It may be for lack of trying, but I haven't found any kind of "Lost" online fan community that seems worth getting involved in, so, since I have nowhere else to turn, I'm going to post some thoughts here with hopes of generating some discussion. Also this is supposed to be sort of a media news/review blog so that kind of fits in (I’m paying $4.95/month for this bad boy so I might as well do something with it).
Keep in mind that I'll be discussing plot points regarding the entire series up until right now (ep. 3.14), so if you haven't seen recent episodes and don't want anything to get ruined, then here's a great big SPOILER ALERT. YOU ARE SPOILED ROTTEN. THE MILK HAS BEEN SPOILED. THAT’S A PRETTY SWEET SPOILER ON THE BACK OF YOUR NISSAN. ETC. Also I might refer to some hints that have circulated regarding upcoming episodes, so there's that additional layer of spoilerage to look out for.
This week's "Exposé" episode was a big departure for Lost, in the vein of the more humorous X-files episodes that verged on (or just plain were) self-parody. For me, this is kind of a disappointment. X-files was easy to make fun of because of Duchovny's stiff acting and the general silliness of his character. Lost certainly has it's share of cliches, loose threads, and other reasons to mock it, but mostly from an outsider's perspective. If you're invested in the show (obsessed?) there haven’t been any major missteps to pull you out of the story. Except for Nikki and Paulo. Gratuitously introduced in last fall's mini-season (the first six episodes of season three), most egregiously in "The Cost of Living,” exec. producer/writer Carlton Cuse ramped up interest in "Exposé" by promising "'We had a plan when we introduced them…when the plan is executed, Nikki and Paulo will be iconic characters on the show." It's not clear if he was just being a sarcastic prick or if they really have further plans for these people.
There were several troubling aspects to "Exposé" in addition to the jiggly awkwardness of these characters' introduction. One is that the character of Nikki appears in a trashy TV show called "Exposé," (in "The Man From Tallahassee" Locke can be seen watching the show - listen for references to Crystal and Cobra) but the flashbacks of her and Paulo's life also resemble a trashy TV show, only slightly less trashy than the faux-show (but certainly a lot cheesier than most of the flashbacks we've seen, which are often the most engaging parts of Lost). And their demise on the island just amps up the silliness. The whole thing feels cheap and there's no real payoff.
There were a few cute moments, but nothing to make the episode worthwhile. The creepy appearance of Ethan (way overplayed here) was sort of funny, the way they ignore Yemi's plane and the Swan hatch are sort of a good poke at Locke, I guess, but none of it was particularly clever or enlightening, and it certainly wasn't enough to, say, make you forget about the mysterious disappearance of Rose and Bernard (an underappreciated couple in the Lost canon).
I'd say the best part of this episode was the fact that they killed these characters off, but I'm at least 50% certain that this is not the last we've seen of these two, which only makes me more disappointed by the whole affair. Another reason this particularly worries me is that Damen Lindelof, as seen and heard in interviews, is clearly a jackass, and if this part of his personality is allowed to have a greater influence on the show in general, then the show is going to go in the dumps before it ends.
Now here are a couple of potential saving graces: one is the theory floating out there that the island has the power to manifest not just people's memories (“imagine a very large box…”), but the contents of books, as well. I'm not sure I buy this since clearly there were polar bears on the island before the plane crashed with the comic book, and as we've seen in "Otherville" (aka the barracks) there are LOTS of books on the island besides "Bad Twin," "Watership Down" and all the other stuff Sawyer has been seen reading ("Playpen" magazine, anyone?). It’s a strange concept and I’m not sure how it would work if it plays out.
