Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Thoughts on The Package...

BIGMOUTH: First things first, because I have to get this off my chest.  What was ABC thinking with that "V THEY RETURN" countdown clock, which was emblazoned onscreen like a scarlet letter for much of the show?  It was so obnoxiously obtrusive that I assured my friend it would definitely disappear after the teaser.  (Note to self: never bet against the greed of network executives.)  But like some ghoul in a late-night horror movie (not to mention Mikhail) the countdown clock refused to die.  Every time I thought it was gone for good, it reappeared to distract me.  Even more unforgivably, the graphic obscured some subtitles, as well as Sun's written response to Jack.


I was so annoyed that I actually considered boycotting V, a show I can frankly take or leave.  I may yet delete my recording and download the torrent just to spite ABC.  I appreciate the need for unconventional advertising in the age of DVRs.  I have no problem with watermarking or product placement, as long as it's subtle.  As I say, however, the V countdown clock was anything but.  It raised the specter of permanent ad space in the corner of the screen.  And before you say it won't happen, consider those annoying tickers that now crawl ceaselessly across the bottom of cable news shows and television sports.  If you share my annoyance, be sure to let ABC know.

/RANT.  As for the episode itself, I thought "The Package" was solid and gave it an 8/10 on the Sickness Scale (4 for character, 4 for mythology).  I have a soft spot for Kwon-centrics.  Daniel Dae Kim and Yunjin Kim have always done a great job of making me believe that Jin and Sun really love each other.  The former's Korean has improved noticeably over the course of the show, and the latter looked as sexy as ever unbuttoning for her jagiya.  My main complaint was with Sun's aphasia, which seemed like a silly plot twist straight out of 24.  Some of you suggested this was actually a sign the two realities are bleeding together.  Maybe, but I fully expected a mountain lion to appear and terrorize Sun.

A mountain lion menaces Kim Bauer on 24

Do you know who I am?  One important revelation this week was that Charles Widmore and the Man in Black had never met before in any form.  Indeed, Charles admitted that everything he knew about the Monster was "a combination of myth, ghost stories, and jungle noises in the night."  So much for my theory that the Man in Black made Widmore the same offer of Island leadership that he did to Ben.  But I'm still not completely convinced that Charles is a good guy, mainly because of Bram's insistence that Miles was "playing for the wrong team" by working for Widmore.  From a continuity perspective, it would make more sense if Charles turned out to be selfishly motivated, and a reluctant servant of Jacob's plan.

That island's mine, Benjamin. It always was. It will be again.

Everyone we know and love would simply cease to be.  Equally important was Widmore's confirmation that the world would end if "that thing" ever got off the Island.  His comments generally echoed Jacob's warning about the spread of evil.  But Widmore went further, implying their whole reality would be wiped from existence.  His words may have been hyperbole, but they fit my belief the Island is a keystone for both Crash and Mirror realities, much like the Dark Tower anchors the many worlds in Stephen King's fictional multiverse.  It reminded me of when Pimli Prentiss imagines holding an egg that contains a billion universes, including his own, and realizes he would "cease to exist" if the egg broke. 

Some people just aren't meant to be together.  For me, however, the key line of the episode was Keamy's dramatically ironic claim that Jin and Sun weren't destined to be a couple.  I continue to believe the Mirror reality is what our Losties' fates would be absent the effect of Jacob's touches.  In Jin and Sun's case, I've argued their improbable union -- and the resulting birth of Ji-Yeon -- would never have occurred without Jacob's intervention.  This point was driven home by the heartbreaking juxtaposition of pregnant Sun's shooting in the Mirror reality with Jin's first glimpses of his daughter in the Crash reality.  Even if Sun survives, I'm guessing Ji-Yeon will never be born in the Mirror Universe.

Nomo nomo yeppuda!

I promise.  Jack's offer of his hand to Sun evoked Jacob's touch, as well as fake Locke's almost identical gesture to her earlier in the episode.  By taking Jack's hand, Sun sided with Jacob in his battle with the Man in Black, further reinforcing Jack's status as Jacob's proxy in this fight.  As we've discussed, I believe the show has been building since Season 1 to a final showdown between Jack and Locke.  But is this what Jacob always wanted, or was his plan originally for those two to replace himself and the Man in Black without bloodshed?  I'm even starting to wonder if Jacob was controlling Smokey when it tried to take Locke back in Season 1, while the Man in Black's spirit was still trapped in the Cabin. 

Did Kate unwittingly explode Jacob's plan?

It's not a what, it's a who.  Props to those who correctly guessed that Desmond was the Package!  The question now becomes what Widmore intends to do with him.  Judging by Desmond's drugging and imprisonment, Charles had him shanghaied.  Whatever Widmore has in store, therefore, it probably won't be pleasant.  I think he means to expose Desmond to one last blast of energy from one of the three electromagnetic pockets depicted on the DHARMA survey map Zoe showed Jin.  The goal is to unstick Desmond in spacetime, sending his consciousness into the past of the Crash reality or the Mirror reality's present.  Whether to save the world or secure the Island, Widmore seeks to exploit the Desmond Exception

That's one stubborn tomato.  I suspect that Jacob is depending on this Exception, too, which is why he finally allowed Widmore to return.  Jack's discovery of one stubborn tomato still living in Sun's dead garden was a metaphor for the miraculous.  The signs point to Jack's being the last Candidate standing and the one who finally takes over for Jacob.  But I sense misdirection.  My gut tells me that all of them, including Jack, are going to die like the vegetables Sun's garden.  Jacob needs Desmond because he's exempt from not just the rules of time travel, but also the rules of the Island.  As a result, Des will somehow be the key to Jacob's substitution of Aaron and Ji Yeon as the Shephard and Kwon Candidates. 

Jacob's miracle

That's the real stubborn tomato.  Over to you, Wayne...

* * *

WAYNE: I give "The Package" an 8 on the Sickness Scale, 5 for characterization, 3 for mythology.

As maddening as the Mirror reality has been -- for me, at least -- we seem finally to be on the verge of some answers. Unfortunately, in a show where "everything happens for a reason," I'm not entirely certain what questions I need to ask anymore. When I think I might have the Man in Black's scheme figured out, or which two sides will be fighting in the war (with a third group looking on: remember that game of Risk!), I come to conclusions so predictable and trivial that I want to bang my head against a mirror. Yes, I'd rather do that than stare at the reflective surface and search for hidden meanings. There was one very promising aspect to this episode -- hence my giving the characterization a 5 out of 5 -- we got to see every major character interact, something not seen since the finale of the third season.

The Secret Garden. Ilana says they should wait for Richard, and assures them that Hurley will bring him back. But with not much going on at beach camp, Sun gets fed up with everyone's inaction, stabs a table, then leaves. She heads to the remains of the garden she started back in Season 1. Jack follows and mentions how it seems like it's been a hundred years since she  started growing vegetables in the now-dead earth.  But Sun wants none of it, so Jack leaves, leaving her to cry. She knows her husband is alive, but she wasn't so sure back in Season 2, when she buried the message bottle that had been brought on the raft with Jin, Sawyer, Michael, and Walt. The Others blew up the raft and the bottle containing scraps of paper with messages from the other crash survivors washed back up at beach camp.

In burying the bottle, Sun also temporarily lost her wedding ring. In the Mirror reality, Sun is't married to Jin, but they are sleeping together, which creates problems later in the episode. The surprise reveal of their Mirror relationship comes when Jin enters Sun's hotel room and she taunts him with a slow striptease that involves the unbuttoning of her familiar pea-green blouse. This in contrast to her...well, moving on. Actually, this scene was a perfect example of metatext, of breaking the fourth wall. When Sun taunts Jin about his wanting her to button up her blouse on the plane, he replies that they were around strangers. Here in the hotel, of course, they're among friends -- i.e., we the viewers who have watched their lives evolve for the better since the original button scene right after the crash. Wink, wink, we get the reference. But who's to say another side of it wasn't to show that there's a further "Meta" reality even beyond Crash and Mirror. And if there is a third reality, why not more? I'll revisit this all in a future recap.

