Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Pompatus of Lost: 2-23--Blogger Ate My Recap

Argh. Blogger had itself a Weekend at Bernies, and my recap is swallowed up somewhere. And, naturally, I didn't save it. So, feh, folks. Sorry. Next season, we'll engage in some sort of Best Practices.

Briefly then:

The season finale was all about our beloved characters devising crazy plans that had no hope of working.

1. Jack and Sayid's Double Cross
I was with Sayid when he spoke of using their knowledge of Michael's treachery to press an advantage. Smart move, thought I. Then Sayid came up with his whole Sail Around the Island idea. Right away, I was like WTF. What happened to "I am a torturer?" What's wrong with beating the truth out of Michael and then gathering up the posse you want to take with you to the other side of the island? What about not going at all? How does Sayid plan on sailing right up to County Other without being detected? How did Sayid plan on dealing with the fact that his signal fire was going to attract their attention? And, oh yeah, what if Michael doesn't take you anywhere near the Others' encampment? This is before we even get into how it would have been shrewder to let Kate and Hurley and Sawyer in on the plan.

2. Desmond's Insane Plan to Win Penny Back.
Okay, a man hands you a box full of cash and tells you to stay away from his daughter. What do you do? First, call up your Morgan Stanley broker and get that money conservatively invested in a diverse portfolio of stocks. Shell out some bread to put down roots--that real estate market is only getting hotter, so find a place you want to live and start building equity. As for the remainder, start a nice nest egg for savings or put something away for retirement. Then: go bang his fucking daughter. Seriously. Daddy was a sucker.

What does Desmond do? He hatches this crazy scheme to win a round the world sailboat race to show Daddy up. Hmmm, I sort of think spending his fucking money and nailing his daughter is sufficiently "in-your-face," but obviously, I don't fit into the whole World of Lost. Let's remember also, that said daughter is unstoppably hot and basically throwing herself at you. You want to spend a year learning to tack and fighting off scurvy? Priorities.

Sidebar: The Unbearable Complication of Boats.
What's with boats in the movies and on TV. They never seem to help. At best they only richly complicate matters and at worst they capsize or flip or sink or hit things or destroy the Speed franchise. Sayid needlessly complicates his crazy-ass plan by involving Desmond's boat--and he builds it into his plan without EVEN KNOWING HOW TO SAIL! Desmond has got the girls of his dreams in hand, but he wants to win some fucking race FOR LOVE! It's a wonder he doesn't rechristen the boat the "Peter Cetera" and charter it out of Cheese Hollow.

My favorite unnecessary boat plot of all time comes in the remake of The Jackal, starring Bruce Willis. In the movie, Bruce Willis plays some sort of international terrorist superstar who the authorities know about but don't know what he looks like--because he's a Master of Disguise!--which in this movie means he's a leading expert in fluffing his own eyebrows. Anyway, no one knows what he looks like--no one except Richard Gere, who's too preoccupied with his bad dialect and the LSD encrusted rodents in his ass to be much help. With the odds decidedly in his favor, needing to get into the United States, you'd think Willis could just walk right in to the country. But instead, he enters himself into some sort of regatta and sails into the country. That's just so needlessly overcomplicated! But that's boats for you--a hole in the water into which you throw the plot.

3. Locke and Desmond decide to stop pushing the button.
One thing I don't understand is this: why does Desmond go along with Locke's theory that not pushing the button will cause nothing to happen when he has personally experienced the Hatch doing the banana splits as a result of being late to press it. He basically stands there, commuting back and forth to Flashbackistan on the Express train, remembering that time the Hatch did the banana splits, and he never mentions to Locke: "I don't know, brother. The last time I tried that, the room starting shaking and the computer was yelling at me and all the metal objects in the room starting crashing and whizzing around. It's just sort of the thing you mention.

4. Eko and Charlie try to dynamite their way into the Hatch.
Jesus, Eko, what part of "blast door" don't you understand? Practice saying this sentence: "I'm going to blast through the blast door." Does it not strike you as cognitively dissonant? Also, guys, when you light dynamite, it's best to not be standing four feet from it. Charlie...for real, dude. Run. Get away.

