything about the Original Others. We’ve learned about Juliet… who is not an Original Other. We’ve learned about Ben… who is not an Original Other. If Patchy’s story is true, he was a recent recruit of Jacob’s, making him not an Original Other either. In effect, we learned about the people who recently joined the Others, but not a thing about the true nature of the Others, their history, or their purpose. All we really know is that Richard Alpert is an Island Original and he uses amazing skin screen (or perhaps isn’t aging).

Alpert. Which brings us to what should have been the biggest part of the episode (until the Jacob scene came along, of course) - Richard Alpert seemingly hasn’t aged a day in thirty years. This just might be it – that huge secret that is the underlying point of the whole series. Aside from my brief flirtation with “the Island grants wishes from a magic box” (which really, was pretty nonsensical in retrospect), this has always been the most likely candidate for the big secret of the Island. It’s the reason that the Others would rather die than have the outside world find out about them, the reason that time seems so funky on the Island, and the reason for Dharma choosing the Island as the place to conduct their experiments to prevent the end of the world – because they would have all the time in the world to perfect them. Recent episodes have seemed to eliminate the theories that time moves faster or slower on the Island, but it still leaves the door open that while time moves normally on the Island – the people don’t.

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(Note: want another reason why this is such a strong candidate? Lost is the brainchild of JJ Abrams. The underlying storyline of Alias’s five seasons was Rambaldi – which in the end we discovered had found the secret to living forever. Think JJ wouldn’t repeat ideas from one show to the other? Watch season five of Alias, then Mission: Impossible III and marvel at how ridiculously close some of the major plot points are!)

Of course, there is always the possibility that I’m jumping the gun here. As some have pointed out to me, it’s possible that this was just a poor makeup job on Alpert in an attempt to make him look younger / older. It’s possible that it needed to be the same actor as current Alpert or else the audience wouldn’t have understood who he was in the Ben flashback… but I don’t buy it. There are just way too many hints that would indicate the opposite, such as Ben’s comment to Alpert “It’s my birthday – you remember what those are, don’t you Richard?” as if he hadn’t had one in ages, the Rave Room Video telling us “only fools are bound by time and space”, and the X-Ray of the twenty-six year old with the seventy-year old womb.

Want your explanation for why Alpert is allowed to travel back and forth to the mainland for recruiting purposes? For one, he’s an Island Original, so Ben knows he will always come back, unlike a recruit, who may be tempted to stay away by family / friends / non-Dharma beer back home. Two, because he’s an Island Original, on the Island he reaps the benefits of extended life that he wouldn’t get on the mainland. It all makes pretty good sense in my head except for one thing – how did Ben end up in charge of the Others?

If we are to assume that this eternal life / extended life / healing power is tied to a communion with the Island, it’s clear that Alpert (and Locke) have it, but Ben doesn’t. He got cancer. He doesn’t heal fast. He has been aging. What would make the Others decide that this “inferior” person should be the one to lead them? One reason could be that he was integral in helping coordinate the Others’ purge of the Dharmites, and became a “commander in chief” of sorts due to his cunning execution of the mission. But based on this episode, I think the more likely reason is tied to one very freaky, beardy, ghosty character – Jacob.

Jacob. Take a deep breath. We’re about to dive off the deep end.

Okay, this was the part of the episode that gave me the hardest time (clearly). I was simply totally unprepared for Jacob to actually exist, let along being some sort of being that was invisible, then appeared, then disappeared – so trying to wrap my head around what it all meant proved a challenge.

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Initially, I wanted to think that it truly was all smoke and mirrors by Ben. He used Dharma technology to create this fake “Jacob” and tricked the simpler-minded Others into believing that he had a communion with this “all powerful being” on the Island – thus, his position of power among them. It would still support the “Man Behind the Curtain” theme of the episode, and give us a totally logical, scientific reason for what we saw. But that seemed like taking the easy way out.