I'm talkin' here, I'm talkin' here. The Man in Black approaches Sun, and, like the other candidates, she refuses to take his hand when he offers it to her. Instead, Sun runs off and cracks her head against a tree limb, the end result being that she can now only speak in Korean. Jin, of course, speaks English well after his three-year stint with DHARMA, creating a mirror opposite of Season 1, when he spoke nothing but Korean, and Sun was the English speaker.  How funny would it be if there was a scene where the two converse in Korean thinking they won't be understood by their respective "teams," when who shows up but Patchy, back from the dead and working for Widmore.

Ben finds Sun and tries to convince Ilana he had nothing to do with her accident. Ben: Why don't you believe me? Ilana: Because you are talking. This mirrors the two instances in which Sayid and Richard were sent to kill the Man in Black and Jacob, respectively, with orders not let either one speak. As this season progresses, the Man in Black's lies are more apparent, and it's not so much his being the smooth-talking Lucifer as much as a guy with Locke's memories taking lessons from Ben, the man who can find a way to exploit anybody, particularly...John Locke.  Of note: when the Man in Black is talking with Claire, he mentions that Kate must bring three people back from the beach camp, as all the candidates whose names have not been crossed out must be on the Ajira plane. A few episodes back, Ilana told Sun that there were only six candidates left, knowing that Locke was dead. The numbers don't add up, suggesting there may be an unknown candidate.

This episode has finally offered up at least a smidgen of the science aspect of the show with Jin being held prisoner in DHARMA's Room 23 and Zoe's map of the pockets of electro-magnetic energy. Let me go back to that conversation Charlotte was having with Faraday in "This Place is Death," right before she mentioned Carthage. "You know what my mum would say about you marrying an American," she declared in an authoritative tone. What if the person she was "talking" to was Theresa, the woman who might have married 'ol Twitchy but instead had her brain turned to Minkowski-mush? In the Mirror reality, will we see Faraday as a married man, carrying around his DHARMA notebook? Will Eloise be far behind?

Continuing the subject of talking, Miles's ability to hear the "last words" of the dead has me mulling over a bizarre idea. In the past, I've speculated that the Man in Black's loophole was not his taking on the identity of John Locke, but rather the creation of the Mirror reality. Which brings us to the Swan and Juliet. The Man in Black is now stuck in Locke's form, but what if he was able to mess with Miles's understanding of Juliet's final thoughts? What if she was referring to the opening of the Mirror reality loophole when she said "it worked"? The Man in Black tried his damnedest to muddle up what might have been a warning from dying Juliet, resulting in a confused message to Miles from the grave.

Space Oddity. The evidence points to the Man in Black's wanting to escape the Island -- and, as I mentioned last week, the electrical storm barrier -- using the Ajira plane. Each of the candidates will be on the plane as insurance against the possibility Widmore will shoot it to bits.  Presumably, those whose names are on the Lighthouse wheel must not die. This is a crazy thought, but what if the individuals in the Mirror reality are interchangeable with those in the Crash reality? A way for the Man in Black to cheat, a dead Mirror Sun replaced by a newly-widowed Crash Sun, and so forth? 

I infer that Jacob's touch in the Crash reality caused Jin to become sterile.  If he's responsible for magical Ji-Yeon's conception, then he's a cheater, too. Will Sun lose her baby in the Mirror reality? Will Claire have a miscarriage? Does the Man in Black simply want to go to the one of an infinite number of realities where there isn't a Ji-Yeon or an Aaron? The Man in Black told Widmore near the portable sonic fence that the war had now started. And with those words, I believe we're finally going to get the answers we've been wanting, as each player's agenda is revealed.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Thoughts on Ab Aeterno...

BIGMOUTH: It remains one of the defining images of the show: a ship sitting intact in the middle of the jungle.  For six seasons, we've wondered how it got there, and what happened to its crew.  In "Ab Aeterno," we finally got the answers.  And while they weren't perhaps as creative as some fan speculations I've read over the years, the episode itself was satisfying and well worth the wait thanks to the outstanding work of Gregg Nations, Nestor Carbonell, and Titus Welliver. 

I knew the script was in good hands when the priest defied cliche by refusing poor Ricardo's plea for absolution prior to his execution.  The wine, bottle, and cork, moreover, were brilliant metaphors on par with anything I've seen on Mad Men or The Wire.  But even the best writing means little without great actors, and Nations had the benefit of two consummate pros in Carbonell and Welliver.  Richard's scenes with his wife, especially his final goodbye to her ghost, were heartbreaking.  And Welliver was pitch perfect as the Man in Black, exuding all the menace and charm you would expect from the Devil.  His performance was particularly impressive given that he was following in the footsteps of Terry O'Quinn, who's no slouch himself at playing the villain.

The Devil betrayed me. He took my body. My humanity.

All things considered, this was my favorite episode of the season thus far, scoring a 9/10 on the Sickness Scale (5 for character, 4 for mythology).  Really, the only thing that kept "Ab Aeterno" from a perfect 10 was the scene where a tidal wave swept the Black Rock inland, smashing the Statue of Taweret.  I get that the Black Rock's miraculous survival was meant to parallel the crash of Oceanic 815.  Still, I had a hard time buying that the ship would survive a collision with the Statue intact.  And the point-of-view shot of the ship approaching the Statute was cheesy and confusing.  I would have preferred a wide shot of the Black Rock buffeted by an enormous wave, something The Perfect Storm (2000) used effectively to depict the awesome power of nature.

Uh oh...

Even more fundamentally, the wave seemed like a missed opportunity to do something cooler.  Per my suggestion in As the Donkey Wheel Turns, I would have liked to see the Island materialize beneath the Black Rock.  I also think dynamite from the ship's hold would have made a more impressive cause of the Statue's demolition.  I had guessed this explosion would result in the demise of the Man in Black's Titus Welliver incarnation.  That didn't happen, but I certainly hope we get to see how Jacob took his "body" and "humanity," maybe in a flashback showing his imprisonment in the Cabin.  Unfortunately, given the leisurely pace of this season, I fear time is running short for such stories. Still, these are minor quibbles with what was, as I say, an excellent episode.

Will you help me, Ilana? Now that we know Jacob's request was for Ilana to protect the last six Candidates, the question becomes what will happen if they fail?  I think we got a hint in "Sundown" when Dogen's death seemed to cause the ash, which had previously kept Smokey at bay, to lose its potency.  Like the Dark Tower, the Island is a place where magic and science co-exist. The ash was the mystical counterpart to the sonic fence technology, and just as the latter needs electricity to run, the former drew upon Dogen for its strength.  Killing him was like shutting off the power.  I suspect the Candidates are similarly the source of whatever Island magic keeps the Man in Black imprisoned.  Without them, it really will become "just an island," and the Devil will be free to depart.

I can see land!  There seems to be some confusion about the storm that crashed the Black Rock.  Some have surmised that Jacob and the Man in Black were discussing a different vessel entirely in "The Incident" because the ship we glimpsed off in the distance arrived under sunny skies.  But that conclusion strikes me as premature.  As Locke informed Boone, the weather changes quickly on the Island.  The sudden storm, moreover, evoked the tempest in Shakespeare's play of the same name, wherein a magician (Prospero) is marooned with his daughter (Miranda) on an isolated island that's also home to a monster (Caliban) and elemental spirit (Ariel).  The play begins with Prospero's conjuring of a terrible storm that wrecks a passing ship with his traitorous brother aboard. 

