Monday, October 23, 2006

The Pompatus of Lost: 3.03--Panic! At The Sweatlodge

JJ Abrams: Suzy, could you send in the two extras?

Assistant: Right away.

[Two background actors, dressed as castaways, enter.]

Actor: Hi, Mr. Abrams. You wanted to see us?

JJ: That's right...uhh--actor. And actress. Why don't you sit down.

[they sit]

JJ: Look. I won't beat around the bush. You two have been with us from the beginning, walking around in the background of scenes, occasionally muttering things and running places. And, to the extent that you easily accomplished your easily accomplishable duties and, additionally, stayed sober behind the wheel, I'd like to start by saying, I got no beef with you.

Actress: Oh. Well. Thank you.

JJ: Now, because of continuity issues, we've always had to keep a certain number of extras on the set, to preserve the correct number of castaways.

Actress: Is that a fact?

JJ: Oh, yeah. Boy, all those fuckin' dorks out there on the internet have got this show catalogued six ways from Sunday. Why, Actor, you remember that day you were all pukey and we sent on the second assistant director to fill the background at Shannon's funeral scene?

Actor: [sotto voce to Actress] Poi. That shit is INEDIBLE.

JJ: Well, every fucking fan board lit up when that episode aired with the news that we had slipped.

Actor: Gosh. I guess we really are important to the show!

JJ: Wow. It's really funny that you think that. I'm afraid that there are limits to your importance, and fan criticism we are prepared to accept. That's sort of why you are here. We've decided it's time to add some new characters to the show, to give the audience some different stuff to focus on while I try to recreate the exact combination of controlled substances that revealed how this story's supposed to go in the first place. As a result, you two are no longer extras.

Actress: What? You mean...we'll be joining the cast.

JJ: What? Oh, good sweet God no! No, no, no. No, we have found actors who are much, much, much, MUCH more attractive looking than EITHER of you.

Actor: So...what? We're fired? Why us?

JJ: Well, as you know, like any network show, we conduct regular focus group sessions to help guide the development of the show

[cuts away to a focus group meeting, the empaneled viewers looking at a wide shot of a crowd on Lostie Beach]

Focus Group Moderator: Now, which of these out-of-focus, grainy blurs just aren't doing it for you?

[cuts back to Abrams' office]

JJ: According to the research, our viewers singled you two out as the least essential members of a group of extras who really aren't that essential at all.

Actress: So, that's it? Two years of service and we're done?

JJ: Hey. I understand your frustrations, and I am geniunely grateful for your work. That's why, to make it up to you, I'm going to give you an hour to rummage through the set. Take whatever you like that's not nailed down. Put that shit on eBay, and you guys will still have a nice Christmas.

Actor: I guess it's better than nothing. Is Sawyer's cache of pharmaceutical drugs real?

JJ: No. But mine is.
Previously on LOST: Locke is crazy. He watched some videos, he got crazier. Eko started pushing the button: crazy. He stopped Eko from pushing the button, everything went shithouse.

Lights up in the jungle interior. Locke awakes, having apparently survived the implosion of the Hatch. He pauses, takes stock of himself, and sits up. In the distance, he can just make out a panicky Desmond, running around sans clothes. Silently, Locke reflects on what has brought him to this lowly state. "What do I do now," he thinks. "Where do I turn to for belief? Pomo survivalism for the latte set? Island hoodoo guruism? I need my cant? Why can't I find my cant? Kant, I? No. I can't. Not that cant. What's this falling from the sky? It's Mr. Eko's staff. It's got Bible stuff written on it. Maybe I can follow this stick? Yeah! Why not? Hail, stick! Speak to me, stick? Tell me what to do." But it's not working.

So, Locke has another one of his crazy ideas. He returns to Lostie beach, where he sets about destroying his tent. Charlie stands with Claire, agog at his antics. "What is he doing, Cholly?" Claire asks. "Where has he been? What happened to him? Why is he doing what he is doing? What do the Others want? Where have they taken Jack? What is the Dharma initiative? Did you follow any of that internet shit over the summer, Cholly? What was that about?" Fuck you, Claire. Take a number and get in line.

