Thursday, December 18, 2008

An Anti-Christmas Carol...

It's the holidays, and that has me contemplating a classic:

The moral of A Christmas Carol is that it's never too late to change your fate. I used to think the same was true of Lost -- that its resolution would involve changing the fate of humanity to avert our prophesied extinction. But I've come to believe that Lost is more Tao than Dickens. The message of the show is to embrace your destiny. Fighting the future inevitably fails and backfires, causing needless suffering for those affected.

My posts typically focus on the mythical and sci-fi elements of Lost, but the show is ultimately character driven. Not surprisingly, therefore, the stories of principals like Locke clearly reflect this theme of accepting fate. A great example is Locke's refusal as a teen to embrace his destiny as a man of science. One of my all-time favorite scenes on the show is where Locke's teacher urges him to accept Alpert's offer of science camp -- to no avail.

Really, though, no storyline exemplifies the moral of Lost better than Desmond's futile efforts to save Charlie. I've previously praised Desmond's interventions for changing "the picture on the box" by making Charlie's death heroic. But the consequences of this heroism, particularly the rescue of the Oceanic 6, have proven less than positive. Indeed, the grim flash forwards seem to bear out Locke's insistence that the O6 were "not supposed to leave."

The mythology of the show, particularly the Valenzetti Equation, similarly embodies this fatalism. We know Dharma tried to save the world through the power of physical science but ended up creating in Swan Station the very same threat of human extinction they sought to avert. I suspect the Others also seek to save the world albeit using "para" science (i.e., psychic power). That's why they covet children with special abilities like Walt.

The problem is not just that these attempts are doomed to failure. They also suffer from an inaccurate -- or at least incomplete -- understanding of the Valenzetti Equation. I've argued previously that its prediction of extinction may also refer to our evolution into a new post-human species capable of transcending time, space, and even physical form. Altering the Valenzetti's core factors risks delaying this evolution or even derailing it completely (i.e., by destroying the world).

I believe Ms. Hawking, Brother Campbell, and maybe Matthew Abbadon are working to fulfill the Valenzetti's evolutionary mandate. These Chronology Protection Agents, as I've dubbed them, manipulate people and events along the timeline to nudge destiny back on course. The show depicts the culmination of their intricate plan, executed over many decades, to mitigate the distruption and delay caused by Dharma and the Others.

Like the eponymous device in the game Mouse Trap, however, Hawking and Co.'s machinations have a Rube Goldberg quality. There are several critical stages where their plan can fail, breaking the desired causal chain of events. One key point (pun intended) is Desmond's activation of the Fail-Safe. If Des delays going to the Island by marrying Penny, he risks missing this linchpin event, in which case "every single one of us is dead."

Ms. Hawking managed to avoid that outcome by persuading Desmond not to propose. But her speech on course correction was less successful in achieving its other intended effect. The lesson of the man in the red shoes was meant to dissuade Desmond from trying to save Charlie. Ms. Hawking knows the Oceanic 6 are not supposed to leave the Island. In fact, their presence is a prerequisite for fulfillment of the Valenzetti -- they are its six core factors.

The Oceanic 6 are thus pawns of prophecy. Their miserable existence is the universe course correcting them back to the Island. The problem is that these pawns have a measure of free will. They can postpone fate indefinitely -- or at least as long as they can stand the misery -- but their friends and loved ones will also suffer. The Chronology Protection Agents must nudge the Oceanic 6 back to the Island and bring the suffering to an end.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Spoiler: New Dharma Symbol

Thanks to fellow Lost blogger Dark UFO for pointing us to the latest installment of the official Lost Book Club. In a new video, Team Darlton plug James Joyce 's Ulysses (an even more referential work than Lost) and reveal that episode 5:7 will be titled "316." At the very end of their video, a new Dharma symbol flashes on-screen for a split second.

I believe this new symbol is a lantern, which may also be the name of the station it represents. The graphic evokes the lamp post in the woods marking the entrance to Narnia in the classic series by C.S. Lewis. Nor would this be the first such reference on Lost. As we've discussed before, the name Charlotte Staples Lewis seems a clear shout out to the author (i.e., Clive Staples Lewis).

The Narnian symbolism fits well with the episode title (i.e., 316) also revealed by Darlton. Regular readers of this blog may recall my post Purple Sky wherein we discussed the possibility that moving the Island would reorient it in spacetime "such that a bearing of 305 no longer provides safe access." I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that 316 is the new bearing for reaching the Island safely.

That, in turn, raises another possibility we've kicked around recently. In the Island Needs a Constant, I suggested there might be another Dharma station, either on the Island or somewhere else across the planet, that the Oceanic 6 must find to get back. How fitting would it be if this hypothetical station turned out to be none other than the Lantern?

UPDATE (December 14, 2008): A poster on the Fuselage named Founder raises another plausible explanation for the title 316. It could refer to the number of people who purportedly died in the crash of Oceanic 815 -- i.e., 324 passengers minus the eight who initially survived impact. The episode might therefore deal with the unraveling of the lie told by the Oceanic 6.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Island Needs a Constant...

One of the more provocative speculations this off-season has been Doc Jensen's that turning the Frozen Donkey Wheel moved the Island into the past. This possibility got a boost from recent promos apparently depicting Daniel Faraday encountering an intact Swan Station. I'm all in favor of such a scenario, which would be a great way of exploring the Dharma Initiative. But because this is Lost, I'll bet there's a twist. What if the Island itself is now unstuck in time?

All indications are that the Island is accessible via one or more wormholes. People passing through the wormhole(s) risk becoming unstuck in time like Desmond and Minowski. This presumably is what Ethan meant when he warned Juliet that the trip to the Island can be "intense." Turning the Frozen Donkey Wheel apparently moved the Island through a wormhole to whenever they are now. If people can become unstuck by wormhole travel, maybe the Island can as well.

But what could it mean for the Island to be unstuck in time? In the Constant, Desmond's consciousness jumped between various points in his past. I'm guessing that an unstuck Island will do much the same. Its "consciousness" will oscillate between key periods in the Island's history. People and things from different times will appear, interact, then disappear like ghosts. I have in mind somethng like Jacob's cabin, which may already be similarly unstuck.

Here's where things get really whackadoo. According to the Constant, people unstuck in time must find someone or something to reorient themselves. Desmond's constant was Penny; Dan's is apparently Desmond. In the case of Jacob's cabin, I'll bet that ash-like circle serves as a kind of temporal anchor. I believe the Island's constant was the Swan Station until it imploded. That may even be why Swan was originally built -- the Incident unstuck the Island previously.

If so, the Island needs a new constant to resolve its temporal confusion. Maybe that's the Oceanic 6, as a group, which is why they all need to return together. I'm guessing, however, that there's another Dharma station, either on the Island or somewhere else across the planet, capable of exerting the same stabilizing force the Swan once did. Finding it will be the key to the Oceanic 6 getting back to the Island...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Casting Spoiler: Patrick Fischler

I don't usually report on spoilers. Recently, however, a deep throat within the Lost production empire clued me into a casting spoiler with some potentially interesting implications for the direction of the show. I have it on good authority that Patrick Fischler of AMC's critically acclaimed Mad Men will be playing a character in episode 5x08, which is currently filming in Hawaii.

Fischler is an extremely talented actor whose work on Mad Men was recently praised in a New York Times Magazine story about the show. My source was uncertain what role Fischler would play on Lost, but I do have my own speculation. Something about Fischler's nervous energy reminds me of Daniel Faraday, who's so ably portrayed by Jeremy Davies.

That brings me to the above-mentioned implications for the direction of the show. The casting call for episode 5x08 mentions a "[s]mart, hippy-ish, well-trained doctor who finds himself thrown into a situation outside of his medical experience and has to adjust." Many, myself included, have been hoping the hippy reference means we'll be seeing more Dharma flashbacks this season.

The Fischler spoiler supports this speculation, albeit indirectly and with some inferential leaps. Remember the recent Comic-Con video wherein we met Dr. Pierre Chang? The voice off-camera who converses with Chang sounds an awful lot like Daniel Faraday. At the time, I suggested that Dan the Man might eventually travel back in time, becoming Chang's "reliable source."

Now, however, I have to wonder. What if Fischler, who reminds me of Daniel Faraday, will instead be playing his father, a Dharma Initiative doctor?

UPDATE: I've learned that Fischler will not, in fact, be playing the hippy-ish (hopefully Dharma) doctor in episode 5x08. Instead, he will be one of the two characters in "corporate security," though I'm unsure which. Either way, it looks unlikely he'll be Daniel Faraday's daddy. Oh well, it was a great speculation for the 24 hours it lasted...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Key to the Whole Game...

Many of the most important lines on Lost are delivered to, or through, the character of Hurley. One example I've discussed previously is "you make your own luck," which we first heard from Martha Toomey and subsequently from Chee-, er, David Reyes. Another is Hurley's own admonishment that "Australia's the key to the whole game" of Risk. In this post, I explain why his warning may actually be an ironic reference to the Island.