So then I thought a little more spiritually, thinking that Jacob was actually the “spirit of the Island” taking a human persona for the purposes of communicating the Locke. Being the “spirit of the Island”, it would be all knowing about anything going on around the Island, have power over everything on the Island, and would explain the “help me” plea – as the Island might be afraid of the forthcoming search party for Desmond that would ruin the secrecy of the Island that seems so important. But that wouldn’t really explain why Ben (an outsider) could communicate with the Island Spirit but Alpert and the Island Originals couldn’t – so that didn’t quite sit right with me either.

The hard thing is, in the back of my head all along, I have the voice of Cuse and Lindelof telling me that everything on the Island will be explained by science or pseudo-science. It’s a promise they made to us long ago, have always stood by, and is part of the contract they’ve made with the rabid fan base of Lost who are continually trying to decipher the Island’s mysteries. So when I was thinking back about this episode, I realized that we are now talking, quite logically, about Smoke Monsters, Living Forever, and an Invisible Island Spirit. I think the audience would be willing to accept one “pseudo-science” explanation (such as Smokey being nanobots or the Island’s magnetism slowing down the aging process), but if we’re going to have multiple “sci-fi” explanations for every weird thing that happens over the course of the series, I think the writers would have broken the promise they made to the audience – which would come off as a cheap way to prevent us from figuring out the mysteries.

So in the end, I started thinking that there must be some unifying answers for all the strange occurrences on the Island – Jacob included. This would increase the likelihood of a logical explanation, or cut down on the number of “pseudo-science” explanations in the end. But how could Jacob seemingly appear and disappear, move objects, and communicate with Locke? In writing that sentence, it hit me – Jacob is just like Walt.

Think about it. Walt would freakily appear and disappear, often only seen and heard by select individuals. He would pass along cryptic messages that seemed to have deeper meaning. He had the ability to move / guide objects with his “mind’s eye”. Is what we saw with Jacob really any different than what we’ve already seen with Walt? I don’t think so.

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From here, you can spin the analysis off in a number of directions.

Maybe Jacob is being held captive somewhere in a Dharma holding cell, just like “the Room” Ms. Klugh threatened Walt with. Perhaps the message to Locke of “help me” is quite literal – that Jacob is a real person who wants Locke to free him from captivity. It’s not hard to theorize that Ben is in power because he claims to be the only one who can communicate with Jacob because he’s the only one who knows how, based on what he learned from the Dharma experiments. Or, perhaps he can’t – but knows that Jacob has the same powers of spooky communication as Walt – explaining why he was so curious about Jacob’s message to Locke. Now he knows that Jacob is looking for help to escape.

Maybe there truly is something special about children on the Island, because they are the only ones who can communicate with “spirits” such as Jacob. Perhaps the key to Ben’s power over the Others is that initially, he was able to communicate with Jacob because he was the only child among the Others. This might tie into the Others obsession with stealing children (to find out who could help them communicate with the all-knowing, all-powerful Jacob). It could also explain why Ben didn’t hear Jacob’s message in the house – now that he’s old, he no longer has the connection, and has been “faking it” for the past few years… giving another reason why he had to shoot Locke.

Maybe all the images that people on the Island have seen – Walt, Jacob, Ben’s Mom, Jack’s Dad, etc. – are all the same entity. We’ve sometimes chalked it up to Smokey, but what if Smokey and these images represent this “Island Spirit”, whose main goal is self-preservation – keeping other people from discovering the Island? Jack’s Dad led the Survivors to the caves – away from the beach, where they were more likely to be discovered. Ben’s Mom indirectly led to Ben joining the Others and participating in the purge, killing the Dharmites who were constantly bringing outsiders to the Island. Heck, even Walt’s message about pushing the button might have been an attempt to get our Survivors to continue pushing the 108 Numbers to keep that “blip” from being detected by Penny’s crew when the failsafe was turned.

In this scenario, the “help me” could be a direct reference to Naomi’s crew, who will likely be discovering the Island very shortly as they attempt to rescue her. The Island is looking for Locke to prevent that from happening – which could tie in to my original theory of Locke and the Others vs. our Survivors in the finale!