Charlie confronts Locke but it turns out that Locke is unable to speak. There is a God after all. Charlie and Locke play the half-assed sign language game for a while, as Locke forces Charlie to guess wildly at what he's talking about. "You want to talk to the sand?" asks Charlie. Charlie would be the world's worst Pictionary partner. Finally, Locke makes himself clear. He needs to talk to the ISLAND. Oh, Christ. Here we go.

In order to talk to the island, Locke is going to need Charlie's help. Charlie reminds Locke that he kinda sorta despises Locke, seeing as how he recently attempted to beat his face into a million kabillion little chunks over that whole I'm Just Trying To Baptize Claire's Baby Affair. Locke waves it off as just another one of those things a Lost castaway is going to simply forget about as a matter of plot convenience. Locke has a plan, anyway--he's going to build a sweatlodge. A sweatlodge? I'm frankly surprised it wasn't one of the first things these douchebags built back in Season One.

With that, we head to Flashbackistan. Locke is driving, and he's listening to the blues. Because he's got that old timey suff'rin', boy. His woman done left him, and his dad took his kidney all away. Yeeeeeaahh, his woman done left him, and his dad took his kidney all away. He stops to pick up a random hitchhiker--because when you've spent your life being shit on by those closest to you, it figures you should take your chances with complete strangers. The hitcher's name is Eddie, and he's sort of pale version of Giovanni Ribisi. He says he's headed to Eureka--I'm presuming he means the show on basic cable--where he plans to cut timber.

A few minutes later, they are pulled over by a policeman. The cop asks the two of them to get out of the car, and he asks Locke what he's got in the back of his truck. "Guns and groceries," Locke answers. Someone's been to WalMart! Locke tells the policeman that the paperwork for all the guns--and there are a lot of them, haphazardly rattling around the back of the truck, mind you--is in a binder that he keeps in a duffel. The cop takes the binder, and subjects its contents to exactly the sort of investigatory professionalism you'd expect from the trained men of law enforcement whose job it is to keep you safe from gun crazy weirdos with one kidney--he opens the binder to a random page, gives it a cursory glance, and figures that everything just HAS to be above board. It's in a BINDER after all. He tells Locke that he could still arrest him for picking up a hitchhiker, but Eddie then claims to be Locke's nephew.

Back at the Beach, Locke and Charlie have completed building the sweatlodge, proving once again that there's no frivolous thing the Losties can't accomplish when they put their minds to it. Charlie is ordered to stand guard outside while Locke strips to the waist, eats some green goo he cooks up from an old Heloise column he remembers, and then goes inside to basically subject himself to some life-affirming smake inhalation. It's all so damned RATIONAL.

Locke, stuffed with druggy goo, covered with water, and immersed in smoke, starts to stare into the flames. It's not long before another presence joins him in the smokelodge. It's Boone! And he's surprisingly calm considering the fact that Locke got him killed, forcing Ian Somerhalder to take a role in the movie Pulse--where he and Veronica Mars had to fight off the evil advances of some weird Satanic version of the Blue Man Group that lived on the internet. Yes, Boone is surprisingly calm about all that. He tells Locke that he's got to "bring the family back together." And to do that, he's going to have to take a trip to Hallucinationville in his wheelchair. Really: given the opportunity to have the spectral form of a person you murdered show up and give you homework, it's surprising that we don't all build sweatlodges.

Boone takes Locke to the Sydney airport. It's a terrifying vision of my future. You just know that forty years from now, that's gonna be me, naked and hallucinating in a wheelchair at the airport, furtively jerking and pointing at random people. Locke points at this character and that, each time being told by Boone that it's not the person he needs to help. It's all one long bore because WE ALL KNOW WHO LOCKE'S GONNA END UP HELPING. Christ--I read about it in the TV Guide! Didn't need to ingest any homemade LSD, either (though, to be honest, homemade LSD only improves the TV Guide reading experience).