For those unfamiliar, Risk is a game of global strategy and conquest. Players begin by placing armies in various countries, then compete to take over the world. The player who starts in "Australasia" has a natural advantage because that region is the most defensible. Here's an hilarious riff by comedian Eddie Izzard on how Hitler obviously never played Risk. About a minute in, Izzard summarizes why Australasia is so advantageous:

So the literal meaning of Hurley's statement seems clear. But what about the ironic significance I alluded to earlier? Later in the same episode (i.e., 4:9) Ben accuses Charles Widmore of changing the rules of the "game." That could mean many things, but the objective of the game of Risk suggests one highly plausible candidate: world domination. Perhaps the two are vying for control of the planet with "Australia" as the key.

I put "Australia" in quotes because I don't believe the writers were referring to the Land Down Under. It's tempting to think otherwise given the prevalence of Australia in flashbacks. But that's because most of the flashbacks over the first few seasons involved survivors of a flight from Sydney. As the cast has expanded, we've met many characters with no apparent connection at all to Australia, including Desmond, the Others, and Widmore's freighter crew.

In my opinion, the reference was to the Island itself, which is obviously a point of strategic importance to Ben and Widmore both. And what makes the Island the "key" to their "game"? Part of the answer may be its isolation in spacetime, which makes it more defensible like Australasia in Risk. But its real significance was summarized best by Locke, who explained: "It's not an island. It's a place where miracles happen."

Stated another way, the Island is a place where the infinitely improbable is entirely possible, even routine. It's a place where 72 passengers survive a catastrophic plane crash with mostly minor injuries, where terminal cancer and paralysis are cured, where time travel actually happens -- all against preposterously long odds. It's the kind of place one might very well analogize to a "magic box," where dreams become reality.

Ask yourself, why did Dharma pick the Island as the location for their experiments? The secure design of the stations and the the sonic fence around the barracks suggest they knew it was hostile. Bringing people by submarine had to be difficult. Why go to the trouble? Dharma realized the Island is ruled by the physics of the improbable. It's one of the few places they might actually succeed in altering the Valenzetti Equation's grim probability forecast.

If that sounds familiar, you may be a fan of Douglas Adams's works. One technological premise of his Hitchhiker's series is the infinite improbability drive, which exploits quantum mechanics to enable instantaneous travel across the universe. Its activation has all kinds of random and unpredictable side effects -- e.g., turning nuclear missiles into sperm whales and petunias. Now that we know the Island moves, maybe it's really one big infinite improbability drive!

The physics of improbability also resonates with the works of Stanislaw Lem. His novel Solaris, in which cosmonaut Kelvin investigates the fate of scientists studying a sentient planet that manifests their dreams, is a major inspiration for Lost. Another of Lem's short stories features the "improbability automatic," a gun that slays dragons of probability by making them less likely -- again with strange side effects. What was it the Blast Door Map said? "Here be dragons..."

Improbability physics is nonsense, but there's an interesting scientific parallel. General relativity and our everyday experience suggest that the universe is an orderly, predictable place. At the atomic level, however, quite the opposite is true. Quantum mechanics tells us that uncertainty rules the universe at very small scales. Here's a great explanation by physicist Brian Greene of this basic contradiction between general relativity and quantum mechanics:

Like Greene's Quantum Cafe, the Island seems to be a place where the laws of quantum mechanics are experienced even at macroscopic scales. As a result, "there's a chance that things we'd ordinarily think of as impossible can actually happen." The main example Greene discusses is walking through walls. Do you suppose it's just a coincidence that Hurley specifically mentioned (in episode 3:17) that the Flash can "vibrate through walls and stuff"?

That's what makes the Island a "place where miracles happen" and "the key to the whole game" of world domination. Let's just hope our Quantum Cafe doesn't also turn out to be the Restaurant at the End of the Universe!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

America the Beautiful...

There are no red states, or blue states, only the Island:

Graphic courtesy of the talented Mike Garrett of Triple Point Studios

In all seriousness, I try not to be political on this blog, but something happened yesterday that transcends politics. Much like Barack, I'm a minority, the product of a mixed-race couple, one of whom was an immigrant. I owe everything that I am to the American Dream. Yet I used to secretly scoff when I overheard minorities tell their children that anyone can grow up to be President in America. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd live to see a black man elected Commander-in-Chief. Never have I been so ecstatic to be so wrong...

A few years ago, I went to see the film Legally Blond. As the closing credits rolled, I saw a little Latina girl applauding furiously as her immigrant father smiled and looked on, no doubt dreaming of his daughter's Crimson future. It's important that our children believe they can grow up to be anything they want to be, but that's not enough by itself. To become reality, adults have to believe the dream, too, or it inevitably gets deferred. That's why Barack Obama's election is so key. For the first time since I was a kid, I really believe, in my heart of hearts, that anything is possible in America.


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Dr. Chang, I Presume...

Another year, another Comic-Con. And with it, comes an intriguing new Dharma video starring Francois Chau. This time, he identifies himself as theoretical astrophysicist Pierre Chang and reveals that his other names (i.e., Marvin Candle, Mark Wickmund, and Edgar Halliwax) are lies. Dr. Chang claims to be broadcasting through a "pinhole" 30 years into the future. He displays knowledge of current events and claims to know from a "reliable" source that he'll be dead from the Purge by the time we receive the broadcast.

Obviously, this is meant mainly as a teaser for the new alternative reality game, the Dharma Initiative Recruiting Project. But I believe there are also some important clues contained in Dr. Chang's video transmission. Here's what I've noticed so far:

Pierre Chang: My guess is his new name is a sly reference to the actor who plays him. Pierre=Francois, and Chang=Chau.

Theoretical Astrophysics: Dr. Chang identifies himself as a professor of theoretical astrophysics from the University of Michigan -- the same institution as the DeGroots. Chang's area of study reminds me of another famous astrophysicist, J. Richard Gott of Princeton. I've written before about Dr. Gott's potential relevance to the show, particularly his interest in doomsday equations and time travel. Could Gott be the inspiration for Chang?

Kerr Metric: Dr. Chang came to the Island to study the Kerr Metric, which is also mentioned on Daniel Faraday's chalkboard and in his journal. The Kerr Metric is a solution to General Relativity that describes the geometry of spacetime around a massive rotating body. In the case of a rotating black hole, the Kerr Metric predicts a region of spacetime where time travel into the past is theoretically possible.

At a minimum, the writers are using "Kerr Metric" to signal time travel, much like they used "Casimir effect" as shorthand for "wormhole." But consider the whackadoo possibility that the Island's bubble in spacetime is located within the "safe" region of a massive rotating black hole and accessible by a wormhole. As with the best Lost explanations, this one toes the line between science fact and fiction. Physicist Igor Novikov hypothesizes that information and energy might be extracted from the interior of a Kerr black hole via wormholes.

30 Years: Dr. Chang mentions that he's transmitting through a "pinhole" (presumably, in spacetime) 30 years into the future. I believe this time interval is a reference to the film Frequency, which I've mentioned before in various posts. In the movie, solar activity opens a wormhole that swallows a communications satellite, allowing a son to make radio contact with his deceased father 30 years in the past. Aside from the shared time interval, there are other Lost parallels, including a character named Jack Sheppard. Elizabeth Mitchell, who portrays Juliet on Lost, also stars in the film.

The question is whether Chang's link is similarly two way -- can he receive messages in addition to sending them? His foreknowledge of the presidency of George W. Bush, the existence of the internet, and the death of the Dharma scientists in the Purge all seems to indicate the answer is yes. But there's also the question of Chang's "reliable" source...

Reliable Source: My instinct is Chang's source isn't just a voice at the other end of a radio link. I believe it's someone physically in his presence. Initially, I thought it might be Ben, who gained foreknowledge of events through some combination of the Island/Jacob. But a number of posters have raised an even more intriguing possibility. Listen again to the voice off-camera who converses with Chang. Doesn't it sound like Daniel Faraday's? Maybe he eventually travels back in time from 2008 to 1978...

Mysterious Object: The inference of physical time travel is bolstered by a mysterious object on the shelf behind Dr. Chang. The camera lingers on this item quite conspicuously, leading me to believe it's significant. At first, I thought it might be a notebook -- either Daniel's or maybe even the Black Rock Ledger. Here again, however, other posters have persuaded me to think again. What if Dr. Chang has firsthand knowledge of the internet? Maybe the mysterious object over his left shoulder is, in fact, a laptop computer...

Friday, July 04, 2008

As the Donkey Wheel Turns...

I've been putting together a chronology of possible Donkey Wheel turns, based on the assumption that the antipodal relationship described in How to Find the Island is correct. Let me know what you think.

pre-1840s I'm guessing there was at least one turn of the Wheel in the distant past, before the Black Rock's arrival. Somehow, Magnus Hanso knew roughly where and when the Island would reappear. He was exploring this region when the Island rematerialized under them, which is why the Black Rock is so far inland.

1840s-1970s Someone from the Black Rock (the first mate?) turned the Wheel, changing the Island's entrance to just outside Portland, which is how the Black Rock Ledger ended up in Madagascar. Richard may have begun using the Island during this period (circa 1950) as the location of his summer camp for special children.

1970s-2004 The Dharma polar bear turned the Wheel, changing the Island's entrance to the South Pacific and depositing the polar bear at its antipode in the Tunisian desert.

2004-? Ben turns the Donkey Wheel yet again, changing the Island's entrance to the antipode of wherever he landed in the desert. This is its current location.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

How to Find the Island...