What makes Locke special? The same thing that makes Walt special, and to a degree the same thing that makes Rose special – they don’t want to get off the Island. While Walt allegedly did leave the Island, don’t forget that he also set fire to the first raft that Michael built because “he liked it on the Island”. I’ll also point out that the writers did seem to want Michael and Walt back on the show before the end of the season, but were unable to secure the actors. I was always wondering how they would fit back into the storyline at this point without seeming totally extraneous to the main action – but if Jacob is just like Walt, it would have been the perfect time to have them return.

Depending on which scenario you choose (it’s like “Choose Your Own Adventure” don’t cheat when you end up getting eaten by a lion!), there’s a reasonable explanation for the sandy / chalky substance around Jacob’s house. It could serve as a warning to the Others to keep away, a spiritual “fence” to keep Jacob in, or even a magical “fence” to keep Smokey out. But we really didn’t get enough information about this to make any explanation more likely than the other either.

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Phew. That was all sorts of crazy talk spewing out at once, and I apologize. It’s just really hard to nail down one theory as more or less likely than the others at this point. It’s like I can start to see all the pieces of the puzzle lying on the table, but can’t quite put them together into one cohesive picture. Unfortunately, I don’t really see us getting any clearer of a picture this season with so many other dangling storylines. But I’m guessing that when we do see Jacob again, we’ll have a much better understanding of who or what he is, and we’ll look back on this episode and think we were idiots for not seeing it in the first place.

Speaking of those “dangling storylines”…

Locke. Wow. I did not see this coming from anywhere (even though Terry O’Quinn recently sold his house in Hawaii). I could have reasonably made an argument for why almost any other character on the show could die in the finale, but not Locke. Lucky for us, there is no chance that Locke is dead. Why? Two major reasons:

  1. He is the spiritual leader of the show. If Eko was still alive on the show, Locke would have been much more expendable, because Eko could have taken over as the character on the show with the “spiritual connection” with the Island. However, with Eko out of the picture, unless the Others merge with our Survivors and one of them turns out to have the same sort of connection with the Island, we would have no way of ever discovering the spiritual truths of the Island. Based on the fact that none of the other Others can see / hear Jacob (Ben included), I don’t see how we could ever receive resolution to that storyline without Locke sticking around.
  2. We have never had the Locke vs. Jack battle that has been building up for three seasons. In the Season One finale, Jack warned that we “were going to have a Locke problem” and the two characters have been at odds ever since – the man of science versus the main of faith. Killing Locke before getting this confrontation would be a tragedy.

Sure, there are arguments about why Locke could actually die – his flashbacks now seem complete, as the audience knows how he was paralyzed, he finally got the curse of death “closure” with his father, freeing himself from his past demons, and Ben forebodingly warned “are you sure you want to do this?” before entering Jacob’s house – but I have a hard time believing the Lost writers have the guts to kill off one of the most intriguing characters on television without providing proper closure to his spiritual journey on the Island.

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Having said all that, how is Locke going to survive? I was initially thinking one of three ways:

  1. The Island would cure him. Just like the bite to his hand and his paralysis, the Island will hook him up with another round of voodoo magic.
  2. Alpert / Alex were trailing Ben and Locke and will come to his aid. Neither one seemed overly trusting of Ben – and Alex even provided Locke with a gun, as if sensing the danger he was in.
  3. The gunshot will prove non-life threatening. At first I thought it might have hit where Locke had his kidney removed – meaning that the bullet would miss any major organs, preventing him from bleeding out. But upon closer examination, the shot seems a lot higher – almost in the lung region, which would spell trouble.

But then I thought of the best way – to not explain it. Having Locke suddenly reappear, much to the surprise of Ben (and the audience), would pretty much elevate him to godlike status among the Others, guaranteeing he becoming their new leader. It would also keep the audience guessing as to how he survived. Was it Island magic? Is he back from the dead? Was it something more logical and mundane? Eventually, the answer can come forth – but to tease us along for until the fourth season would provide great fodder for discussion over the long summer months.

Mark it – John Locke will appear again, alive and well, before the season finale.

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Final Notes. Since this has already been insanely long (that’s what she said), I’ll try and wrap up a few miscellaneous points quickly.