He's got to save Mr. Eko! I mean, duh. Locke only personally contributed to Eko's near-death. But I guess there are two types of people in the world: those who take moral direction from conscience, logic, and a sense of obligation, and those who need to be told by a Boone-covered-in-blood at the top of an imaginary escalator. So, Locke emerges from the sweatlodge with his voice back, determined to right sins not tragedies.

Locke and Charlie set off, tracking Eko's path through the jungle, even though, theoretically, it's pure dumb luck that they find the trail in the first place. Locke finds Eko's crucifix, and surmises that he was dragged off by...a POLAR BEAR? Oh, you have to be kidding. Here we thought that Locke was going to confront something more vaunted, like Black Smoke Stompy Monster or something, and all we're going to get is another effing polar bear? Locke suggests that Charlie stays behind, because bad things happen to people when they are with him. Things like, hopelessly mundane plot developments.

We return to Flashbackistan. Locke and Eddie drive up to some sort of encampment, and right away, we know we are dealing with some sort of communal separatist community--a combination of the Branch Davidians and Schrute Farm. And, guess what--they have their own sweatlodge! Fantastic.

Eddie and Locke sit down to dinner with the rest of the Branch Schrutians, all of whom are done with their daily work of sowing seeds and hoeing crops and silkscreening "Quit Your Bitching and Start a Revolution" t-shirts. The guy at the head of the table, Mike, noting Eddie's T-shirt, asks if he likes Geronimo Jackson. Christ, who doesn't? Locke is asked to say grace, which he does--thanking God for helping him to not be so angry and for providing him with a family. Heh. Locke never learns. Anger is the one thing EVERY family produces by the bushel. Read your Anna Karenina, people. Or your Douglas Coupland.

Back in the jungle, Locke and Charlie arrive at the imploded Hatch, which looks impressively concave. There, they find a boar that has been freshly killed. Locke surmises that the bear has killed the boar with the intention of returning to it, and, right on cue, growling is heard from the surrounding fronds. So, Locke and Charlie run run run, far away--and it will never be addressed that in doing so, they leave Eko's trail far behind. They stop, and, feeling like the bear is close by, Locke blindly hurls his knife into the jungle, where it strikes the canteen of a very surprised Hurley.

Hurley brings Locke and Charlie up to speed on current events where Jack and Kate and Sawyer and Walt and Michael are concerned, but soon moves on when they reveal that they are out trying to find a polar bear lair. Locke finds another puff of cottony fluff--which means that they are following either a polar bear or a giant, homicidal pillow. Either way, Hurley wants no part of it. Charlie drops some Brit lingo on the folks at home, talking about getting high and watching "nature programs on the Beeb," and driving lorries, and sucking on ice lollies, and wrapping things in aluminium foil to preserve their freshness. Just then, they come to a cave.

Back in Flashbackistan, Locke and Eddie are walking around the Branch Schrutian compound when Eddie asks about the mysterious greenhouse that he's not been allowed in thus far. The Schrutians are up to something suspicious. The presence of stockpiled fertilizer makes Eddie think they mean to blow something up. Two Schrutians are observed building the case for this possibility by fumbling a bag of fertilizer and then acting all, "Whoo, we dodged a bullet there when we managed to prevent this bag of fertilizer from hitting the ground!" Duh. Fertilizer doesn't EXPLODE when you drop it, dumbass. And, hey, here's a clue, Not Exactly Keen Eddie, you don't need to store fertilizer in a greenhouse if you intend to make bombs with it. But Eddie thinks he's sussed out what the Branch Schrutians are all about, and he wants in. Locke laughs long and heartily at the idea that they are terrorists, but he tells Eddie that he will talk to Mike and Jan about letting him in on the big secret.