In my recap of the Season 4 finale, I suggested that turning the Frozen Donkey Wheel moved the Island forward in time to early 2007, shortly before Jeremy Bentham's "reappearance." Upon further reflection, however, I've concluded it's more likely that the Island jumped ahead a mere ten months to October 2005, when Ben arrived in the Tunisian desert. What's more, knowing where Ben landed will be the key to finding the Island once again...

Let's begin by clarifying what Locke and Co. mean by "moving" the Island. Turning the Frozen Donkey Wheel transforms the Island into a giant time machine straight out of HG Wells. For those on the Island, the trip through time is instantaneous. To outside observers, however, the Island disappears until the rest of the world catches up in time, at which point it miraculously reappears. During the interim, the Island effectively ceases to exist in our world and cannot be accessed by anyone.

Here's the catch. When the Island jumps in time, the rest of the world continues turning, orbiting, etc. through space. The Earth will thus be in a different position relative to the Island when it reappears. If you have trouble visualizing what I mean, consider an analogy inspired by the comments of poster Wayne Allen Sallee. Due to the Earth's motion, the constellations you see from a given location tonight will be different from those you'll see from the same location in six months.

Why is this information useful to someone trying to find the Island? In the Mind of Magnus, I suggested that the Island is located on a wrinkle in spacetime or vile vortex connecting points on opposite sides of the planet (i.e., antipodes). Notice how Ben and the Dharma polar bear both landed in the Tunisian desert. Notice, as well, how the South Pacific is opposite Tunisia on the globe. My suspicion is that using the Frozen Donkey Wheel deposits one at the Island's precise antipodal point.

The polar bear skeleton is located at the antipode of the Island's previous location in the South Pacific. That's why Charlotte was so excited by its discovery. Ben's landing point, which is different from the bear's but in the same general area, is at the antipode of the Island's new location. The difference is due to the aforementioned movement of the Earth relative to the Island. That makes Ben invaluable to anyone looking for the Island. Like the man said, he always has a plan...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Thoughts on There's No Place Like Home, Parts 2 and 3...

As I watched the last two scintillating hours of Season 4 unfold, I found myself marveling for the umpteenth time at the brilliance and audacity of Lost. Writing this risky finale was clearly no mean feat. If rumors are correct, there will be no more flashforwards next season. Instead, the show will take place after the Oceanic 6 have returned to civilization with flashbacks to Island events. That's basically a mirror image of the first four seasons, which took place on the Island and flashed forward or back to events in the real world. Locke's corpse symbolizes the death of this old format perfectly.

In that regard, the S4 finale served as a kind of memorial retrospective, repeatedly evoking pivotal moments from seasons past. The Others' attack on Keamy's men resembled the ambush of our Losties in the S2 finale. Keamy confronting Locke in the Orchid paralleled Des doing the same in the Swan. Juliet drowning her despair in Dharma rum recalled Des getting drunk on Dharma wine. The rescue of the O6 by Penny reminded me of the Others taking Walt from the raft. Jack saying "see you in another life" expressly echoed Desmond's line before running off into the jungle.

Perhaps the clearest reference to something from a past episode was the one I predicted in my post Purple Sky. Ben turning the Frozen Donkey Wheel was obviously meant to parallel Desmond turning the Fail-Safe key. In both instances, the act of turning was followed by a blinding flash of light, an earthquake, a whining drone, and electromagnetic discharge. There's even a connection between moving the Island and the mystery of how Charlie, Des, Eko, and Locke survived the Swan implosion. The Fail-Safe hurtled them forward in spacetime much like the Frozen Donkey Wheel jumped the Island to safety.

After the S3 finale, I worried that the writers might be tempted to take a page from Battlestar Galactica, jumping the main story ahead in time to the real world without first depicting the rescue. Instead, they kept the narrative focused on the Island, using flashforwards as a transition to off-Island events. Now that we know how the O6 made it back to civilization, I'm comfortable with a chronological leap forward. At this point, in fact, such a jump makes total sense from a plot perspective. Ask yourself, why did Locke suddenly reappear in their lives a few months ago?

It's because turning the Frozen Donkey Wheel moved the Island forward a few years in spacetime. The rest of the world caught up with it only recently. Here are some other thoughts and reactions I had to There's No Place Like Home, Parts 2 and 3:

*I really like how they started the episode at the airport, right where the flashforward from Through the Looking Glass ended.

*The moment they mentioned Jeremy Bentham's name, I knew this character had some connection to John Locke. Bentham, of course, was another famous Enlightenment philosopher who was influenced by Locke.

*Interesting how Sawyer has taken to calling Hurley "Hugo," but Jack still calls him "Hurley." It subtly foreshadows Sawyer and Jack's respective choices to stay and leave the Island.

*Keamy asks a good question: why would Widmore go to all the trouble and expense of capturing Ben alive?

*Sometimes the Others fight like ninjas, other times, not so much.

*Oh, Omar! You deserved a more badass death than that...

*Clearly my main man Ricardo Alpert has no qualms about killing himself...and clearly it was *not* his pleasure to come to Ben's aid.

*Taller Walt was a trip! It's rather brilliant the way locating part of the story in the future allows them to bring the same actor back despite his growth spurt. That's just one of many upsides to the writers' bold narrative gambit.

*You know something? I think Walt knows his dad is dead, and Hurley isn't lying when he says they need to protect Losties like Mike, who didn't make it back. That's because the Island is a place where the living and dad can interact, where "we don't have to think like that anymore."

*Hurley mentions the Dharma crackers from a box dug up out of the the ground are still good. I can't help wondering if this is a metaphor for a coffin, which can similarly be "dug up out of the ground." Question is, will Locke's body still be "good"?

*"You're not supposed to go home. Then what am I supposed to do?" The constant refrain of "supposed to" reminds me a bit of "you make your own luck."

*Anthuriums are the same flower surrounding the manifestation of Yemi whom Eko accused of impersonating his brother.

*"The bomb needs a charge from the battery to detonate. And the battery runs on a chemical reaction. I spray the battery, I keep it cold, no reaction." My first reaction was that they're giving a shoutout to MacGyver. Then it occurred to me the frozen battery might just be a metaphor for the Frozen Donkey Wheel. Did Ben kick-start some chemical reaction by turning the thing?

*What *does* Miles mean by Charlotte spending so much time to get back to the Island? In my recap of Confirmed Dead, I mentioned that the "look of elation on Charlotte's face would suggest she's been trying to find the Island for some time." I then speculated that "some of these Freighter folks were born on the Island." Now we learn that Charlotte herself believes she was born there. Does that mean her birth predates the pregnancy problem? Was she conceived on or off the Island? Flashbacks to Charlotte's childhood will be another excellent window into the Dharma Initiative...

*Did anyone else get the sense Locke and Ben were descending into the underworld as they rode down in the Orchid elevator?

*"Same things all the Dharma stations are for -- silly experiments." To my mind, this line supports the inference that Dharma was meddling with technology from some arbitrarily advanced ancient civilization they neither understood nor appreciated.

*Ben telling Locke to watch a video while he takes care of some business reminded me of Ben's patronizing tone with Jacob. I had an image of an exasperated parent parking a child in front of a DVD while "Daddy works"...

*I totally thought of the Fly remake when we first saw the Orchid teleportation chamber Halliwax calls the "Vault."

*The Dharma music always reminds me of some parody of a bad '70s porno soundtrack...

*If the Orchid is "6 OF 6," it was built after the Swan, which was "3 OF 6"...

*Halliwax implies that the "pocket of negatively charged exotic matter" next to the Vault is naturally occurring. But we know, as apparently did Dharma, that it's actually the remains of an ancient alien device.

*The prohibition against placing metallic objects in the Vault reminds me of the same rule regarding microwave ovens!

*The experiment depicted in the Orchid video involves shifting Bunny 15 ahead 100 milliseconds in "four dimensional space." I believe this most recent purple sky event similarly shifted the Island ahead in 4D space to a time contemporaneous with Jeremy Bentham's "reappearance" in the lives of the Oceanic 6 and Walt.**

* I'm personally skeptical of time loop speculations, but you have to wonder given the obvious symbolism of the automatically rewinding tape and Danielle's automated distress call.

*Kate and Sawyer are too similar to end up together -- they each need someone more Apollonian to balance their Dionysian tendencies. That's why I believe Kate will end up with Jack, and Sawyer with Juliet.

*"Hey, Kenny Rogers" LOL!

*The fact that Jack actually saw Sawyer whisper the secret of his baby to Kate makes it all the more baffling why she doesn't level with Jack in the flashforward...

*Who killed Locke and, more importantly, how? Why didn't the Island, the rules of the Game, etc., protect Locke like Ben?

*I personally think Ben killed Locke. Hurley's chess game with ghostly Mr. Eko is a metaphor for Ben's desperate gambit to return to the Island. Bringing Locke's body may be the only way back for someone who has moved the Island. Like Ben says, he always has a plan...

*I find it hard to believe Jin would stay behind with the bomb when the safety of his wife and unborn child is uncertain. Michael shouldn't have to remind him, though I suppose it underscores how Jin has become concerned for all of our Losties, instead of just Sun.

*More whispers before Christian reappears to tell Michael he "can go now"...