Smokey. The Dharma video mentioned that the Pylons around the Barracks protected them from a “variety of wildlife”. I took that to refer not to polar bears or boars, but Smokey. If this is true, then Smokey takes on a much more “magical” explanation, rather than a scientific one that Dharma created it and lost control of it. (Unless it was one of their early experiments gone awry, and the Pylons were quickly added afterwards).

Wonderland. Some readers have already pointed it out (blast you for getting to type pithy one sentence comments instead of novel-length analyses!), but this episode featured some heavy “Alice in Wonderland” symbolism. From Ben’s Mom looking like Alice, beckoning him to venture beyond the Pylons (or “through the looking glass”) to Ben literally following his white rabbit across the field for the first time, these things stood out to me big time (mostly because I know that the season finale is called “Through the Looking Glass”, so I’m on the lookout for symbolism relating to it).

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Emily. Speaking of Ben’s Mom, I know that earlier I mentioned that it’s possible that Smokey was responsible for all the visions around the Island. If you want evidence against it, remember this – Emily was standing right outside Ben’s window, inside of the Barrack Pylons designed to keep Smokey out.

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Annie. It's way too convenient that Annie wasn't shown after the purge. Ben stumbling upon her dead body would have had way too much emotional power to just skip - and it also would have proven how dedicated Ben was to joining the Others. Therefore, it stands to reason that Annie died before the purge. Smart money is on she and Ben getting together, and then Annie dying while attempting to birth their child. It would add another level to the reason why Ben obsesses over babies. Some people want to think that Annie became CFL, and that Alex truly is Ben's daughter - but these people are crazy (why would Annie pick up a fake accent?).

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…and I’m spent. You know, there have been a number of occasions when I thought we were about to go “through the looking glass” on this show (choosing that phrase intentionally, of course). If you remember at the end of the first season of Lost, I said that the finale was genius (not going inside the Hatch), because it meant the show was still everything to everyone. The writers were careful not to tip their hands enough to refute any theories, and gave just enough hints to give some justification to each. However, I thought once we found out what was inside the Hatch we would finally learn what this show was really about… and in a way, we did. In Season Two, we learned that there was a deep mythology on the Island (and show) that some viewers ate up… but I’m sure it turned some viewers off as well. At the end of the second season, we stood on the cusp of entering the Others’ world – and once again, I thought to myself “this is it! We’re finally going to understand what this show is about – what drives the Others, what is so special about the Island, and why they’ve acted the way they have towards our Survivors.” The answers to these questions would clearly eliminate some theories, and put the show in a new direction – one that may turn off more viewers, but would also give some answers to those that have been patiently waiting. But strangely, although we’ve spent almost the whole third season with the Others, it never happened. We’ve gotten hints, but for the most part they remain as mysterious as ever.

However, I think this episode was one of the episodes that could push the show off in another direction. There was something very symbolic about Ben and Locke entering Jacob’s house. When Ben asked Locke if he really wanted to go through with it, he wasn’t just talking to Locke, but also to the audience. For Locke, the decision would change his life forever. Whatever the repercussions of the visit end up being (Locke taking control of the Others, Locke dying, Locke going crazy, etc.), it’s clear that he won’t go back to being the same Locke he was before the event. But for the audience, it potentially was one of those “going through the looking glass” moments, where once we saw what was beyond the door, there was no going back for us either. While there is still some debate about what we actually saw, and what actually happened – it really felt like that event was a big deal, and I think we’ll look back on it as a true turning point for the series.

(Footnote: For all those out there trying to over-analyze the pictures of Jacob, I’d give up. Much like the first glimpse we got of Penny in Desmond’s picture (before the actress was ever cast), I would bet that the uncredited Jacob from this episode also has not been cast – and the image we saw of this episode was of some member of the cast or crew just standing in for a brief flash. The close-up of the eye looked pretty similar to Desmond, and as for the silhouette – well, how awesome would it be if Lost Island ended up to be the same Island that Michael and George Michael ended up on at the end of “Arrested Development”, and “Jacob” is no other than Oscar Bluth? You can’t deny the similarities!)

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Official Extra Long "The Man Behind the Curtain" Analysis! Post on the Message Board.