But who conjured the tempest that wrecked the Black Rock?  The Tempest parallel suggests Jacob, who's roughly analogous to Prospero, while the monstrous Man in Black is Caliban.  Still, it seems unlikely that Jacob would smash his own Statue.  He may have invited them to the Island, but I'll bet  it was the Man in Black who caused the storm.  I'm starting to suspect the latter is behind all of the shipwrecks we've seen, including Danielle and Desmond's.  In fact, if you really want to follow me down the Whackadoo Well, consider the possibility that the Man in Black was the one who actually caused the crash of Oceanic 815.  Maybe his mental push prompted Desmond to notice the tear in Kelvin's suit, and the plane was meant to make a water landing on the Other side of the Island.

Estamos en el infierno. Isabella confirmed Richard's worst fears by telling him "we're in hell."  And while I suspect she was actually the Man in Black speaking, at least initially, I wouldn't be too quick to dismiss the notion they're in hell.  I've long believed that the Island is the inspiration for myths and legends concerning the underworld.  I'm not sure it's literally a place where the souls of bad folks go when they die.  I do wonder, however, if the ghosts that Smokey conjures to haunt Jacob's invitees are, in some sense, real.  Isabella was copied from Richard's memory to serve the Man in Black's nefarious purposes.  But maybe, like the visitors in Solaris, she has agency and consciousness once created.  Did she rebel against her master to save Richard from making a mistake?

She said you have to stop the Man in Black.

Then we're agreed.  The Man in Black's freeing Richard from his chains obviously paralleled when Randall Flagg releases Lloyd Henreid from prison in The Stand.  I half expected to see a desperate Richard resort to eating a rat (or even cannibalism) like Henreid does to stave off starvation.  The Stand parallel was reinforced later in the episode when Richard produced a white rock that Jacob had given him, presumably as a sign to the Man in Black that he'd chosen light over dark.  When Flagg releases Henreid, he gives the man a black stone with a red flaw as a symbol of Lloyd’s allegiance to Flagg.  I noted in a prior recap that Flagg is reincarnated on a tropical island in the epilogue to The Stand.  You have to wonder: is LOST actually an oblique sequel to King's epic?

Malevolence, evil, darkness. Jacob's description of the Man in Black reminded me once again of "The Howling Man," a classic Twilight Zone episode I've mentioned before.  A traveler in post-WWI Europe takes refuge from a storm in a monastery where he encounters a man claiming to be the prisoner of religious nuts.  The head of the monastery explains that the prisoner is, in fact, the Devil himself, trapped there by a magical talisman called the Staff of Truth.  The traveler disbelieves the monk and removes the Staff, releasing the prisoner who transforms before his eyes into Satan.  Realizing the mistake, the traveler spends several decades tracking the Devil, finally trapping him in a hotel room with the Staff.  Unfortunately, a maid releases him, unleashing evil once again.

Watch the Howling Man online...

The Man in Black may not be Satan himself, but the "Howling Man" offers good illustration of what will happen if he escapes.  It's not that the Man in Black is the source of all evil in the world.  Human beings do plenty of bad things even without the Devil's temptation.  The idea is more that his presence will exacerbate this natural propensity.  In the "Howling Man," Satan's imprisonment gives the world five years of relative peace.  His release is responsible for WWII, the Korean War, and the development of nuclear weapons.  I think it's possible that the Man in Black's exodus from the Island would have consequences that were as bad, if not worse.  Indeed, I can't be the only one who thought of the Valenzetti Equation's prediction of human extinction during Jacob's speech.

Where's the money, Lebowski?

They're all dead.  That's what Jacob admitted to Richard had happened to the other Candidates.  Richard's reply was that Jacob should consider taking a more active role in helping his Candidates.  Now that we're down to the very last six, I think we're finally seeing Jacob take Richard's advice.  Those "pushes" were, as we've discussed, Jacob's efforts to compensate for the Man in Black's manipulation.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Jacob never touched any Candidates until the final six.  It also wouldn't surprise me if Jacob has one last ace in the hole in case all six die, as I suspect they may.  The Wheel only lists surnames like Shephard and Kwon.  Watch for Jacob to exploit this loophole by substituting Aaron and Ji-Yeon as Candidates.  Over to you, Wayne...

* * *

WAYNE: On the Sickness Scale, I give this a straight up 10: 5 for mythology, and 5 for characterization.

The man comes around. Let's just get this out of the way first, Nestor Carbonell offered up the best acting of his career in this installment, from his Heath Ledger-esque laugh around the campfire near the beginning of the episode, to the telling of how and why he came to be on the Island. Alpert has been demystified over the last year due in great part to the time flash that allowed the Man in Black to provide vital, yet misleading, information to both Richard and the true John Locke. I remember being vocal in my comments at the time that Richard's slow action had allowed Eloise to shoot Faraday.  And Jacob's intermediary seemed quite agitated after the swim to the underground tunnels. Indeed, he completely unraveled upon hearing of Jacob's death, although it seemed he was suicidal due to lack of understanding rather than guilt at allowing the Man in Black -- and his unwitting cohort Ben -- into the statue.

Richard's entire back story told of a man driven from his home to a cell, saved from execution by being sold into slavery, then subjected to experiments in free will and determinism by the Man in Black and Jacob. The episode was an amazing tour-de-force, and I stopped reading the subtitles early on because I didn't need them to feel the character's hopelessness, guilt, and later, his terror. Years ago, I went to the theater to see Passion Of The Christ. A small group of men sat in front of me, and two of them were blind. A man who sat between them explained scenes no more than three times. This was a film not in Spanish, but for the most part in Aramaic, a dead language. Part of me wishes that I could watch "Ab Aeterno" with my eyes shut, without having seen it once before,  so I could savor the at Richard's desperation at Isabella's illness, his pleadings with both the the doctor and the priest, the sound of the crashing waves over smashed Tarawet, and finally, the familiar howl of the smoke monster.

Others 101. That's where Juliet jokingly claimed to have learned to speak Latin. I was surprised to find that Richard was a product of Tenerife in 1867, an island off the coast of Morocco. Tenerife is part of the Canary Islands, which, of course, has a connection to Lost: there is an outermost isle, St. Bernard's, that is more legend than reality. Many claim to have seen it, yet you can't find it on Google Earth. And, as many have long surmised in comments here, the arrival of the Black Rock destroyed the statue and settled it far inland, Wizard of Oz style. How could that serene scene from "The Incident," the Black Rock bobbing in the waters (while "Ride, Captain, Ride" by Blues Image played in my head ) turn into a hellish storm with twenty-foot waves? I believe we were seeing the same type of electrical storms that Ajira 316 encountered, but traveling at hundreds of miles an hour. These storms, which may also have crashed Naomi's helicopter, are like a reef that's invisible until close proximity. I'm guessing these storms also keep the Man in Black from escaping from the Island. 

Late in the episode, Richard asked Jacob if other people were brought to the Island before the Black Rock, to which Jacob replies, "yes, many." Jacob admitted that the others are all dead, hearkening back to the conversation in "The Incident" where the Man in Black spoke of how those brought to the Island always fight, destroy, and corrupt. Indeed, the Man in Black's point was made perfectly in "Ab Aeterno" when the surviving crewmen from the Black Rock decided to kill their prisoners rather than share the food with them. The Man in Black took care of the selfish crewmen, then scanned Richard's mind to find the images of Isabella so he could take her form in the days to come. After laying this emotional groundwork, the Man in Black finally appeared in person and recruited Richard to kill Jacob in a conversation that mirrored that of Dogen when he told Sayid to kill the Man in Black in 2007.