*Awwww, hearing baby Ji Yeon say "uma" reminds me of my little cousin Sophia. Ain't she cute?

*I love Sun's dark turn in the flashforwards! Though I'm sure she'd deny it, she's well on her way to becoming just like her father...

*"I believe I owe him dinner after our last game." What game did Charles Widmore mean? I doubt this is an oblique reference to the battle over the Island, but you never know. Are these titans allies or competitors in the race to get back?

"As you know, we're not the only ones who left the Island." This presumably refers to Locke, whose return to civilization means the Island has reappeared.

*"Sometimes, good command decisions get compromised by bad emotional responses. I'm sure you're going to do a much better job than I ever did." I believe this is an allusion to the difficulties Locke will encounter leading the Others, who Ben also promises will follow his "every word." As Locke said to Jack shortly after they opened the Swan Hatch, "I can't do it alone." Locke's instinct was correct -- the man of faith needs to be tempered by the man of science to fulfill their destiny. That's why bad things happen after Jack leaves the Island...

*Was it just me, or did Sawyer emerging from the ocean ironically reference some famous scene from Bond film or maybe Blue Lagoon where a woman does the same?

*So how exactly *does* Ben know how to move the Island? It's almost like he's seen it done before, but there's no evidence anyone has been behind the Vault since it was first built.

*Love the Star Trek shoutout in having to bring the body back to the Island. In Star Trek III, the Enterprise crew must bring Spock's dead body back to Vulcan to be reunited with his consciousness, which he stored temporarily in the mind of Dr. McCoy.

*"Sorry I made your life so miserable." In the Lost Bible, I suggested that Aaron was the messiah, and John Locke his John the Baptist. Recent events, however, have me questioning that biblical analogy in favor of another suggested by BlackLotus, who believes Locke is the Jesus figure on the show. The notion of resurrecting Locke is one clue along these lines. Another is Ben's aforementioned apology along with his claim that whoever moves the Island can never return. I'm reminded of the myth of the Wandering Jew, who taunted Jesus on the road to cucifixion and was cursed to wander the Earth until the Second Coming.

*The title of my post Jacob's Moving Castle was an allusion to the anime classic Howl's Moving Castle. But it didn't occur to me until the finale that the Island itself might be an even better analogy than the cabin. In the film, the eponymous moving castle allows travel to one of four different destinations depending on the spin of a wheel by the magical front door. Interestingly, Sawyer's nickname for Aaron is Turnip Head, which is also the nickname of a main character in Howl's Moving Castle.

*Might the bright white light that accompanied turns of the Swan key and the Frozen Donkey Wheel alike be blamed on a Bosenova? Props to a poster named yung23, who has been preaching the relevance of particle physics generally, and exotic matter called "condensates" specifically for some time.

*Kate's reversed phone message in her dream supposedly says: "The Island needs you -- you have to go back before it's too late." Odd then that Claire yells "don't you dare bring him back!" Is Claire having second thoughts about staying behind with Jacob? At a minimum, it would appear there are two sides, each of whom wants something very different for Aaron and Kate.

*The Searcher was also the name of Jacques Cousteau's boat. One hopes this will put an end to the "Penny is evil" speculations. Surely the ghost of Cousteau would never allow his boat to be bought by someone evil...right?

**Correction: The original sentence erroneously stated that Locke reappears around the same time that Ben lands in the Tunisian desert. In fact, the latter happens in 2005, while the former occurs in 2007.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Best. T-shirt. Ever.

My friend MB recently attended Jazzfest in New Orleans and returned with news that he'd found the perfect gift for me. Turns out, he was right. Behold the coolest t-shirt ever:

The graphic is by Mike Garrett of triplepointstudios. I'm an Obama guy, but whatever your political affiliations, you have to admire Mike's talent and inspiration. Thanks again, MB!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Purple Sky...

Recently, we learned that Locke and Co. must "move" the Island using the Orchid Station. I believe this means they will shift the Island in spacetime so Charles Widmore can no longer find it. I also think I can summarize how they'll do this in two simple words: purple sky. I predict that, before the end of the season, there will be a purple sky event involving the Orchid. This event will reorient the Island such that a bearing of 305 no longer provides safe access. A secondary effect may be to free characters like Michael who are prevented by fate from dying.

Ever notice how they're always playing golf on the show? That's because, as a poster named lostmio notes, golf is a great metaphor for why it's so hard to find the Island. Think of the golf course as the topography of 4D spacetime with the Island located in the hole. To get something to the Island with no temporal distortion takes the equivalent of a hole in one. If you're off by even a degree, you miss the hole completely, necessitating further strokes. The more strokes you take, the greater the temporal distortion. That's why Daniel is so insistent that Frank follow a precise bearing of 305.

That brings me to the purple sky. A poster named kansasgal speculates that the Orchid Station contains a particle accelerator capable of warping spacetime. One clue is Ben's Dharka with the Orchid logo. Another is the "frozen donkey wheel," supposedly the writers' code name for a big scene in the season finale. Kansasgal quotes one Dennis Mackey, who notes that the Large Hadron Collider, a massive particle accelerator in Switzerland, looks a lot like a donkey wheel and requires very low temperatures to operate. Like them, I believe the "frozen donkey wheel" is the particle accelerator in the Orchid.

Some scientists believe that the Large Hadron Collider may be capable of producing micro black holes. In Fixing A Hole, I described how the evaporation of these micro black holes yields Casimir force capable of warping spacetime. Another byproduct of their evaporation is high energy Hawking radiation -- hence the purple sky. The Casimir force generated by the frozen donkey wheel will reorient the Island randomly in spacetime, hiding it again from Widmore. That's why Ben checks with the hotel clerk what month and year it is after landing in the desert -- he's testing the effects of the event.

I further suspect that using the Frozen Donkey Wheel will do more than move the Island. The purple sky may also have implications for Michael, who has proven improbably impervious to death of late. Every time Iron Mike survives another brush with the Reaper, I'm reminded of Dan Simmons's description in Olympos of the Greek warrior Achilles as a freak of quantum probability:

"I see a quantum singularity," says the goddess Nyx. "A black hole of probability. A myriad of equations all with the same single three-point solution. Why is that, Artificer?"

The god of fire grunts again. "His mother, Thetis of the seaweed tangled breasts, held this arrogant mortal in the celestial quantum fire when he was a pup, little more than a larva. The probability of his death day, hour, minute, and method is one hundred percent, and because it cannot be changed, it seems to give Achilles a sort of invulnerability to all other attacks and injury."

To be clear, I'm *not* suggesting that the time of Michael's death is similarly set in stone. I do, however, believe these purple sky events function like the "celestial quantum fire," locking in certain probabilities along the timeline. Anyone who is present for such an event has a 100% chance of being there even if it means cheating death to make it. Take Charlie, who was present for the Swan implosion and accompanying purple sky. Before that event, he miraculously survived heroin abuse, a catastrophic plane crash, a cave in, and his hanging. Afterwards, by contrast, he couldn't die quickly enough...

I suspect the same may be true of Michael. Because he has a 100% chance of being present for the next purple sky, this grants him a kind of immunity from death until then. That's why he survived his suicide attempt, and why Keamy's gun repeatedly misfired. In each case, the universe course corrected to ensure Michael's survival, however slim the odds. But all bets are off once the purple sky occurs. As with Charlie, Iron Mike will be released from the grip of fate and free once again to die. Let us hope that he chooses to make his death a noble a sacrifice like Charlie's...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thoughts on There's No Place Like Home, Part 1...

Perhaps I've been spoiled by the fast pace of this "Wrath of Khan" season of Lost, but I was a little let down by Part 1 of There's No Place Like Home. After watching, my friend and I compared notes and concluded that we'd learned nothing new. It was really only the last few scenes, the ones where we saw all of the pieces on the table, that moved me. I was reminded of the spit screen they use with such great effect to frame the action on 24.

I realize the point of this episode was just to set up the next two hours, but that was kind of the problem. All setup with no payoff for two weeks is too much of a tease. It reminds me of all the hype and hoopla leading up to the Super Bowl. I think it would have been much stronger, albeit unorthodox, to air the first two hours together, followed by the third in two weeks. I can't help wondering if this odd schedule is a function of the strike, as well.

Don't get me wrong -- sometimes good stories require lots of setup. Take Pet Sematary, one of Stephen King's more underappreciated works. Very little happens during the first half, which is mostly devoted to characterization and setting. The key difference is that you don't have to wait two weeks for the payoff like the delay after King ended the Waste Lands with Blaine the Monorail's riddle. Let's hope that something more satisfying than Wizard and Glass awaits us on the other side...

Here are some other thoughts and reactions I had to There's No Place Like Home, Part 1:

* The co-pilot has a rabbit's foot -- how fitting! Notice how Hurley's key has a rabbit's foot, as well. Is there an Island connection?

* Michelle Forbes! Any other fans of Battlestar Galactica think it's weird to see Admiral Cain tottering around on high heels? For those unfamiliar, Forbes played a ruthlessly efficient military officer on BSG -- the kind who executes friends for insubordination without blinking.

* I think I know why the Oceanic 6 all seem to stunned. There will be another purple sky event as they're departing that causes the Island to disappear.

* Cheech is back! Any chance we can get Chong some work, as well? Maybe as Hurley's crazy Uncle Tommy?