So, here's where we're left at the end of the season:

  • Speaking of Lost, what about those plot devices? So, are we going to find out how Libby ended up in the nuthatch? Are we ever going to find out about Walt's rumored special powers and how he was too much for the Others to handle? What about Walt's backwards masked messages about not to push the button? Can we at least agree that the message was better delivered to someone who wasn't Shannon? Will these threads ever get picked up again?
  • So, now that we've visited Penny Widmore's peeps out at the Ice Station Zebra Freaky Electromagnetical Research Station, as well as seen Penny in her own home (where she sleeps fully made up and coiffed), we can officially rule out the possibility that the outside world doesn't exist. This puts a dagger in the heart of the afterlife theories.
  • Maybe it's time for some other Losties to step up. Info Leafblower pointed out that it was surprising that the Losties collectively thought it was totally okay for Sayid to take their means of getting off the island on a quixotic excursion around the island. I've railed against the slack and casual attitude of the Losties all year and how they went from being scared out of their minds to behaving as if they were on some vacation excursion within the course of a few hours.
  • Maybe some other Losties will HAVE to step up. Here's the breakdown at the start of next season: Michael and Walt--gone. Jack, Sawyer, and Kate--abducted. Locke, Eko, and Desmond--perhaps dead. Sayid, Sun and Jin--on the other side of La Isla Encanta. Hurley's on his way back. That means when the lights come up on Lostie beach, the most senior member of the Lost Organizing Committee will be Charlie. They're not left with much of a braintrust and they're way lacking in muscle.
  • Plus--no more Hatch. A good thing. No more showers and washers and dryers and novels and movies and hi-fi systems. We're back to the scrounge, hopefully. And I for one am glad--it's time for the islanders to endure some hardships.
  • Weird bird. I say it said "Hurley". Maybe it's the freaktastic reincarnation of Libby and we're a few episodes away from some hot man-on-species action. Hurley wrestles with whether to make love to Libby or make the dopest hotwings the Isla has ever seen!
  • Weird statue. Come on, Sayid. Are you really that unsettled by the lack of a fifth toe? After all the shit you've seen, you're saying a four-toed motherfucker can step up on you and you'd be too busy having your mind blown to do anything about it?
  • I don't know about you, but I'm gonna miss calling Tom the Dude From That Kansas Album.
  • "We're the good guys." Didn't your mind revolt at the thought? What if it's true?
  • Charlie seem a little weird to you? He was a little blase about Locke and Des and Eko and their fate when he got back to camp.
  • And finally, what's the deal with Desmond and Penny?

To answer that question, I'd like to point you to an interesting theory that I've seen put forth, by Doc Jensen over at Entertainment Weekly, which I'll embellish a little with my modern existential drama skillz.

In the play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (also a great movie with Tim Roth and Gary Oldman), we see the story of Shakespeare's Hamlet told through the experiences of two of the original play's minor characters--the titular pair of Wittenberg classmates who have been sent for by the treacherous king to study Hamlet and "glean what afflicts him." But the play is no Rashomon, a literal depiction of an event through a different perspective. It is instead, an existential black comedy in which our main characters are powerless to exert or impose their own will on the story. The story, if you will, happens to them.

So, what if, rather than being lost at sea or in an alternate reality or in some scientific experiment, the characters we know and love as the protagonists of Lost are actually "lost" inside someone else's wholly conventional story, trapped within the machinery of the story itself as secondary or tertiary characters, unconsciously playing out the part an unseen author has written for them? In this theory of Lost, the conventional story would be the love story between the marooned Desmond and his determined, intrepid soul-mate, Penny Widmore.