But I want to get back to the statue and the lack of Latin in the episode, other than the title, which translates to "for eternity." I mentioned in last week's recap that Charlotte's cameo in the Mirror reality felt like a waste to me. Many of you commented that her character might reappear, and I acknowledged that, if this turned out to be the case, I would change my mind in a snap. But I forgot some very useful information that Charlotte gave to Faraday seconds before dying in "This Place is Death." In a matter-of-fact tone, she said "I know more about Carthage than Hannibal himself." Carthage was a series of cities on the Gulf of Tunis, which was started as a Phoenician colony in the first millennium BCE. The main city was built on a promontory, a mass of land that overlooks a body of water, much like the location of the Lighthouse on the Island. Carthage was crushed in 146 BCE by the Romans. I'll lay odds there were Romans in the Island's past. Latin, anyone?

When you gonna let me get sober? "Bottle of Wine" was a song written and recorded by Tom Paxton in the late 1960s, and the chorus relates to the Man in Black's supposed plight: Bottle of wine, fruit of the vine, when you gonna let me get sober? Leave me alone, let me go home, let me go home and start over. Jacob shows Richard the circular bottle of wine that's half filled or half empty, depending on your perspective. The cork represents the Island, the only thing that keeps the evil wine from being unleashed on the world. Jacob tells Richard that he brings people to the Island so they can know right from wrong for themselves. As he explains: "It's all meaningless if I have to force them to do anything. Why should I have to step in?" Richard, who has now had a taste of how both Jacob and the Man in Black conduct business, replies: "Because if you don't, he will." And Richard sides with Jacob, taking on the job as advisor. I'm curious whether Richard was offered this position because he was the first person that the Man in Black had ever sent to kill Jacob.  Was he Jacob's first convert?

Several commentators have asked me to explain my idea of a "pocket universe." I think I can do so using the wine bottle as an analogy, if you'll allow me to get my geek on. Imagine  that Jacob's bottle of wine is the Crash reality, while the Mirror reality is an adjoining glass bubble. In 1985, DC Comics did some house-cleaning for their fiftieth anniversary with a series titled Crisis on Infinite Earths. Every alternate universe was combined into one, and multiple characters were explained away (e.g., there was no longer a Superman or a Batman in the 1940s). Existing characters were updated, the prime example being Superman, whose new origin had him never appearing in uniform until he was in his twenties  -- i.e., no Superboy. This created continuity problems because Superboy was the inspiration for the Legion of Super-Heroes. The writers solved this conundrum by having a villain called Time Trapper create a "pocket universe" from a tiny slice of pre-Crisis Earth where Superboy grew up to be Superman and inspired the Legion's formation one-thousand years later. 

This is how I see the Mirror reality. The only portion of it that needs to exist is the part that the Man in Black uses to gain recruits -- i.e., an L.A. with Nadia alive and happy, Jack has his son David, etc. The cork in Jacob's bottle is the barrier between the two realities. This is why I believe we will never see a Mirror-reality New York, London, or Seoul. All that is needed for the Man in Black is right there on the other side of the cork. In some way, he will get his recruits to push the cork from the Crash reality and let it fall in the Mirror reality, allowing him to escape the Island that is his prison.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Thoughts on Recon...

BIGMOUTH: Maybe because of the boars, I've always considered pork the perfect food accompaniment for LOST.  I actually fried up some bacon as a snack before watching Recon, so maybe this is the swine talking.  But I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the episode, which scored an 8 out of 10 on my Sickness Scale (4 for character, 4 for mythology).  In fact, Sawyer's flash sideways may be my favorite of them all so far.

A wonderful, magical animal...

I was hooked from the teaser, which led us to believe Sawyer was back to his conning ways, but then revealed that he's a police in the Mirror reality.  I loved Jodi Lyn O'Keefe, who was one of my favorite things about Prison Break (2005).  I didn't get the sense her character will play much of a role in the Mirror timeline, but her cameo was welcome nevertheless.  I was also ecstatic to see Sawyer and Miles partnered again as cops.  I've commented before on my appreciation for Josh Holloway and Ken Leung as actors.  You might expect their similarly sardonic deliveries to be overkill.  As we saw last season, however, they actually pair well together.  Someone should really cast them in a buddy comedy.

Starsky and Hutch?

I'm exactly like Indiana Jones.  But the real treat for me was the return of Charlotte, and not just because she looked great as Sawyer's blind date.  Her line about "Indiana Jones" set my whackadoo wheel spinning because it points to a possible Mirror-reality storyline that I've mentioned previously.  I suspect that Charlotte, like Keamy's crew, works for Widmore in both timelines.  I further suspect that, in both realities, she was present on the Island as a child and has been haunted by the memory ever since.  Widmore is using her (and possibly Dr. Chang) to help him find the sunken Island.  It wouldn't surprise me if she'd returned from an archaeological dig in Tunisia just prior to her date. 

You can't miss the bear...

Here's where things get a little whackadoo.  When Charlotte found the Sawyer file in James's drawer, my first take was that she simply made a mistake.  Upon rewatching, however, I got the distinct impression that Charlotte was looking for something.  Maybe it was just innocent snooping, the way some folks poke around the medicine cabinet at a party.  Still, if Charlotte was on the Island when she was younger, so presumably was Widmore.  Maybe he knows all about the Candidates and sent Charlotte to find out what she could about James.  Perhaps the title "Recon" is ironic in the sense that James was himself the target of a reconnaissance mission in the Mirror timeline.

Who's Anthony Cooper?  The Sawyer file suggests another intriguing route the Mirror reality may take.  It looks like Anthony Cooper conned Sawyer's parents in both realities.  And while James didn't adopt the "Sawyer" moniker or become a con man himself in the Mirror universe, his obsession with finding Cooper still took him to Australia.  (More on that in a moment.)  I'm guessing that Cooper is Locke's father just like in the Crash reality.  In the Mirror universe, however, Cooper renounced his life of crime and never conned his son out of a kidney.  Sawyer will track Cooper through Locke, culminating in a confrontation that mirrors their deadly encounter in The Brig.  This time, however, Sawyer will spare the reformed Cooper's life.

Good touch, bad touch.  As I say, Sawyer's fate was always apparently to follow his obsession with Cooper to Australian-- and to return on Oceanic 815.  Indeed, I was struck by how closely James's Mirror self resembled his Crash reality counterpart.  They even watch the same television shows (Little House on the Prairie) and read the same books (Watership Down and A Wrinkle in Time).  Yes, Sawyer became a cop, rather than a con man.  But as many of you all everybody noted, he remains the same basic person he is in the Crash reality.  This is important because it belies the Man in Black's claim that Jacob's touches were about pushing James to the Island.

So what was their purpose?  Right now, the big difference seems to be the "Dear Mr. Sawyer" letter Little James wrote in the Crash reality.  That might seem like a small detail, but it's already had major implications.  For one thing, that letter was the key to Kate and Sawyer's bonding back in Season 1.  In fact Jacob's visits to Jack and James both seem to be about building a triangle between them and Kate.  Notice how Jacob touched Jack just after the latter had the "count to five" experience that he then related to Kate shortly after the crash of Oceanic 815. Not only did Jack and Kate bond over this story, they later used it as a code during her escape with Sawyer from Hydra Island.

I'm gonna let them fight it out.  Moreover, the Sawyer letter seems to be what drove James to become a con man in the Crash reality.  Yes, he's something of a rogue in the Mirror reality, too, but that's a far cry from being "the best liar" the Man in Black has ever met.  Jacob needed Sawyer to be an expert con man, and in Recon we finally got a glimpse why.  As Sawyer mentioned to Kate, he's planning to con both Widmore and the Man in Black, playing them off against each other.  In the comments, I dubbed this the "Yojimbo" con after my favorite Akira Kurosawa film of the same name, in which a tricky samurai pits two rival gangs against each other to save a town.