* Jack's mom looks different from how I remember her.

* Oh, Rose. If it were Sayid and Desmond in the chopper, THEY would just call.

* Ripping a stitch -- is this a reference to what's about to happen with the Orchid? The ominous Secondary Protocol they keep mentioning?

* "We have to get off this Island right now..." That's because they will be lost in time if they stay...

* Jack bleeding reminded me of Roy Hobbes bleeding from his stitches in his final at-bat of the Natural...

* Love the Flash and Green Lantern pairing of Sawyer and Jack -- right down to the contrasting hair color.

* Loved the reappearance of the Numbers -- e.g., day 108 and the 4815162342 on Hurley's odometer.

* Interesting how their story is that Kate gave birth to the baby. Why lie about that? Why not just have Claire be one of the 8 original survivors who gave birth then died?

* One wonders if the doctors who examined them noticed Jack's fresh appendectomy scar...

* At the press conference, I kept thinking of the Beatles landing at JFK in 1965. I wonder if the nickname "Oceanic 6" is actually a sly nod to the Fab 5. Dr. Shephard, is it true you're the funny one?

* Interesting...we know Jin made it at least to the Freighter. Yet he's not one of the other two who survived the crash then died. Who were the other two that survived?

* I have a feeling that going to Widmore's freighter is a big mistake. I've long believed the freighter will be destroyed, and last night we learned how. I find it curious, though, that there are now basically two bombs onboard the freighter -- it's double booby trapped.

* Who was hiding Dharma rations, binoculars, and a mirror 15 years ago? And how did Ben know precisely where to look? Did he hide these things in preparation for the Purge a few years later?

* Did anyone catch any snippets of what Ben signaled?

* Interesting how Faraday has a doodle of the Orchid logo in his notebook. Did Dan have a flash of the future involving the upcoming purple sky event?

* A poster named SKID, who has been campaigning for Daniel Faraday to remove his necktie, humorously notes that Dan the Man missed a golden opportunity to toss his tie to Charlotte ala Mean Joe Green in the famous Coke commercial...LOL!

* Interesting how Sun accused her father of being one of "two people" responsible for Jin's death. My guess is that the other is Jack. Sun blames Paik for putting them on the Island in the first place, and Jack for insisting that they leave. One wonders if Jin will die when Widmore's Freighter is destroyed...

* What's with the Tron references? Behind Mr. Paik is what looks like a Light Cycle and Hurley calls out to "Mr. Tron" and "Lady Tron"...

* I totally thought we were about to get a ghostly visitation from Charlie or even Dave when Hurley saw the coconut and heard the whispers.

* Hunting boars? How did Cheech know? It's almost like working on that car connected him with the Island...and Hurley.

* Love how Hurley is driving an old beater. We know, however, that he ends up driving the car his daddy gave him, despite being initially convinced it's cursed because of the Numbers. What do you suppose changes Hurley's mind?

* What's creating RF interference on Widmore's Freighter? It would seem to have something to do with Keamy's booby trap, which may be wirelessly connected to that device on his arm.

* Well, Jack didn't learn the truth about Claire being his half sister quite the way I expected. Interesting how Claire's mother made such a miraculous recovery -- last we saw her, she was in a coma. It's like she awakened just to give Jack the news...

* Does Kate know that Jack is Aaron's uncle? Did she hear Claire's mum?

* One interesting discrepancy that hasn't really been explored is Michael's bearing of 325. Now we know it leads to an Island -- which one? Was it in the South Pacific? There are still way too many details we don't know. Unless there's some further payoff, this continues to strike me as another opportunity squandered.

* The C4 in the hold of the Freighter reminded me a lot of the Flame, which was similarly rigged with plastic explosive. Does that imply Charles Widmore was behind both? This would certainly fit with my speculation that Mikhail and Kelvin were originally covert operatives sent by Widmore in 1993 one year after the Purge to secure certain vital facilities on the Island. Then again, if that were their mission, why not secure the Orchid, as well, since Widmore obviously knows of its existence?

* Loved Richard's reappearance in an echo of the ambush of Jack, Locke, and Sawyer by Tom and Co. Interesting how Richard is back to wearing the Others' native duds...

* Omar really isn't ruthless looking enough. In a nod to Predator, they should have gotten Bill Duke to play his role...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Thoughts on Cabin Fever...

First, apologies to everyone for taking longer than usual to post this recap. I hate it when work interferes with more important things (ha, ha). On the plus side, I was in New York City, where I used to live and love to visit. The food was typically fantastic, and the weather unusually so. But it was nonetheless nice to return home to sunny LA, where everything is so much...easier. Uh oh, now I'm starting to sound like Paul Simon in Annie Hall.

Speaking of returning home, a big(mouth) welcome back to Lost's own prodigal son, Nestor Carbonell. I absolutely loved Richard Alpert as a kind of creepy Professor X figure recruiting special children for his school, which was presumably on the Island. This brings to mind my speculation the Island of Lost Children, which seems mostly wrong in retrospect with a few nuggets of prescience sprinkled throughout. More specifically, it does indeed seem that the Island is a kind of orphanage for special children. And Ben does in fact appear to have usurped control of the orphanage for his own ends.

The test Richard gives to young Locke is modeled after the real test used to pick the next Dalai Lama. After he dies, objects belonging to the previous Dalai Lama are presented to young children, who are told to choose the items that already belong to them. The child who correctly chooses these objects from a group is thought to be the reincarnation of the previous Lama. For those interested in learning more about the Dalai Lama, I can't recommend Martin Scorsese's film Kundun highly enough. It's beautifully acted, shot, and edited, with a quietly urgent score by Philip Glass that complements the movie marvelously.

So, is John Locke the reincarnation of Jacob? It's possible but I actually doubt it, despite the reincarnation reference. Notice how Locke drew a picture of Cerberus smoke monster apparently killing someone. Notice, as well, how some of the objects (e.g., sand, compass, knife) correspond with items we've seen Locke use on the Island. Maybe the special talent Locke possesses is an ability to transcend spacetime such that he really does "already own" the various objects in question. The prophetic dreams are a manifestation of this talent. Ben mentions that he "used to have dreams, too," which would explain his apparent foreknowledge, as well.

Why did Richard react so negatively to Locke picking the knife? It's possible the latter chose incorrectly in the sense that the object never belonged to him. But I actually associate Locke first and foremost with knives -- even more than the compass. I get the sense that his choice was wrong in the sense that it signaled violence and aggression. Locke is destined somehow to play a pivotal role in events that signal either the end of the world or a new beginning. Perhaps his choice of the knife is a sign that events are leaning toward the former. Here are some other thoughts and reactions I had to Cabin Fever:

* Emily Locke is playing Buddy Holly before her date. Holly, of course, died in plane crash.

* Just who do you suppose was driving that car? What if it's the same person who drove the car that hit Michael?

* Grandma Locke mentions that Emily's boyfriend (and presumably the father of her child) is more than twice Emily's age. As a poster named Kansasgal perceptively notes, that makes it unlikely Anthony Cooper was John's real father. If that were so, Cooper would have been 79 at the time of his death -- not impossible but certainly implausible given that Kevin Tigh (the actor who plays Cooper) is about ten years younger.

* So Emily Locke had John prematurely at six months -- just like Emily Linas had Ben.

* Interesting how the Captain doesn't seem to be in charge of the expedition. Keamy is apparently on equal footing with the Captain. Does that mean Keamy is now in charge?

* Keamy's misfiring gun brings to mind Michael's inability to commit suicide. This is probably a good time to reiterate my prediction that Michael cannot die until some event -- perhaps another purple sky incident -- takes place. Once that happens and they return to civilization, Sayid will kill Michael, maybe even at the latter's request.

* Was Dharma building the cabin or rebuilding it? The architectural plans suggest the former. But how much you want to bet that Horace Godspeed had a dream about where and how to build that cabin?

* "That's probably because I've been dead for 12 years." Well, well, well...looks like the Purge did indeed happen in 1992, as speculated in "I Am Not Alone..." But before I take credit where it isn't due, let me confess that I had some inside knowledge on this one. The script for the Man Behind the Curtain actually specifies the year of the Purge as 1992.

* A lot of folks seem confused by this timing, which implies that Alex was taken before the Purge.

* Is Grandma Locke smoking her cigarette backwards? Some have been quick to seize upon this as a subtle clue that something is wrong with this scene. Was John Locke supposed to survive the crash? Did he somehow exert some control over his destiny even in utero to save himself and his mother? Does Locke make his own luck ? Then again, upon closer inspection, Grandma's cigarette is filterless, so perhaps this is all much ado about nothing...

* Love that shot of Richard in the hospital. In view of my recent post the Lost Bible, one wonders if his ageless character is a nod to the myth of the Wandering Jew...

* Hurley is absolutely correct that he, Locke, and Ben can all see the cabin because they're the craziest. Remember how one of the other patients at SRMI saw Charlie's ghost talking to Hurley? There's something about mental illness that opens minds to communication with Jacob. The same is true of mental trauma, which is why Claire began seeing visions after being hit in the head, and why Jack saw Christian while delerious. I believe Jack's operation was crucial to setting up a family reunion with Claire and Christian in the Cabin. Which reminds me, my Schizophrenic Theory of Lost is due for an update...