The other idea, my own, is that "Exposé," and the existence of Nikki and Paulo are part of an elaborate gag played by the producers in response to a request from ABC that they make an effort to catch new viewers up on the plot. I think it's entirely possible that they were getting this pressure from the network (look at how "Heroes" tries to capture the character, plot, and connection complexity of Lost while dumbing it down with obviousness and incredibly repetitive, tiresome recaps). And because certain members of the creative team are playful (and maybe just a bit full of themselves) I'm sure this is a possible manifestation of their response: “let's write in these obviously made-up-out-of-nowhere characters who are flimsy, photogenic, and annoying, and have them follow the main characters around and explain everything to the audience. So funny! Ha ha!” Unfortunately since they didn't let us in on the joke it merely generated a lot of fan hostility, and now, this awful episode which makes it clear that they've taken the joke too far.
Also of slight interest is the widely circulated correlation between "Exposé" and Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead," but just because you reference an iconic literary sensation doesn't mean that you are yourself creating one. Pehaps Carlton Cuse has a significantly different meaning for the word "iconic."
Okay, I don't want to give these fuckers any more attention. Now for a few random thoughts and wild speculations (though nothing as crazy as the bizarro theories Jeff Jensen comes up with every week).
One: at the end of "The Man From Tallahassee," when Locke is confronted with Anthony Cooper, I swear Locke says "that?" and not "Dad?" as most people assumed they heard. I've listened to this several times and I think I’m right. It probably doesn't matter all that much, though, unless the man tied in the chair really is the shapeshifting "monster" and/or Locke has the ability to see past its illusions. Also Locke's first name is Johnathan (look closely at his disability application, as well as his gun permit in "Further Instructions").
Two: the video Juliet plays for Jack in "The Cost of Living" in which she asks Jack to purposefully botch Ben's surgery was probably filmed the day flight 815 crashed, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense based on what we currently know. In any event, she is wearing the outfit she was wearing that day and it was filmed in her house. What we saw of Otherville in "The Man From Tallahassee" also shows us that several buildings are under audio/video surveillance, which suggests the strong possibility that Ben was aware of the supposed plot against him all along.
Three: now I'm straying from observations into the realm of conjecture. In the episode "Enter 77" Mikhail Bakunin (aka "the eyepatch guy") claims that the Dharma Initiative/Hanso Foundation/DeGroots contingent is completely unrelated to the group we know as The Others (later confirmed to be the truth in an official Lost podcast), although clearly some of The Others (e.g. Juliet) are not Island natives. I think as time goes on the Dharma Initiative will turn out to be more of a joke than a crucial aspect of what's going on. Producers have hinted that there is another group at work on the island, possibly subterranean dwellers, who will be more scary (meaning more powerful?) than the Others. Is the great man referred to by Ben, now known as Jacob, part of this underground group? It seems like the Others answer to a higher power that they fear, and probably one that has them operating under a strict set of rules they must obey. How much of what the Others do is at the command of Jacob (or this other group) is totally unclear, but I think that the kidnapping, the tribunal, and some set of tenets regarding “the truth” are likely coming from another source (maybe they only seem like condescending assholes?). How they are under control is not clear, nor can we know if they chose to live under this rule, or if the recruited members were made aware of this arrangement before they arrived. I suspect that our understanding and perception of the Others could change drastically by next season.
Four: so many unanswered questions, and not just the obvious ones. There have been a lot of gaps now not just in the flashbacks but in the "real time" island storytelling. We have no idea what happened to Kate after Ben's ominous portent that "the next two weeks will be very unpleasant" (in "A Tale of Two Cities"). And for me, the biggest question of all is what was Juliet so upset about at the beginning of "A Tale of Two Cities"? There is a little oddness, there, too, since her clothes change between the moment where she's looking in the mirror and when she runs to get her burnt muffins, but that may just be a continuity error. I'm operating under the assumption that it's all supposed to be happening at the same time, just a little bit before the plane crash. There's also an interesting, cut-off comment Juliet makes the moment the electromagnetic event occurs ("Here I am thinking that free will still exists...(on this island?)" which may tie into point three and the various machinations involving Ben, Jack, Juliet, the submarine, and promises made to people that they can leave.