  • The nature and order of the universe on La Isla is decided bizarre. In R&G, the play begins with the characters finding themselves unable to flip a coin and come up tails.
  • The Losties, like R&G, encounter a group of people who form a third party to the main story, and clash with them.
  • Like R&G, they find the manners and behavior of this third party unsettling and appalling.
  • Also, as in R&G, the members of the third party make a habit of pretending to be something they are not.
  • As in R&G, the characters are aware at times that they have a purpose they must fulfill, though they cannot put their finger on why they must fulfill it.
  • And, as in R&G, the characters' pasts are only important in terms of what's going on in the story they are trapped in. (It might be worth going back and examining each time one of our characters fails to remark on their backstory when asked--maybe it's because they can't remember.)
  • Desmond and Penny, as characters, seemed to leap right off the screen. Desmond returns to the island and makes his way through his time there with the charisma and the certainty of someone who should be a leading man. Penny Widmore is played by Sonya Walger, the preternaturally beautiful actress who appeared in the short-lived American version of Coupling. She comes off as heroic, intrepid, beautiful in an old-school movie heroine sort of way--in a way, a cut above the rest of the Losties. These two feel and look and act like classic protagonists. Their love story, even for it's weird complications, feels conventionial and Victorian in nature.
  • Of course, her being named Penelope and her beau being lost at sea calls the Odyssey to mind--another conventional and oft-retold story--but the script is flipped: this Penelope is going to rescue her love. That's so in keeping with JJ Abrams mindset.
  • Desmond raises the spectre of Chuck Dickens, an author known for keeping his main characters buried in plot, only to emerge later (a la Tale of Two Cities).
  • In fact, the main character of Our Mutual Friend is described as "the absent center" of the story.
  • Not to mention the fact that Dickens is well-known for providing an endless amount of backstory for even the most minor of characters. This is the primary reason his books are usually 4,000 pages long and intolerable.
  • And, of course, unseen authors haunt La Isla: Gary Troup, Alvar Hanso, the false chroniclers of the Pearl Station...

Of course, an important question is raised: what if "the Others" really are the good guys? As in, the agents of the story working to reunite Desmond and Penelope. What if the characters we know and love are actually supposed to be the antagonists?

Well, I find it intriguing. But whether or not it will make for compelling TV is another question. To date, the medium hasn't been that successful at launching Pirandelloesque stories as hits.

Anyway, feel free to tear that apart. We'll see you in the fall.


DCepticon said...

Somewhere there are an English Lit Major and Italian Lit Major fighting over a bagel.

inanecrap said...

An excellent theory and I would love for this to play out like this.

However, take a look at Alias, season 3 -- JJ shot the story ahead two years, had Vaughn married and Syd unable to remember where she'd been. Unfortunately, it completely backfired and he was forced to do one of those "let me reveal everything" episodes for Ms. Bristow as well as make wife of Vaughn evil.

And I still say they should have killed Charlie in season 1.

tom said...

the unbearable complication of boats

new favorite phrase!

Amy said...

Hey, very nicely thought out. I've been trying to avoid all the Internet theorizing on "Lost" and just let its multiple layers wash over me, but the R&G analogy was deeply satisfying and happily devoid of all the numerology nonsense that gives me a headache...

PK said...

You've FINALLY come around to the fact that Lost relies far too much on People-Doing-Incredibly-Stupid and-Irrational-Crap-as-Plot-Device. Sure, there's plenty of room for fun theories, but it's getting kind of old yelling, "NO, you idiot!" at the TV every Wednesday.

I know I get called a dork for this, but go rent all the Battlestar Galactica DVDs and marvel at the realism and total addictiveness of the characters. Seriously. You'll forget all about the fact that they're talking about homicidal robots chasing them through space. And the fact that I'm a dork.

Red State-Blues City said...

Dork ON PK! My biggest Grrrrrr! in life right now (other than W and my dead car) is that I didn't get caught up on BSG season 2 before it re-started, so now I'm waiting for more DVD-love before season 3 starts up. That show rocks!

And DCeiver, all that ANGST about boats, and not one Jump the Shark reference. I'm not sure if I should be impressed, or saddened.

PK said...

Well, Joe, you know you can get caught up on iTunes for the low low price of like $3 an episode, right?

By the way, I TOTALLY love envisioning this:

Joe's GRRRRR list
1. W
2. Dead car
3. Not having gotten caught up on Battlestar Galactica before Season 2 began
4. Not enough content for GRRRR list