* "Pit" stop -- get it?

* Locke mentioned that Dharma made the ranch dressing Hurley loves so much. But we now know that everyone in Dharma died twelve years ago. Did the Others take over production of the Dharma ranch, or have those food drops been coming from the past?

* Interesting how both Ben and Locke both insist upon referring to Hurley as "Hugo."

* Who led the Others before Ben and ordered the Purge? Some say Charles Widmore, but I have a hard time buying that. Could it be Jacob?

* It cracks me up how the Captain, who seemed like such a badass when we first met him, seems totally helpless when confronted by Keamy.

* The "secondary protocol" is presumably the Orchid Station. Widmore knows about it because he was an investor in the Dharma Initiative.

* Interesting how Locke was supposed to be a man of science but fought his fate tooth and nail. Interesting, as well, how Richard Alpert is himself a man of science despite working for Jacob, who supposedly hates technology.

* I believe the exchange between Michael and Frank is further indication that Charles Widmore didn't stage that second crash of Oceanic 815. It was Chronology Protection Agents like Ms. Hawking, Brother Campbell, and possibly even Daniel Abaddon. As I describe in Lost Time, the second crash was staged to prevent a butterfly effect that risked changing the future. Widmore has a vested interest in convincing people the wreckage is real because he controls this future in which Oceanic 815 crashed, killing everyone onboard.

* Is that device on Keamy's arm some kind of mechanism that destroys the Freighter if Keamy dies?

* "I've been on that Island for three years. I'm never setting foot on there again. Not when Penny's coming for me." I'm guessing that Desmond's line is ironic foreshadowing. I believe he will learn that he must return to the Island to be reunited with Penny. For whatever reason, the two will decide to remain there together...

* Who is Matthew Abaddon? I mentioned earlier that he might be a Chronology Protection Agent. But something about the way he addressed John as "Mr. Locke" reminded me of Walt. Is it possible Abaddon is Walt from the future?

* Interesting how Locke specifically mentioned that there was a 98% chance he would never get any feeling back in his legs. For someone capable of affecting probability (e.g., Jacob or even Locke himself) a 2% chance is all you need. Indeed, the odds of surviving an eight-story fall from a window and a catastrophic plane crash are even slimmer -- though, again, not impossible.

* Am I the only one who thought of the Al Michaels's call of the Miracle on Ice when Abaddon asked Locke if he believes in miracles? Yes!!!!

* "The Island wanted me to get sick." I believe this is further confirmation that Jacob did indeed give Ben cancer as punishment for the latter's betrayal, as I describe in the Cancer Man's Con.

* As I noted last week, Christian doesn't appear to be wearing his suit and white tennis shoes. Why and where did he get the new duds?

* Claire seems surprisingly sanguine given that she's been separated from Aaron. I'm reminded of her carefree demeanor during her stay in the Caduceus Medical Station, which was presumably the result of some drug. I wonder, though, who else she's met while in this dreamy state. Was she reunited with Charlie, who informed her that everything will be fine with Aaron?

* Where is the baby supposed to be? If he's the Anti-Christ, the answer is off the Island so he can destroy the world. Evil Aaron! Natas! Redrum!

* Locke said they're supposed to "move the Island," and I can summarize how they'll do it in two words: purple sky. I'll expand on this in a separate post, but to summarize briefly, I believe there will be another purple sky event before the end of the season. This event will involve the Orchid Station, which is the mysterious "frozen donkey wheel" that Darlton have been hyping. The effect of this purple sky event will be to shift the Island in spacetime, which is why Ben had to double-check the time and date after waking up in the desert.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Thoughts on Something Nice Back Home...

Last episode, the most telling quote was Hurley's about Australia being the key to everything in Risk. This time, that distinction belongs to the concluding line from the Alice in Wonderland passage that Jack reads to Aaron: "Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle!" As we know, one answer for both is "a Shephard." I found it interesting that Jack apparently knows this, too, judging by his comment that Kate isn't "even related to him!" My hope is still that they're building to the scene I predicted last week in which Claire and Jack travel to Jacob's cabin, where they learn from zombie Christian that they're related.

But there's another important dimension to Alice's rhetorical question. Did you catch that star mobile above baby Aaron's bed? That's now the second "star" reference associated with the tot -- his mobile in the Caduceus Station played the lullaby "Catch a Falling Star." As suggested in the Star of Jacob, I believe these are clues that Aaron is the great great grandson and quite possibly the reincarnation of Jacob, who was himself a Shephard. The star references also point to the possibility that Aaron is a kind of Island Messiah. But will he save the world or end it?

As described in the Lost Bible, the Book of Revelation tells how a false Messiah will appear bearing the mark 666. Claire learns she is pregnant with Aaron "six...sixty six" seconds after taking the home pregnancy test. Thomas Plantard de Saint Claire is the current Grand Master of the Priory of Sion, which readers of the DaVinci Code will recall is devoted to protecting the blood line of Jesus. For a variety of esoteric reasons, Thomas Saint Claire is often cited as a likely candidate for the false prophet predicted by by Revelation. It's telling, therefore, that Aaron's parents were Thomas and Claire.

Aaron is so totally the Anti-Christ! My guess is that visions of his apocalyptic rise to power are the nightmares of which Charles Widmore speaks. Natas! Redrum! Here are some other thoughts and questions I had about Something Nice Back Home:

* I laughed out loud at the way Rose barked at Charlotte: "Just watch your tone, Red!" Oh snap! Reminded me of Stanley's hilarious outburst on this week's Office. "Did I stutter?!"

* Jack states that "I said that I would get us off this Island...I promised that I would" just before collapsing with appendicitis. Obviously, the Island will inflict illness upon those who violate its wishes. As I suggest in the Cancer Man's Con, Jacob gave Ben that cancer. The Island's ghostly patriarch also took away Locke's ability to walk when it wasn't his destiny to climb up into the Beechcraft. Like Rose said, people don't get sick on the Island, they get better.

* Interesting...Jack's hospital knows they should reach him at Kate's place even before they're engaged.

* Just in case you didn't get the Star Wars reference last week with Evil Emperor Ben wielding his lightsaber, Jack stumbles over the Millenium Falcon.

* Yanks Bludgeon Red Sox for Sweep -- the perfect metaphor for how things regress in the flash forwards.

* They maintained my support for the 10pm start time with plenty of panty-clad Kate...

* Claire mentions she's no longer seeing things. Apparently, this refers to a scene that was cut for time from The Shape of Things to Come. According to Doc Jensen at, Claire was supposed to experience some sort of prophetic vision or hallucination after her brush with death.

* Why is Miles so interested in Claire? It's her aura, just like the psychic Richard Malkin said. Miles can read them, like he did Michael's in Meet Kevin Johnson. Miles is attracted to Claire's goodness as much as anything else. This is further confirmation of Malkin's prophecy that Aaron must not be raised by another. Natas! Redrum!

* Miles heard the replay of Rousseau and Karl's death. This fits with my belief that the Island is basically haunted by a Chorus of the Dead made up of everyone who ever died there. Is that why Cerberus didn't kill Keamy's men?

* Digging up the bodies was creepy but left absolutely no doubt they're dead. Again, here's to hoping we still get a flashback to what happened to Rousseau's crew from the perspective of Ben.

* Jack forcing Kate to hold the mirror so he can watch his own operation (to his own detriment) foreshadows their relationship in the flashforward perfectly.

* Hurley is right -- the Oceanic Six are all dead. Or rather, they should be. No one was supposed to survive the crash of Oceanic 815. They have to go back to the Island because they no longer belong in the world, which is about to end anyway. Like Doc Ray's corpse shows, the Island is a place where paradox can exist.

* "You're not supposed to raise him, Jack." Obviously, Hurley is correct that Charlie's message refers to Jack raising Aaron.

* Love that Charlotte speaks Korean. I'm reminded of the creepy Hawaiian-shirt guy who confronted Jin in the restroom right before Oceanic 815 boarded. Does this mean Charlotte works for Mr. Paik? Some faction from the future or even the Chronology Protection Agency?

* "Where do you suppose all this power is coming from?" My guess would be zero point energy generated using the Island's natural Casimir effect.

* My first reaction was that Jack's abrupt proposal was all wrong from a storytelling perspective. Then I realized that was kind of the point -- it's supposed to feel wrong to underscore that Jack isn't supposed to be doing this.

* Charlotte's Korean accent is only slightly worse than Jin's...LOL!

* Bernard cracked me up with his no-nonsense line "I'm sorry, Jack, but I agree" just before knocking the latter out with Chloroform.

* I figured that was the Island/Jacob calling to Jack when Christian appeared in the lobby. The malfunctioning smoke detector reminded me of the broken intercom in the Hyrdra where Jack heard his father's voice urge him to "let it go..."

* The appearance of Christian fits with my prior speculation that he will haunt his son, driving Jack to drink and drugs. Interesting that Jack asks for clonazepam, the same anti-anxiety drug Hurley sought from Sawyer after seeing Dave on the Island.

* Kate's mission presumably involves Sawyer's illegitimate daughter, Clementine. I can understand her wanting to keep that aspect of her mission secret out of fidelity to Sawyer. And Jack's jealousy and controlling nature will obviously be the driving force behind their breakup. But I can't help thinking she's partly to blame for not sharing at least the Sawyer connection with Jack. Maybe something really bad happens between those two during the escape from the Island. Why does Sawyer decide to stay?