Back in the Jungle, Locke and Charlie are having some sort of spat over who is going to go into the cave. I'm going in, says Charlie. No you're not, says Locke. Yes, I am, retorts Charlie. On and on they go, until the requisite amount of screen time is taken up. Finally, Locke smears some schmutz on his face for no discernible reason other than, I guess, to look a little badass, and goes in with a lit torch and a can of hairspray. He makes his way into the spacious cave and is proceeding slowly downward when he steps on something metallic. He looks down at what appears to be a toy dump truck. Uh-oh, Locke. Looks like a trigger! Best prepare yourself for...

A return to Flashbackistan. Locke strides across Schrute Farm, bound for the Greenhouse of Secrets, looking for Mike and Jan to tell them that, in his esteemed, never-wrong judgement, it's time to let Not So Keen Eddie in on the deep mysteries of the Branch Schrutians. The Schrutian at the door tells Locke that Mike and Jan were looking for him. But when he walks in, Mike and Jan are yelling and hurriedly packing up files. Locke's all, "What's up, dawgs? How are you on this beautiful day?" But Mike and Jan wheel on Locke, tossing him nothing but mad glare. "You bald, half-assed twit," they say, "It turns out Not So Keen Eddie is a cop!" And for the nine-millionth time in his life, Locke realizes he's been played.

It turns out that the Branch Schrutians aren't engaged in terrorizing anything more significant than a few willing brain cells. The greenhouse, as it turns out, is their central front on the War on Not Being High. We see Mike and Jan packing up bags of high-quality, hydroponic bud. For pot enthusiasts, though, Mike and Jan sure are a pair of tightly wadded dicks. They blame Locke for crapping cop-juice all over their tidy operation. Locke, though, asks them to calm down, and he promises that he will fix this problem before Not So Keen Eddie can find out what's been going on.

And, with that, we may as well relate the resolution to this week's central conflict. Locke finds Eko, bloodied and barely conscious. It turns out the polar bear is right there. The polar bear growls menacingly. Locke takes the hairspray and the torch and uses them as a makeshift flamethrower. The bear, singed, retreats. Locke grabs Eko. They run. He runs outside, finds Charlie, and he joins in the running. They run and run. And so, seventy days into their stay on the relentlessly mysterious, endlessly weird La Isla Encanta, we can say that the Losties have just about mastered fending off polar bears. Hooray.

Hurley, having found and clothed the naked Desmond in a grungy tie-dye T-shirt, exchanging exposition that we are frankly better off having been spared. You feel bad for Hurley, because he's already had to give the rundown of what happened with the Others to Locke, and he'll probably have to go through it about fifty more times when he gets back to the beach, and, now that Desmond has told him what happened with the Hatch, he'll probably get tasked with that responsibility too.

Hurley expresses worry about Jack and company being gone, what can be done about it, and how many freaking episodes its going to take to resolve. Desmond tells him not to worry, that Locke is going to go after them, he said so in his speech. That's when Hurley squinches up his face in the universal expression of "WTF, dude?" saying, "Speech? All Locke talked about was saving Eko and killing bears." Desmond, AS IF HE HAS INADVERTENTLY SAID TOO MUCH (!!!) lets the matter drop.

Charlie and Locke walk back to Lostie beach. "It'll be a long time before that bear comes after us!" Locke muses. Yes, that polar bear would have gotten away with it if if weren't for those meddling, sweatlodge-building, Boone-hallucinating, polar-fluff tracking, Aquanet wielding kids! Locke muses on the benefits of the sweatlodge lifestyle. Charlie replies that he speaks as if he's had to "clean up a lot of messes." Oh, no, Charlie--that was a pretty loaded comment! You know what that means!

It's back to Flashbackistan. Locke and Not So Keen Eddie are in the woods, a'deerhuntin'. Locke tells NSKE that Mike and Jan have given him the okay to see what wonderful things await him in the Greenhouse of Mystery. Eddie seems stoked.