So, if Widmore and the Man in Black are rivals, does that mean the former was on Team Jacob all along?  It's possible but by no means necessarily true.  Remember that last season Bram told Miles he was "playing for the wrong team" by working for Widmore.  Given that Ilana's crew was clearly working for Jacob, it seems unlikely they'd say that unless Widmore had some connection with the Man in Black.  I suspect we're going to learn that the latter two know each other well.  I even wonder if the Man in Black made a similar offer of leadership to Widmore as he did to Ben last episode.  Perhaps those sonic pylons are to make sure the Man in Black makes good on his pledge.

My mother was crazy.  Speaking of the Man in Black, I was strangely moved by his confession to Kate of having had a crazy mother himself.  He seemed to be speaking from a place of truth, but I have to wonder.  We've yet to meet the Man in Black's mother, if he even has one.  We have, however, met Emily Locke who is certifiably insane.  And I suspect the Man in Black was channeling Locke's memory of that troubled relationship to facilitate his emotional con of Kate.  In fact, it may well be that the Man in Black was also channeling Locke's emotions when he told Sawyer that he knew "what it's like to lose someone you love."  Perhaps he was referring to Helen.


Either way, the Man in Black seems adept at emotional manipulation, which brings me to one last whackadoo speculation for your pleasure.  Some of you expressed skepticism about Claire's emotional swings.  But one look at what my friends J and L have dubbed Claire's "Tickle Me Fucked Up Doll" erased any lingering doubts I had.  Claire's gone, mon, and she ain't coming back.  That has me wondering: was this the Man in Black's plan all along?  The psychic, Richard Malkin, told Claire that she must be the one who raises Aaron because of her "nature, spirit, and goodness."  So what happens to him now that she's both crazy and infected?  Maybe Aaron becomes the Anti-Christ...

That's all from this end  Over to you, Wayne...

* * *

WAYNE: I give Recon an overall 6 on the Sickness Scale, divided equally at 3 between mythology and characterization.

Previously on Lost. Well, no, there isn't any "Previously..." to be had. There's no lead in, for the first time in over one hundred and ten episodes, because we know everything we need to know already. The smoke monster's identity has been revealed, Sawyer is no longer James, Jim, or LeFleur, he's back to being Sawyer the smooth-talker, the bringer of nicknames. Sawyer the con man. We know of a Mirror reality, which is almost a pun for the Crash reality in that familiar characters in different roles are almost bumping into each other left and right. My snow globe analogy seems to fit: for the second week in a row, we learn of another member of DHARMA who is in Los Angeles. Okay, Miles's father works at the museum, fine. You go where the jobs are. And then there's Detective James Ford, "Jimmy" to the women he cons in undercover cop stings.

The episode itself is a mirror of "Confidence Man" in S1, only this time around, the open briefcase spilling cabbage -- AKA the pigeon drop -- leads to Sawyer's having a gun pulled on him by his mark. Sawyer tries to tell gun-wielding Ava that the place is bugged, and they want her husband, not her, for the big prize. She doesn't believe Jim's a cop, and maybe some of the audience doesn't, as well. Sawyer -- at this point, we don't know he's Ford in the Mirror reality -- says the safe word, "LeFleur," and a half-dozen cops bust in the cheap motel door's door. 

What's in a name? "Recon." The obvious answer might be re-con, another reflection back on the first-ever Sawyer flashback. I say that the title actually was word play for "Re: Con" -- i.e., regarding the various definitions of con. In the Crash reality, Sawyer tells Jin that he, too, knows the Man in Black is not Locke (the big con).  Fake Locke wants his main man Sawyer to take an outrigger to Hydra Island, to offer up some recon(naissance) on the activities of the remaining passengers from Ajira 316.  Fake Locke states plainly that he knows some of those passengers intend to do them harm. And then there's the conning tower of Widmore's sub, which we saw just below the surface of the water in the final seconds of last week's episode. To "con" the vessel is to direct the helmsman on how to conduct, or control, the sub. And so it is that the Man in Black is conning Sawyer: he knows that Widmore has set up camp on Hydra Isle.

I theorize that Zoe, who just looks crafty, was actually a passenger on Ajira 316 who contacted Widmore via the plane's radio. I also suspect that Widmore was told the flight path of Ajira 316 by Eloise herself, who knew Widmore would get on the sub and periodically attempt to make radio contact at the flight's last known location. This is a call back to "The Incident," when the Man in Black cryptically tells Ben that, once Jacob is dead, the remaining passengers of Ajira 316 must be taken care of in some manner. Having Locke's memories, he would know about the Tunisia meeting with Widmore and the coming war. The Man in Black very likely knew that Widmore would soon return to the Island, banishment or not. (Actually, there is a loophole here, as Widmore did not return to the main Island at all.) Widmore has men setting up a sonic fence because he knows the Man in Black is free of his prison. Again I point towards Zoe, who helps several of Widmore's men capture Sawyer and bring him to the sub's bowels. 

My thoughts: in the time between trussing up Rousseau-style and his going to see Sawyer boozing it up, the Man in Black took time to barrel through an underground conduit to Hydra and wipe out the redshirts before north to the Barracks. He knew the jig was up when he saw Locke's corpse with the sideways-walking crab on his head, so the Man in Black killed the remaining survivors in the hopes of scaring Widmore upon his return. Perhaps Zoe hid cockpit, unseen by the cocky unLocke. 

Charlotte. Big deal. Waste of Mirror reality, gang. We already knew about Det. Ford's looking for the real Sawyer -- that's what took him to Sydney the previous weekend. After some shots of Josh Holloway's chest, Sawyer leaves the room to get his blind date some water.  She finds his secret Stash, the Sawyer dossier, which we already saw. Her hand touches a copy of Watership Down, which Sawyer was reading in "White Rabbit," thought this episode was devoid of deja vu looks. There was no reason for Charlotte even to bother drawing our attention to the book. Yes, her father likely worked at the Orchid in the Mirror reality, as dying Charlotte knew of the well and screamed what I still think to be a phrase to be repeated again before the series finale, "This Place Is Death." Maybe she heard tales of time-traveling bunnies. But man, what a long way to go. And sure, she gets the goofy flower -- le fleur --that Sawyer gave Juliet, like, thirty years ago. Only he brings a six-pack this time, leaving the flower behind when Charlotte rebuffs him for making her leave at 3:00 AM, earlier that day. Each episode of the Mirror reality shares the theme of loss, and Sawyer as Ford breaks a mirror, the other running image we see past the looking glass.

Australia's the key to the whole game. In "The Shape of Things To Come," Hurley, Sawyer, and Locke are playing Risk just prior to the appearance of Keamy and his cohorts. Hurley points out that Australia is the "key to the whole game." The reason, of course, is that Australia has only one entrance -- through Indonesia -- in Risk.  This is analogous to the Island, which may only be accessed by one compass bearing. Another Hurley-quote of prescience: "This is what he wants--to fight amongst ourselves." Translation: Widmore is staying put on Hydra, and will let Team Jacob/Hurley and Team the Main in Black/Sawyer, candidates and recruits one and all, battle on the main Island. As Widmore told Ben during their bedroom confrontation: "That island's mine, Benjamin. It always was. And it will be again." And so Charles will watch and wait.