* Interesting that Christian Shephard doesn't appear to be wearing a suit when he appears to Claire by the campfire.

* "She wasn't alone." Miles saw Christian too. The question is, why did they leave Aaron behind. Is it his destiny to leave the Island and destroy the world? Or is this part of some plan to create a bond between Sawyer and Aaron?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Thoughts on the Shape of Things to Come...

Well, now we know why Lost was moved back to 10pm. All things being equal, I prefer an earlier time slot. But if it means more episodes as intense as the Shape of Things to Come, I won't have any complaints. I can't ever recall seeing a parent watch his child get shot execution style on prime time network television. That scene was so brutally effective in large part because it's rare for Ben to be as surprised by events as we are. Whatever flashes he may have of the future, he clearly didn't see his daughter dying.

I was also moved by the tragic irony of Ben's insistence that Alex was merely "a pawn" and that "she means nothing to me," when the opposite was painfully obvious from his stunned reaction to her murder. Can you imagine having a loved one die with those words ringing in her ears? Let's hope Ben shares Miles's ability to see dead people and was able to correct the record before saying goodbye. I also wonder if he offered her body to Cerberus for later use.

Speaking of irony, I loved the image of Dr. Jack writing himself a prescription, even if only for antibiotics. The writers have always been adept at utilizing irony, but the flash forwards create so many fresh possibilities for dual meaning. Another intriguing example of irony was Hurley's comment that Australia is the "key to the whole game" in Risk. Obviously, the Island is of great strategic importance in the battle between Ben and Charles.

Australia is also central to the familial relationship between Jack and Claire, which brings me to a prediction of how the two will learn they are related. Jack will become sick and delirious just as he did in White Rabbit. Christian will appear once again, leading the two siblings to Jacob's cabin. As the rain pours down outside, Jack will kneel before zombie Christian in a scene that simultaneously references Tarkovsky's original film version of Solaris and Rembrandt's painting Return of the Prodigal Son. Dad...?

Here are some other thoughts and questions I had about the Shape of Things to Come:

* Ben wakes up in the African desert, presumably in the same general area as that Dharma polar bear skeleton that Charlotte examined in Confirmed Dead.

* Ben's parka sports a new Dharma symbol and the name Halliwax. As you may know, the latter was Dr. Candle/Wickmund's latest alias in the Orchid Orientation film, which is available on-line but hasn't yet appeared on the show. I suspect that's about to change, so I'll hold off commenting at length until we actually see the Orchid Station. Suffice it to say that Ben is almost certainly lying about escaping the Island via boat and plane, and he had very good reasons for double-checking the date. Here's the new Dharma symbol, courtesy of lostpedia:

* Was that Ben's flashback or flashforward? I clearly heard a "whoosh" right after Ben convinces Sayid that Widmore's men killed Nadia, which usually signals a flashback. My instinct, however, is that it was a flashforward with one important twist. From Ben's perspective, the flashforward takes place only days or weeks after the murder of his daughter, which is why his anger remains so fresh. In the very near future, Ben will escape the Island conflict by jumping forward in spacetime. I'm guessing he gets that nasty gash on his arm from one of Widmore's men.

* A poster named DJ has an alternate explanation for Ben's wound, speculating that it may relate to Dr. Candle's prosthetic arm and be a byproduct of Ben's jump through time and space. I'm intrigued by DJ's suggestion, which strikes me as highly plausible. Here again, however, the argument makes a lot more sense once you've seen the Orchid Orientation, so I'll reserve further comment until then.

* Ben claimed that it was "very important" that John "survive what's about to happen here." When queried on this point later by Locke, Ben explains that "we have to go to him together," presumably referring to Jacob. I think that's because Ben is desperate to get back in Jacob's good graces and saving Locke is the only way he knows how.

* Faraday mentions that "time is kind of a relative term" on the Island, which explains the paradox of the doctor being alive on the boat but dead on the Island. The question is, could someone exploit this paradox to save the doctor's life, or would the universe course correct to prevent such efforts? I've long believed that Oceanic 815 was supposed to crash in the ocean with no survivors. Jacob somehow exploited the time discrepancy between the Island and the rest of the world to change their fate.

* On a related note, I was struck by apparent invincibility of Sawyer and Claire. Keamy's men were brutally efficient at picking off Karl, Rousseau, and various redshirts at the Barracks. Yet Sawyer dodged whole clips of ammunition with little more than a picnic table and fence posts for protection, and Claire survived a direct hit to her house from a rocket propelled grenade. Their miraculous survival, in marked contrast with the redshirts, makes me think the two still have work to do for Jacob.

* I'm not at all sure Widmore's man killed Nadia. It's entirely possible Bakir was simply shadowing Sayid and left the scene of Nadia's muder in a hurry so as not to be implicated. I could easily see Ben exploiting the situation to manipulate Sayid by casting false doubt on Bakir.

* Keamy has precisely the sort of history of military and mercenary background that I imagine Kelvin had, as well. I could see the latter being recruited by Widmore, too, as I decribe in I Am Not Alone...

* Ben's panic room cracks me up -- the only thing missing was a little window slit for him to peep at Sawyer briefly before disappearing. I was tickled to learn that the secret room had still another secret room off of it. My guess is that the stone passage leads to some tunnel network utilized by Cerberus, which is why Ben was covered in ash when he returned.

* How creepy was that smile Ben gave after Sayid joined his war against Widmore? I kept thinking of the evil Emperor trying to seduce Luke Skywalker. To complete the metaphor, the blackjack Ben keeps handy at all times is basically his lightsaber.

* The Cerberus system reminded me more than ever of a raging thundercloud, complete with flashes of lightning. Smokey may primarily be an electromagnetic phenomenon, but it clearly operates as cloud capacitor, just like thunderclouds. It grabs people -- no joke -- using static cling.

* Ben originally claimed not to know what Cerberus was. When confronted with this obvious lie, Ben countered that Locke could "ask Jacob all about it when we go to the cabin." I take that to mean the Island's ghostly patriarch can communicate with, and perhaps even control, Cerberus to a limited degree. You can read more on my take on Smokey's origins and its relationship with Jacob in the Lost Bible...

* Ben's late night confrontation with Widmore reminded me of a scene from Alan Moore's graphic novel V for Vendetta where the title character creeps into the bedroom of one of the scientists who created him. Charles mentioned that he knew "what" Ben was. Is it possible the latter was a product of the Dharma Intiative in more ways than one? Perhaps Dharma and Widmore were betrayed by the same psychic test subject they originally sought to create.

* Charles claimed that Ben was the one responsible for Alex's death, and insisted that everything Ben has he stole from Widmore. I believe that Widmore was originally an investor in the Dharma Intitiative. As described in the Cancer Man's Con, Ben crossed Widmore twice, first by handing Dharma over to the hostiles, then again by falsely promising to deliver him the Island. Charles is saying Ben brought this on himself through all the cons and betrayals.

* Ben argued that Charles had "changed the rules" by targeting his daughter. Ben also stated that he couldn't kill Widmore, implying this was similarly against the rules. I believe the two are part of a larger fight for control of the future. The rule against killing one another prevents any fuzziness in the timeline that might result from major players dying. The rule against killing offspring prevents combatants from committing particularly heinous acts that might tempt one major player to kill another.

* So who enforces the rules of engagement? Up to a point, the players do themselves, since Widmore and Ben were apparently able to revoke the rule against targeting family by mutual consent. I suspect, however, that the real referees are Chronology Protection Agents like Ms. Hawking and Brother Campbell.

* When Ben threatened Penny, Charles seemed confident that Ben would never find her. Was he bluffing? Perhaps. I wonder, however, if Penny is actually on the Island with Desmond. One of my whackadoo speculations is that Penny will arrive on the Island before the end of Season 4, thereby fulfilling Desmond's vision. So what if she and Desmond stay behind on the Island? Maybe Widmore knows that Ben will have as much trouble as he does getting back. This will set the stage for some collaboration between Ben and other members of the O6.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Lost Bible...

The list of biblical connections on Lost grows longer by the season, and I recently realized why these references are so central to the show. I believe the Island's history parallels the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Not in the literal sense that this is actually the Garden of Eden, or that Aaron is really the Messiah. The links I have in mind are metaphorical, the way events in James Joyce's Ulysses implicitly and explicitly track those of Homer's Odyssey. Before exploring these biblical parallels further, however, let me briefly clarify my conception of the Island's prehistory.

Prehistory: Birth of a Deity

Some say the four-toed colossus symbolizes the next step in evolution. Others believe the missing toe refers to the Fourtoes' mastery of the physical forces via a hypothetical Theory of Everything ("TOE"). I see the implication to be that the Island was once home to an ancient civilization with advanced technology limited only by the laws of physics. These ancients built the Cerberus security system and augmented the Island's potential as a natural source of Casimir energy. They were wiped out when the Island's Vesuvius unexpectedly erupted, burying their civilization under ash and lava.