Five: okay, let's get back to the obvious questions. What is the significance of the black and white stones (and the bodies of "Adam and Eve") found in the cave in season one? Jack took them and didn't tell anyone and we've never seen them again (though they may have appeared as Locke's eyes in Claire's dream and were thematically mirrored in Locke and Walt's conversation about backgammon during the second half of the pilot episode).
Six: What's with that goddamn four-toed statue? There are about a hundred other questions raised in the season two finale that have been lingering way too long. We still don't understand the significance of the "discharge" event surrounding the Swan hatch, the failsafe, the noises or the white/purple sky (we don't even know how Desmond, Locke, Charlie, and Eko survived), and we don't know anything about Penelope (save perhaps for the possibility that her father is connected to the Hanso foundation) or her listening station. It's pretty frustrating to have a cliffhanger that is barely addressed in the following season. All we know is that it has caused some communications problems for the Others, and that Desmond apparently travelled through time briefly (encountering a mysterious, seemingly omniscient old woman and acquiring vague psychic powers in the process).
Seven: remember the vaccines, diseases, crazed rantings of Danielle Rousseau, etc.? Is Alex really Danielle's daughter? What's with all the crashed vehicles on the island, the Black Rock, the yellow plane, Henry Gale's balloon, Desmond's boat, and who knows what else in addition to Flight 815? For that matter, where exactly IS this island? It seems increasingly likely that it's not in the South Pacific but in the Indian Ocean somewhere. Did the pilot know he was flying east instead of west?
Eight: Walt, Walt, Walt. Is he psychic? What did the Others do to him? Why did they let him and Michael go? Where did those two end up? Between them, Penelope Widmore, and whoever is making the Dharma food drops (if, in fact, they are really being dropped from a plane), it seems like a few people out there Richard Malkin, too?) must know about the existence of this island.
Nine: some other random things, like the mysterious way the rain comes and goes abruptly, how and why Dharma was doing experiments on polar bears (does it even matter or is it just to make things weirder?), what are those whispers in the trees, what in the hell is the monster, what happened to Christian Shephard's body, what was the deal with Libby in Hurley and Desmond's flashbacks, was there any point to the quarry the Others were running on the Hydra island, what’s with the healing properties of the Island, how did Kelvin Inman end up in the Swan, who, if anyone, was Radzinsky, and more than anything I want to know how and why Libby was reincarnated as a bird. It’s like when Joan Chen got trapped in that dresser drawer in the second season of Twin Peaks.
Oh, but good lord, there are still so many questions. If they’re really only planning on doing five seasons they’d better stop dicking around, ESPECIALLY if they’re going to add another whole new set of characters (first the Others, then the Dharma people, then the Taillies, then more Others, then MORE Others, plus all that Lost Experience crap which hasn’t really amounted to anything). I’m sure there are aspects of the plot that can’t be explained without completely revealing huge swaths of story, but to leave it all for the end would be disappointing (and what if we lose some of the crew before we get there, are they really going to remember to fill in every last plot hole?). I really hope that this year’s season finale gives us enough to go on so that we won’t be even more confused. Unless – god forbid – the title of the show is also the point of the show, to just totally confuse the viewers until we don’t know where (or who) we are anymore.
I’m still hoping something really bizarre and shocking will happen. For awhile I convinced myself that Charlie was really one of the Others, but that was back when I assumed that the Others were connected to the Dharma Initiative. I was sure Danielle Rousseau was, as well (would Ben really let himself get caught in a net? ). If anything significant was buried in "Exposé" , it’s probably just the stupid idea that the big villain was someone we knew and trusted all along. Well, honestly, I’d be surprised if that wasn’t the case.
If there is an overarching, coherent plot, I don’t think anyone will be able to see it coming no matter how many ideas get thrown around, so speculation is sort of moot. The writers are so many steps ahead of us that most of our guesses are based on a totally insufficient understanding of what’s happening. Congratulations on putting us all in Room 23, guys. We are your captive test subjects.