>Lost in LOST and loving it

Posted: April 29, 2008 in Entertainment

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For many, ABC’s LOST is a weekly viewing ritual. Get the kids fed, bathed, and into bed, unplug the cell phone and lock the doors. For an hour or more each week, time stops, or at least runs more slowly – just as it seems to do on the mystical island which, much like the River in Huck Finn, has become a character in its own right.

Questions answered, new questions posed. This sums up each week’s installment of LOST. It’s both frustrating and thrilling at the same time for fans of the show. For creator J.J. Abrams and his writing staff, it’s a delicate balancing act, one which they generally perform with the aplomb of a circus tightrope walker. Other times, either by design or not, we finish an episode with more questions than when we started.

Just a handful of episodes into this half of the season, the show has hit an even pace, giving us just enough to keep watching, speculating, and commiserating with other fans about the direction the show will take next. The unique approach taken to the current storyline, and the design of the narrative – with flashbacks and flash forwards coming at us so quickly it’s hard to determine which is which – would kill most shows, but works for LOST.

We now know which LOSTies get off the island and which ones don’t. We even know, in the case of Jin, some of the castaways who pass on. Each week, more or less knowing the end result, we tune in to see how the whole story unfolds, many of us recording episodes on our Tivo’s or other digital video recording devices so we can quickly rewind to search for clues in the background of a scene or to dissect the dialogue of mysterious characters such as Ben, hoping to gain some insight into what exactly is going on in the show.

The producers played a bit of a prank on us this week, as they often do, when a missile was directed by mercenaries into the home of Claire, the doe-eyed Aussie single mom whom we know doesn’t make it off of the island. Up until this point, we believed that Kate was raising baby Evan back on the mainland because Claire was a casualty of the war between Ben and his nemesis Charles Widmore. Now, it seems as if she may have been left behind rather than killed. I certainly hope so, as too many attractive ladies have been cut down each season on this show.

And what about Widmore? It appears as if he may be the original architect of the Dharma initiative – the man who discovered the island, populated it with scientists and drones like Ben’s father, only to have Ben gas the project’s inhabitants and claim the island for “The Others,” setting himself up as supreme leader.

But who are these Others? Are they the descendents of the sailors aboard the “Black Rock?” an ocean going vessel at least a century old which last popped up in the story line when Widmore bid on the ship’s log in an auction as Desmond sought him out in an attempt to locate his “time constant” and love of his life Penny. Speaking of Penny, will Jack ever discover that she is his half-sister? How will this affect the fact that Kate is raising his niece? And that Ben has pledged to kill her? It’s beginning to sound like a bad soap opera.

One of this week’s best surprises was the revisiting of “the black smoke monster,” when Ben disappeared into his basement, opened a door which looked fresh off of a South American soundstage in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and returned, seemingly after summoning the beast we haven’t heard from in several episodes and have been scratching our heads over since its first appearance in the pilot. Abrams said in an early interview that everything on the show can be explained by scientific or rational means, that the show wasn’t an X-Files clone with the hocus pocus of the occult woven throughout.

How do you explain a smoke monster through ordinary science? Or an entire island which has the magnetic polarity to take down a jet liner? Or the ability to heal, slow down time, and who knows what other properties? Perhaps Abrams is talking about laws of nature which modern scientists have yet to tap, or he’s just trying, in his inimitable fashion, to throw the audience off yet again. We scold him for it, but deep down we love it.

One theory I’ve developed is that due to the properties of the island or the special people who inhabit it have the ability to travel time and space. How else can the Others travel the world and set up what appears to be a network of safe-houses (as seen in the Tunisian hotel Ben shows up at as a “preferred member”). We have already learned that they leave the island periodically to get the materials and information that they need. When the one-eyed Russian finds the two women in the underwater “Looking Glass” station, he says that he thought they were somewhere else on assignment. Ben obviously gets around the most, though.

His magic basement room, filled with money from around the world, passports with numerous aliases, and a nice little wardrobe, looks to be a starting point for his time and space jumping travels, resulting in jaunts much like the one he took to the Sahara Desert, where he proceeded to kick ass and steal a horse. Who knew Ben had it in him? He’s been getting his own ass kicked by Jack, Sawyer, Sayid, and everyone else on the island for the last two seasons. It seems as if he has permanent bruises on his face from all of the beatings he’s taken.

Backing up my time travel theory is a viral video on the LOST website posted before the season began which was labeled an orientation film for one of the Dharma scientific research stations. In it, we see the familiar Asian-American white-coated narrator who voiced the orientation film for the “hatch” station in season two. In this film, which is a rough cut, he’s interrupted in the middle of his spiel when a numbered rabbit suddenly appears out of nowhere behind him, sporting the same number as the rabbit he holds in his hands. Underlings run to retrieve the bunny as the scientist enters into a panic about not letting them come into contact with each other. Could this be a glimpse into the science fictional rule that the same matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time without risking cataclysmic consequences? Were the lab-coats doing research involved with sending the white rabbits through time? Is that how the polar bear ended up in the dessert a thousand years ago for the re-headed blue eyed archeologist to find?

More questions, more questions. Why is Jack sick? Why doesn’t the island heal him? What’s going on with the boat? Why do they need Hurley to find the cabin? Who is the mysterious Jacob who lives in the cabin? Is Ben a good-guy now like he says?

Much like my favorite show as a young lad, the original “Batman,” the answers to these questions will have to wait until next week – “same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.”

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