Fast forward to the shipwreck of the Black Rock. The sole survivor was a young psychic named Jacob whose abilities were enhanced by exposure to the Island. Jacob used his powers to tame Cerberus, which he adopted as his pet the way Walt did Vincent. When he died, Jacob discovered that death had no dominion on the Island. Even after his body withered away, his electromagnetic soul persisted, imprinting itself there like the Earth's magnetic field leaves its mark on cooling volcanic rock. When characters attribute agency to the Island, they generally mean the ghost of Jacob.

As a ghost, Jacob lost the ability to interact directly with the physical world. But he could still talk with the animals and control Cerberus to effectuate his will in limited ways. More importantly, freed from the limits of corporeal form, Jacob effortlessly transcended time and space to see future. The Island's energy field became an extension of his mind, allowing him to perform miracles like curing cancer and paralysis. Jacob began to think of himself a kind of god, but for all this power, he felt incomplete. Like an Old Testament deity, Jacob longed for worshipers to make him burnt offerings...

Old Testament: Adam and Eve
Like the Book of Genesis, the Island's history begins with Jacob's efforts at creation. He had long known how to reshape individual destinies to bring people to the Island. The problem was that the universe inevitably course corrected, killing them on arrival. The solution to this dilemma came when Jacob realized he could use Cerberus to reanimate the dead. In the 1950s or '60s, a promising young couple caught Jacob's eye of the Island. After they died there in some kind of plane crash or shipwreck, he resurrected them to be his Adam and Eve.

So who were they? My best guess remains Gerald and Karen DeGroot, though I'm pretty sure the writers have expressly rejected this scenario. The two could also be Horace and Olivia Godspeed, though we saw Horace die in the Barracks during the Purge. It's also possible Adam and Eve weren't scientists at all. One popular speculation is that they're Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan, though I think the writers have ruled this out, as well. Whatever their identities, Adam and Eve soon adjusted to their miraculous new existence, forgetting their former selves.

Life in the Garden of Eden was initially groovy. Adam and Eve had few material needs, and the caves offered them ample shelter and water. Every Eden needs a snake, however, and our metaphorical serpent appeared shortly after the Cuban missile crisis in the form of Alvar Hanso. He marveled at the Island's miraculous properties and dreamed of exploiting them to embiggen us all. Hanso seduced Adam and Eve with promises that together they could save the world. Whether as scientists or test subjects, the couple played a critical role in the genesis of the Dharma Initiative.

Dharma began working with Hanso to engineer a new Messiah -- what I call the Dr. Manhattan Project. Jacob initially approved of these efforts, knowing that Dharma's psychic savior would share a strong connection with the Island. This Messiah would then operate as an extension of Jacob's disembodied mind, like the animals and Cerberus, translating his will into action. More broadly, the prospect of playing spiritual alchemist to all humanity appealed greatly to Jacob. He planned to build a metaphorical Temple of Solomon on the Island using the Messiah as his prophet.

Then came the Fall. Jacob learned about Hanso's silent partners, Widmore and Paik, whose relationship with Alvar dated back to his days as an arms dealer. They had agreed to help fund Dharma but planned secretly to co-opt the Messiah for their own selfish ends. Stations like the Tempest, which is basically a nerve-gas production facility, are a legacy of this secret military-industrial aspect of Dharma. Jacob realized that Widmore and Paik intended to use the Island to enrich themselves and preserve the corrupt status quo, rather than reforming it.

Angered by this perversion of his dream, Jacob set about banishing Dharma from Eden. He resurrected a small army led by Richard Alpert, who was originally a crew member on the Black Rock, maybe even its first mate. Jacob used this army, along with the animals and Cerberus, to attack Dharma. But the designers of the Initiative had built its facilities to be secure. The Barracks were protected by a sonic fence, and most of the stations were located underground in concrete bunkers. Driving the scientists forth from the Island proved more difficult than Jacob expected.

The tide turned with Richard's discovery of Ben, who shares Miles's ability to see dead people. For the first time since dying, Jacob could speak directly with a living person. He manipulated Ben, playing on the boy's desire to be special, a trait Ben shares with Locke. Ben helped perpetrate the Purge and assumed leadership of Jacob's people. At some point, however, Ben began questioning Jacob's orders, leading the Others astray. This parallels Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, which warns that those who question God's love for them will face the Messiah's wrath.

New Testament: The Christian Resurrection
The Island's New Testament, which we're now seeing depicted on the show, commences with the Christian resurrection. If you haven't already, check out the Missing Pieces mobisode titled So It Begins. The action apparently takes place just before the opening shot of the series (i.e., Jack opening his eye in the jungle) and unfolds from the perspective of Vincent the dog. Before saying more, let me again urge those unfamiliar to watch the mobisode or to at least read the transcript. I promise you won't be sorry -- it's short and a total shocker.

Jacob resurrected Christian Shepard using Cerberus, just like Adam and Eve. The "work" that zombie Christian mentions is Jacob's messianic agenda. Jack was chosen for his skills as a doctor to help Claire give birth safely on the Island. Other survivors have work to do, too, most notably John Locke, whose job is to herald Aaron's arrival as the Island's Messiah. The New Testament parallel is to John the Baptist who recognized Jesus as the son of God. Emily Locke's lie about John being immaculately conceived is an ironic twist on John the Baptist's immaculate conception in the Bible.

Locke's lead role was originally meant for Ben (with Dr. Juliet as his co-star) but Ben's betrayal forced Jacob to recast. The reasons for Ben's rebellion are complex. Through their close relationship, he is privy to certain dark truths about Jacob not known by the Others. Ben knows, for example, that Jacob is the real man behind the curtain, manipulating the Island's powers to play Oz. Ben is so adept at the con precisely because he learned from a pro. One sign of this demystification is the disrespectful tone he takes with Jacob. It reminds me of Miles's frank talk to the poltergeist.

But that's not the only reason for Ben's betrayal -- he's also stalling for time. Jacob believes that the corrupt order maintained by military industrialists like Widmore and Paik is too firmly entrenched for reform. Jacob's plan is to sequester his Messiah along with a group of "good people" on the Island where they will await humanity's grim fate in safety. When the rest of civilization has collapsed, they will go forth and create a new and better world order. The Others are building that runway on Hydra island to accommodate the arrival of people on Jacob's List in anticipation of the end of the world.

The obvious biblical parallel is to Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, which prophecies the terrible rise of the Anti-Christ and his subsequent defeat by the returning Messiah. Jacob's List is most likely a nod to the 144000 descendants of Jacob who will be saved by God at the end of the world. The seven Numbers -- 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42, and their sum, 108 -- are another reference to Revelation, which is divided into seven parts with the number seven recurring frequently throughout the text. In that spirit, here are seven more connections between the Book of Revelation and Lost:

* Door in the Sky: Many, myself included, believe that Oceanic 815 passed through a wormhole in the sky before crashing on the Island. According to Revelation, the end of the world begins with "a door...opened in the sky."

* Alpha and Omega: The black and white stones Jack found in Adam and Eve's cave are a reference to Urim and Thummim, stones used by the ancient Israelites for divination. Adam and Eve probably used the stones to divine ghostly Jacob's wishes. But there's an interesting and important link to Revelation, as well. Urim and Thummim begin with the letters Aleph and Tau, which are the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This echoes one of the most famous lines in Revelation, where God declares that he is "the Alpha and the Omega," the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.

* Number of the Beast: Claire learns she is pregnant with Aaron "six...sixty six" seconds after taking the home pregnancy test. Revelation describes how a false Messiah -- the anti-Christ -- will appear bearing the mark 666. Thomas Plantard de Saint Claire is the current Grand Master of the Priory of Sion, which readers of the DaVinci Code will recall is devoted to protecting the blood line of Jesus. For a variety of esoteric reasons, Thomas Saint Claire is often cited as a likely candidate for the false prophet predicted by by Revelation. It's interesting, therefore, that Aaron's parents were Thomas and Claire.

* REV 4.3.02: This notation on the Blast Door Map almost certainly refers to a revision made on April 3, 2002 by the artist. It turns out, however, that the Book of Revelation, chapter 4, verse 3, line 2, is a passage of great significance to new age Gnostics, whose views combine Christianity and the various Dharmic faiths. These new age Gnostics believe that Revelation describes a spiritual evolution that will allow humanity to transcend the material limits of creation. They interpret the cited line as a reference to the "Lost Sun," a supramental consciousness that will guide this evolution.

* The Four Horsemen: Among the most infamous images of Revelation are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who represent War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death. Their appearance is typically interpreted as a prediction that the end of the world will be accompanied by world wars, disease, mass starvation, and other horrible means of death. This closely parallels Alvar Hanso's warning in the Sri Lanka film that humanity will soon extinguish itself by "nuclear fire, chemical and biological warfare, conventional warfare, pandemic, [or] over-population..."

* Abaddon: The introduction of a character named Matthew Abaddon is an explicit reference to Revelation 9:11, which identifies the King of the Locusts as "the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon."

* Raising the Dead: Ever wonder why Damon and Carlton keep joking about a Zombie Season? (Brains!) Revelation contains multiple references to raising the dead. One of the last events described is the resurrection of good and evil alike on judgment day. That actually brings me to my prediction for the final scene of Lost. I believe the Oceanic 6 will make it back to the Island and be greeted by everyone who has ever died on the show. Someone in the O6 (Jack?) will ask if they're alive or dead. One of their greeters (Jin?) will answer "we don't have to think like that anymore..."