Locke feints as though he's seen a deer behind Eddie, who lives up to his not so keen nickname by wheeling around. Smooth move, Ex-Lax. Way to turn your back on a man with a loaded gun. Eddie soon realizes that Locke's got the drop on him, and has, for good measure, not loaded his rifle. Locke asks, "Did they choose me?" That's Locke, always acting as if he is the center of the universe. "Yeah, they chose you," Eddie replies, citing his recent arrival to the Schrutian fold, his lack of a criminal record, and the fact like he practically wears a sign around his neck that says, "I AM LOOKING FOR ANYONE OR ANYTHING TO JUST BLINDLY PUT MY TRUST IN! ASK ME ABOUT MY KIDNEY!"

Locke and Eddie stand in the stand-off. Eddie tells Locke that he's going to walk away. Locke tells him that he is going to kill him, but Eddie says he doesn't believe it, that he's a lover, not a fighter, a farmer, not a hunter, and anyway, we gave the writers a break this week, so why don't I use the same line Connie used on Sun last week: "You're not a murderer. You're a good man." Unfortch for Locke, it turns out to be true. Eddie walks away unscathed, to totally wreck the Branch Schrutians dream of hosting the awesomest Phish concert ever.

Back in the jungle, Locke lays Eko down against a tree as Charlie heads off to get some water. Locke tells the unconscious Eko that he's sorry he didn't believe him, sorry he lost his faith, sorry he failed to protect and/or save Jack and the others. Eko suddenly awakes and tells Locke that he still can save them. "After all, you are a hunter." Charlie comes back, but Eko lapses back into semiconsciousness, if, indeed, he ever really was awake.

Locke, Eko and Charlie make their way back to the beach. The Losties are all abuzz at their return. Hurley has been struggling to relate all the goings on, and, amid the hubbub, we hear two voices talking that WE HAVE UP UNTIL NOW NEVER HEARD: Nikki and Paulo.

Nikki: Hurley, why didn't you tell us about this?

Paulo: Yeah, Hurley. You always tell us about everything that's going on.

Nikki: There's been a rich tradition of you telling us things Hurley.

Paulo: Ever since the first episode. We've been here that long.

Nikki: And you have always told us these things!

Paulo: Why are you acting like you've never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever seen us or talked to us before?

Nikki: About the things!

Paulo: Yes, the things!

Nikki: I have over seventy days of memories of you telling us things! Don't you, Nikki?

Paulo: Uhm. You're Nikki, Nikki. I'm Paulo. You know, Nikki and Paulo.

Nikki: That's right! Nikki and Paulo! Oceania has ALWAYS been at war with Eurasia.

Paulo: Ohhhh, boy. I can't WAIT for my first Flashback.

Hey, everybody. Meet Nikki and Paulo.

Locke, tired of how disconcertingly meta everything's getting, gathers everyone's attention and speaks. He tells them that tough times are ahead and that they have to save Jack and tangle with the Others, but that they will do these things another day. Right now, the priority is making sure Eko returns to health.

Hurley watches Locke say these things, weirded out because this event seems to dovetail with what Desmond said about Locke. Charlie, making double extra super sure everyone in the viewing audience gets it drops a massive Anvil of Dialogue: "Wow, that was some SPEECH! Eh, Hurley? What a SPEECH that was. It's been a long time since I've heard such a SPEECH! SPEECHIE SPEECH McSPEECH!"

Hurley turns and watches Desmond as he idly tosses rocks into the ocean. Most of you probably realized by now--Desmond predicted a future event. Here's the part you'll want to take special note of: he did so even though he wasn't near enough to hear Locke.

It's almost as if Desmond has heard this story before.

NEXT TIME, on LOST: In order to save their compatriot Connie, the Others turn to Jack and his awesome powers of Coldplay to save the day. Does this mean Jack's going to end up in another toxic, co-dependent relationship? Also: Desmond builds a weird device that will hopefully make some people start watching The 9.

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