Both Kates. Mirror Kate does what she did in Crash reality -- smash up a lot of cars. Wonder how often that will happen when she gets back to L.A. and discovers the joys of texting. In the Crash reality, Sawyer tells Kate that he's not on anybody's side and confides how he conned both Widmore and the Man in Black. My immediate thought was that Kate will run and find Jack (and Hurley), and everyone else in that third group, and fill them in on Sawyer's intel. Moving back to Mirror  Kate, she has the bad luck to ram Starsky & Hutch's car, then runs off *resigned sigh* with a hood over her head.  The show ends with Ford and Austen face to face. And I actually think this scene marks the beginning of the Mirror reality's end.  Soon enough, the deja vu will overflow, and the Mirror reality will engulf the Crash reality, just as the explosion of Jughead caused the waters of the Pacific to seep over the Island, eventually submerging it.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Thoughts on Dr. Linus...

BIGMOUTH: Well, well, well.  I was beginning to think the Redemption Song would never play for Benjamin Linus.  And truth be told, I'm still not completely sold on his change of heart.  As moving as it was to see him sacrifice his coup to save Alex from Principal Dickless in the Mirror reality, Ben has claimed to be one of the good guys too many times to take anything he says at face value.  Just last season, it looked like he was finally working for Team Jacob to bring the Oceanic 6 back to the Island.  The murders of Jeremy Bentham and Jacob, both at Ben's hands, shattered that illusion.

Don't believe his lies...?

And yet, this episode offered some intriguing new context for Ben's troubled relationship with Jacob.  I was struck by the revelation that the latter hoped right up until his death that he was wrong about the former.  Similarly striking was the literary reference to The Chosen by Chaim Potok, which cast fresh light on Jacob's silent treatment of Ben.  The Chosen also provided an interesting parallel to Jack's conversion to a committed man of faith.  Ultimately, Dr. Linus registered an 8/10 on my Sickness Scale (4 for mythology, 4 for character).  Some minor inconsistencies kept it from reaching the level of The Substitute, but I'm a sucker for a solid Ben-centric, which this definitely was.

No, he cared.  Let's start with Miles's comment that Jacob cared very much about being stabbed to death.  I've previously suggested that Jacob wanted to be killed as part of his long con of the Man in Black.  But it's now clear that the former would have preferred not to die, even if he was prepared for the prospect.  (Note that this doesn't invalidate the Obi-Wan Kenobi analogy -- the elder Jedi didn't go to the Death Star planning to sacrifice himself.)  In that regard, Jacob's "pushes" during the Season 5 Finale may not have been about bringing people to the Island, as the Man in Black claimed.  I suspect these specific pushes were actually Jacob's contingency plan for dying.

What about you?

Indeed, everyone Jacob touched seems well positioned to advance his goals posthumously.  Hurley is already serving as his mouthpiece.  Sawyer and Sayid will betray the Man in Black at some pivotal point.  Kate will convince Claire to reconsider her allegiance to her "friend."  Jin and Sun may have done their part by conceiving Ji-Yeon, whose marriage with Aaron will end the conflict between light and dark for good.  Jack will  serve as Jacob's proxy in the final showdown with the Man in Black.  Even Locke has role to play in death.  As we've discussed, there's still a spark of the original left in his copy.  I think Jacob wanted to trap the Man in Black in Locke's form precisely for that reason.

Before moving on, I'd like to highlight one of the minor inconsistencies that I alluded to above.  I was troubled that Miles was able to read Jacob's ashes without any difficulty.  Last season, in Some Like It Hoth, Miles expressed strong reservation when asked to read the mind of someone whose body had been cremated and his ashes scattered.  As Miles put it: "For what I do, it's much better if there's a body."  And while he reluctantly agreed to perform the reading, it seemed clear he was lying for the money, which he ultimately returned.  Maybe Miles can read ashes that haven't been scattered, but it would make more sense if Hurley were the one who revealed that Ben murdered Jacob. 

The Chosen.  There's always a risk of reading too deeply into the show's literary references.  Still, it's not hard to spot the LOST connections in Potok's fictional account of two Jewish teens growing up in the 1940s.  For example, one of the boys is being groomed by his father, a rabbi, to some day lead their Hasidic sect.  The father refuses to speak with his son except when they study Judaism together, an obvious parallel to Jacob's silent treatment of Ben.  In The Chosen (SPOILERS) the son eventually learns that his father raised him in silence to balance the boy's intellect with compassion.  One wonders if Jacob kept mute all those years in hopes of tempering Ben's ambition with humility.

Hurley, I'll be fine.  The Chosen also offers an interesting parallel to Jack.  The Hasidic teen is friends with a boy from a comparatively secular Modern Orthodox Jewish background.  Over the course of the novel (SPOILERS) the former embraces the secular, majoring in psychology at Columbia University, while the latter follows a religious path, studying at a yeshiva to become a rabbi.  That second trajectory clearly resembles Jack's metamorphosis from a man of science to one of faith.  In my recap of What Kate Does, I faulted him for not asking Dogen more questions about the sickness.  After Dr. Linus, however, I realize that such questions would be out of character for the transformed Jack.

Wanna try another stick?

Jacob gave me a gift.  That scene with the dynamite was riveting, but Richard's explanation for his longevity raised some troubling questions.  For one thing, Jacob's touch doesn't make everyone ageless because Sawyer and Kate both aged normally after he visited them as children.  Additionally, Richard claimed that recipients of Jacob's "gift" could only die at the hand of another.  Like many of you, my first thought was that Michael must have been touched by Jacob, too.  But Michael's imperviousness wasn't limited to suicide attempts.  When Keamy tried to execute him, the gun jammed repeatedly.  Besides, wasn't it the Man in Black who finally released Michael, allowing him to die?


See you soon, Ben.  The Man in Black told Ben he was gathering a group on Hydra Isle.  It reminded me yet again of The Stand, where Randall Flagg gathers an army of darkness in Las Vegas.  Ilana will presumably rally the forces of light on the Island.  On that note, I completely bought Ilana and Richard's despondence at their abandonment by Jacob -- further proof perhaps that the latter would have preferred not to die.  At some point, however, Team Jacob will row over to the Hydra.  When they do, Ilana will spot the canoe containing the '77ers from when they flashed through time.  She will fire at Locke, thinking he's the Man in Black, thus solving the mystery of the outrigger shootings.

And that brings me to one last whackadoo speculation for your pleasure.  The Man in Black claimed that, when his group departs for good, he wants to leave Ben in charge of the Island.  I strongly suspect this was a lie designed to manipulate Ben's desperate thirst for power.  Still, it go me thinking.  Stephen King references aside, why did the Man in Black designate the Hydra as his rally point?  Wouldn't it make more sense for him to establish a base on the main Island -- e.g., in the Temple or the Barracks?  Then it hit me.  Maybe the Man in Black plans to sink the Island, bringing Crash and Mirror realities into sync.  Over to you, Wayne...

* * *

WAYNE: I rate Dr. Linus a 9 on the Sickness Scale: 4 for characterization, 5 for mythology. As in the last several episodes, we continued to receive an information dump of mythology. Really, the only thing that kept Ben's flash sideways from receiving a perfect 5 was Leslie Arzt. Each of his scenes had meaning overall, but they came at the cost of more of Mirror Roger Linus, which was too bad.

The episode opens with Ben running through the jungle, away from the Temple, when he encounters Ilana's group, who are headed there for safe haven. Ilana immediately asks him where Sayid is, which is a nice reminder that she had him in handcuffs on Ajira 316. Once she learns Dogen has been killed by Sayid, and that the Temple has been breached, she puts Miles to work. Ilana knows his last name is Straume, and that he communicates with the dead. By reading the bag of ashes that Ilana so dutifully filled from the pit in the statue, Miles tells her that Ben killed Jacob. In a neat twist, Miles's description of Ben with the bloody dagger mirrors Ben's description of Sayid in the Temple. And we now get why Ilana knows so much about the Island and its current inhabitants. She tells Lapidus, Sun, and Miles that Jacob was the closest thing she had to a father.

In the Mirror reality, Alex Rousseau is being tutored by Ben. In the Crash reality, she was a substitute daughter for Ben. Note the difference: Mirror Ben, whom Alex alone called "Dr." despite his pleas for others to acknowledge his title, is about serving others, while the Ben we've come to know in the Crash reality is an unapologetic user. Both versions, however, know the meaning of sacrifice. In the Crash reality, Ben lost his leadership of the Others and his daughter. Mirror Ben sacrifices his professional dreams for Alex, and his domestic life revolves around his father, who suffers from respiratory disease. On that note, the sound from the oxygen tank sure reminded me of when Ben killed his father during the Purge.

In class, Ben mentions Napoleon, who was exiled first to Elba, and after a brief return to power, was sent to a smaller island, St. Helena, one of volcanic origin in the South Atlantic. His resumption of power lasted one hundred days, mirroring the amount of time the Oceanic Six spent on the Island. It's also worth mentioning that another of Napolean's failed invasions was of Egypt, a campaign that lasted three years. His health failed quickly and the cause of death was listed as stomach cancer, though another possibility was arsenic poisoning due to minute levels of the pesticide woven into the drapes in the rooms of his home.  Aside from being a great metaphor for the sickness, I wonder if there was arsenic in the pill and on the dagger that Dogen gave Sayid.

During their tutoring session, Alex confesses to Ben her dream of attending Yale.  The first topic Ben raises is the British East India Company, whose governor, Elihu Yale, was a benefactor to the Collegiate School of Connecticut, which was renamed Yale in his honor in 1718. Ben asks Alex what territory was excluded from the Charter Act of 1813, but we never get an answer because that's when Alex dishes on the principal's affair with the school nurse. The answer would have been Ceylon, an isle off the southeastern coast of the Indian subcontinent, mirroring Hydra's location in relation to the Island in the crash reality. The Trading Company dissolved in 1874, per the Stock Dividend Redemption(!) Act.

After Dr. Linus, I'm beginning to think the Mirror reality is a Panopticon.  That term was originally coined in 1785 by social theorist Jeremy Bentham, whose name Charles Widmore gave Locke as an alias. Essentially, Bentham conceived of a prison that was round, not square as were all prisons of that time, thus allowing every single movement to be witnessed by someone. One might say that the Hydra is a Panopticon, with its many screens offering views of various locations around the isle. There are quite a few television screens on the Island -- those at the Pearl and the Barracks might still be up and running. Maybe on Hydra, the Man in Black will show the Mirror reality to his recruits like a kind of mental Panopticon, allowing Sayid to see Nadia and Sawyer to see either Juliet or, more likely, Clementine. .

There was a short-lived television show during the summer of 2001, The Beast, which was about a huge mega-news station, the World News Service. The fascinating part of the show, which lasted only six episodes, was that the WNS building itself was a Panopticon. The station's owner had cameras in every room and hallway. Incidentally, the show starred Elizabeth Mitchell as lead reporter and Naveen Andrews as her cameraman. Just to add to the apophenia, the largest Panopticon-based jail are the Twin Towers...in downtown Los Angeles, where so much of the action on LOST generally, and the Mirror reality specifically, is set.

The producers have stated that we should watch events in the Mirror reality closely. I'll take this one step further and say that we, the viewers, are the true Mirror reality. Jacob said that it only ends once, and when LOST has ended, we will continue living our lives, for the most part as seen by those in the Mirror reality. The Bens who help further a child's education, the Arzts who ask for modern lab equipment, yet greedily crave better parking spaces, the Jacks who want to repair lost time with their families, and the Lockes who finally start to listen instead of react with anger.

It only ends once.

But not for us.

Monday, March 08, 2010

What's in a Name?

Question for you all everybody.  What should we be calling the two realities depicted on the show?  I've been using the "LA X reality" and the "Season 1-5 reality" to distinguish them, but both names are frankly awkward.  "LA X" feels like it should have a hyphen, and "Season 1-5" is both cumbersome and a bit misleading because it implies that Season 6 is a separate reality. 

So what are the alternatives?  I'm not a fan of the obvious "Alt" reality because Team Darlton have been adamant that the flashes sideways are not to an alternate reality.  I suppose we could call it the "Sideways" reality, though the wine country connotations are overwhelming.  Another one I prefer is the "X" reality, which has a nice Marvel comics connection.  In a nod to Star Trek, there's also the "Mirror" universe.

Renaming the "Season 1-5" reality strikes me as even tougher.  We could refer to it as the "Island" reality, though that's a little misleading because we know the Island exists both universes.  Another possibility is the "Season 6" reality, though that, too, misleadingly implies a third separate reality.  I have to admit I'm stumped.  So what do you all everybody think?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Thoughts on Sundown...

BIGMOUTH: I rate Sundown a 7/10 on the Sickness Scale (4 for mythology and 3 for character).  For me, the episode served mainly as a referendum on the flash sideways storytelling device, and the results unfortunately were mixed.  In terms of the negative, Sundown helped crystallize what I find frustrating about these flashes.  But on the positive side, it offered a glimpse of where I think the LA X storyline is headed, and it's a direction I could see myself enjoying. 

Let's start with the constructive criticism.  I was obviously disappointed that Dogen departed after only a handful of episodes.  But even more frustrating than his untimely demise was the failure to give him a flashback, which would have shown how he came to the Island.  Instead, Dogen had to tell us how he lost his son, how Jacob visited and offered to save the boy if Dogen came to the Island -- all of which was infinitely less instructive or satisfying.  Forget what Sanada's outstanding performance deserved, I think the audience needed a Dogen-centric episode before he died.  But that presumably was impossible because it would break the flash-sideways formula. 

RIP Dogen

It didn't help that Sayid's story in the LA X reality failed to move me for the most part.  His initial scenes with Nadia and her children were forced, and the whole love triangle with his brother Omer seemed trite.  Things picked up a bit with the (re)appearance of Omar and Keamy, who were part of the mercenary team Widmore sent to the Island in Season 4.  In the LA X reality, Keamy was a menacing loan shark, and I enjoyed his showdown with Sayid.  Frying an egg has rarely seemed so ominous, and it was perversely satisfying to see Keamy plead for his life.  While we're on the subject, give credit where credit's due: LOST does a nice job of shooting fight sequences.

"The debt's forgiven. Alright?"

Ultimately, however, the flash sideways told us nothing we didn't already know about Sayid as a character.  His flashbacks and flash forwards have already made it clear he's a killer, albeit a remorseful one.  Maybe the point was to show that the murder in his heart had nothing to do with the Island or Jacob's pushes -- Sayid was simply a victim of fate.  Still, none of this shed any light on his apparent conversion to the dark side.  Of course, it's hard to fault him for siding against Dogen and the Others, who he believes twice tried to have him killed. By that same token, I wonder what would have happened if Sayid had actually followed Dogen's directions and stabbed the Man in Black before he spoke.

"Now why'd you go and do that?"

On that note, what do you all everybody make of the Man in Black's offer to make Sayid's wishes come true?  At first, I figured Smokey might conjure up Nadia's ghost like he did with Emily Linas.  But a comment by Lostmio got my whackadoo wheel spinning.  She suggests that Jacob's deal was actually to save Dogen's son in the LA X reality, the existence of which depends on Dogen's coming to the Island.  I suspect the Man in Black will make a similar offer to Sayid, but with a twist.  Sayid will be told he can trade places with his LA X twin, allowing him to see Nadia again. What the Man in Black won't mention is that the LA X reality's survival actually hinges on Sayid's staying on the Island.

Apparently, the "Rules" don't forbid Jacob and the Man in Black from misrepresenting or omitting key information.  We saw this last week when Jacob used a noble lie to get Hurley and Jacob away from the Temple before Smokey's rampage.  Then there's the Man in Black's disturbing whopper to Clairessou that the Others were holding her Aaron in the Temple.  Speaking of which, like NetProphet, I found it odd that Claire seemed completely unperturbed by news that the Man in Black was lying to her.  Alternatively, if she didn't believe Kate, why save the latter's life by telling her to jump in the pit?  I get that Claire is supposed to be nutty, but still.  Is she just toying with Kate?

It puts the lotion in the basket...

Okay, enough criticism.  I mentioned above that I liked where I thought the LA X storyline was going.  My optimism springs from the appearance of Jin as an apparent kidnap victim by Keamy and Co.  I'm guessing the latter worked for Widmore in the LA X reality, too.  If so, the kidnapping may relate to some conflict between Widmore and Jin's employer, Mr. Paik, maybe even over the sunken Island itself.  Remember, to avoid paradox, both branches of the timeline should logically spring from one common root in which the '77ers traveled back in time (from the Season 1-5 branch) and caused the Incident.  If I'm right, Widmore will still recall having been on the Island.

"No English!"

The model for this conflict is the Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.  Damon Lindelof is a big fan, and there are many parallels between lluminatus! and LOST, including the mysterious recurrence of the number 23 in both.  Part one of the Trilogy involves a nuclear standoff between cold-war superpowers over a small island off the coast of west Africa called Fernando Poo.  It's eventually revealed that Fernando Poo is a remnant of the sunken island of Atlantis.  I'll bet that Hydra Island is similarly all that remains above water in the LA X reality.  Widmore will use the Hydra as a staging ground to retrieve something (Jughead?) from the Island.  Look for that DHARMA submarine to play a role in the salvage operation.


That's all from my end.  Wayne has some family obligations that may delay his recap this week, but be sure to check back later for his thoughts.

* * *

WAYNE: Nice bait and switch giving us a flash sideways for Sayid in an episode titled "Sundown." You always think these episodes will be about Sun, but in Season 1, "House of The Rising Sun" was similarly Sayid-centric. Sundown is when a Muslim offers his last prayers for the day, and sundowning also refers to mental illness. Also, and this is more just coincidence, one can equate the Others with Sundowners, what would amount to migrant workers in Australia, no set home, carrying rolled up tents on their backs, moving from place to place.

When it comes to my sickness score, the character component is directed much more towards Dogen than Sayid. There was little to be gained from Sayid's LA X reality, because we all know that, whatever he does for a living, it sure isn't translating documents. As with Sawyer and, to a certain extent, Kate, their stories were done in Season 1. There were always new layers in the episodes focusing on Jack, Locke, and Sun. From a writing standpoint, considering the main action driving Sundown, I couldn't imagine us getting a story about Claire and her sundown sickness.  But the scenes in the other reality offered little. The only interesting moment was when Sayid found Jin in the locker. Also, seeing Keamy and Omar gives an indication that we might see an LA X version of Widmore, the man who hired the mercenaries to hunt Ben down on the Island. 

If the Lamp Post exists in the LA X reality, can Eloise and Widmore possibly not know that the main Island is underwater? The tote board would still be streaming coordinates, the pendulum still moving. I can imagine a periodic food drop --this is still 2004, after all --planned where the plane looks for the Island but can only find Hydra. Yes, Jughead detonated in 1977, but as lostmio mentioned a few posts back, it could take years for the Island to sink. I would rather have seen Widmore and Eloise in this episode, because I do want to know if the fate of the Island is known. Sayid can fight, he's a killer, he loves Nadia. We know that. Whatever the parallels to the main storyline, the LA X story was unnecessary, but it was the only real way to structure this specific episode.

In "Solitary," Sayid banished himself (as opposed to being banished by Dogen) from the beach camp only to be taken captive by Rousseau. I now suspect that her torture chamber mirrored Dogen's because she had been at the Temple to be tested for the sickness. Claire was familiar with the side entrance to the Temple, and she was branded for her sickness. Perhaps this is the reason Danielle mentioned The Dark Territory, referring to it in such a way on her map.. She knew of the Temple's close proximity. Rousseau also has one telling line, when she tells Sayid that "she knows what he is." Not who. What.

Solitary is also the episode where Hurley creates his makeshift golf course that has only two holes. In a S2 episode, "Enter 77," which was also Sayid-centric, Sayid, Kate, and Locke discover the Flame Station, where Locke plays computerized chess -- again, a game with two players -- where the computer always cheats. Meanwhile, back at the beach camp, Sawyer and Jack play ping pong on the table recovered from the Hatch. Two players. Was 'Sundown' supposed to remind us that Sayid is adept at playing two roles, that of assassin and also that of Nadia's true love? He's an enigma now, because not much good came from his resurrection. Sayid couldn't even get a straight answer from Dogen, who simply told him that the scale tipped "the wrong way." Reminds me of all the "good guy" references, and, as Lapidus told Bram: "In my experience, the people who go out of their way to tell you that the good guys are the bad guys."

Dogen the banker from Osaka, who mortally wounds his son in a car accident.  He's promised by Jacob that the boy would be saved if Dogen would come to the Island, though he would never see the boy again. Dogen gets the head job at the Temple, perhaps because of his organizational skills, as he does have that little office with books and the typewriter. I was initially surprised that Dogen had some formidable fighting skills for a former banker. And yet, so did Juliet, presumably because they were both trained by the Others. Speaking of Juliet, here again we see the duality of science and mysticism, for as Dogen was not allowed to ever see his son again, so, too, was Juliet never allowed to leave the Island once Jacob cured her sister of cancer. The difference is that Juliet was allowed to see her sister at the park in Miami via a video transmission from the Flame. Granted, Dogen did tell Sayid that he had to stay at the Temple, but would it have been possible for him to ever see his son as Juliet did Joanna?

I see it this way: Juliet was recruited to fix the problem of allowing for future generations of Others via science, while Dogen was brought to the Island and to protect the current generation of Others via faith and mysticism. The one thing I don't get is why Dogen tells Sayid that he is the only one who can keep the Man in Black out of the Temple. We've seen the ash. So what's the deal? And where the hell is Richard? Perhaps ensnared by the Man in Black until after sundown, thus allowing Richard's possible presence to not influence Cindy, Zack, Emma, and the rest from leaving. One thing the Man in Black has done several times is point his fingers at the Others and tells him how disappointed he is in them. And I don't think it's a dig at Jacob, rather one at Richard. The Others are willing to give up their personal freedoms to someone who might very well have been a former prisoner.

Some final thoughts on the episode, and I will again assert that I believe Jacob has been cheating like the Flame computer in this game, if only because the Man in Black cannot leave the Island. He can only now recruit, with Sayid, Claire, and Kate (who, I think, will be playing the Sawyer con). Now here's where I go off the deep end.

The loophole was not Jughead. It was the creation of the LA X reality. Just as Jacob could offer people a choice to leave their old lives behind (and I'm thinking more of the current group of Others that were traipsing around with Richard), the Man in Black now has a choice for his recruits. Sayid, you can get Nadia. Claire, Aaron will not be raised by another, not even Kate. The reason Kate will not fall for this is because she knows her fate in the LA X reality is no different than in the current one. Granted, the two realities have no sign of merging yet, but I can see the Man in Black telling the tale of this new reality. Cindy could be with Gary "Bad Twin" Troup, Zack and Emma with their parents. This is why I think of the LA in the LA X reality as a snow globe, because it will close in on itself like the noose that killed Locke. Maybe the Man in Black's "home" is the LA X reality, where there isn't any ash to constrain him, and he can go wherever he wants.
Rating: 7 on the Sickness Scale (4 for mythology, 3 for characterization)