Saturday, February 9, 2008

Connect Four


Exposition can be a dreary business. In fact, it can stop a story dead in its tracks. But the writers of Lost are proving themselves to be masters of their medium, especially when it comes to something they've got so much experience with - introducing us to brand new characters. As deftly as though drawn by a Japanese brushstroke artist, four entirely new characters entered the Lostverse in one episode, sketched briefly but artfully.

In the beginning, Lost was like watching a slick juggler toss around a lot of pretty colored spheres. He threw them in circles and up and down and reversed their courses and slung them through his legs and behind his back . Really good tricks, but things we've seen before. As time went on, he started juggling different objects - bowling balls , feathers , firesticks , chainsaws . He dropped a ball here and there, but by now, we're pretty much convinced that there's nothing he can't find a way to work into his routine. In fact, we're starting to see that he can tap dance on the head of a pin and still keep his universe of characters swirling around our heads, more and more dreamlike, yet more and more challenging to our left brain faculties as well.

Still, we're only human. The Lostverse is becoming a very populous fantasia. Some kind of cheat sheets might be helpful.

Generally speaking, it's a Fanboy-Free Zone here at Fishbiscuitland, but trying to watch some episodes of Lost without wearing geek goggles makes about as much sense as trying to watch Polyester without an Odorama card. And this was certainly one of those episodes. So we're gonna get down with the minutia this week. Only problem is knowing where in the bloody hell to begin.

Maybe here

with Charlotte Staples Lewis, who sallied forth into her Lost debut with the wholesome British cheerio what-ho that befits her incredibly obvious name origins. If C. S. Lewis was too inconclusive for you, she's actually got the exact same middle name as the famous fantasyland fabricator. The other C.S. Lewis, of course, gave the world the multiverse of Narnia - a place not unlike our beloved Island. Narnia is a place where unseen worlds can be entered through magical methods - like by wearing a ring and jumping into the right puddle, or by walking into a moldy old closet and pushing aside the fur coats. Even those who manage to enter and exit Narnia don't quite understand how it's done...much like our Island. And in Narnia, time can speed up or slow down erratically, or change course, or loop about...much like our Island. When the Pevensie children from The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe decide to return to Narnia in Prince Caspian, they find that a thousand years have passed and yet they are still children.

So are these newcomers meant to remind us of those gifted Pevensie kids?

Maybe...We've got our Peter

Our Susan

Our Edmund

And our...uh... Lucy?

Nah, that doesn't seem to fit.

Big Lapidowsky Dude is kind of the odd man out here in this analogy. But wasn't he cool? And those eyes...with my geek goggles properly adjusted, he almost reminded me of that "ever-lovin', blue-eyed Thing", a/k/a Ben Grimm of the Fantastic Four.

So maybe these four

are related to these four.

Frank is the lovable, morally ambiguous antihero type, the psychologically effed up guy with really bad skin and the prototypical heart of gold. That fits. I think Lapidowsky could be a Ben Grimm kind of guy.

He certainly sees things for what they are.

He knew that wasn't his old friend there on Tales from the Crypt TV. Unfortunately, being the wet brain alcoholic loser type (albeit the kind who can land a helicopter in the middle of a thicket), he's going to have a few problems on the island.

One can only imagine what he made of this transgender bovine he ran into.

The Fantastic Four allusion raises a few problems. Is Daniel Mr. Fantastic? He's got the right profession and the social awkwardness down pat, and he's certainly flying his geek flag with that neck-tie.

Still, he doesn't seem to carry that patriarchal weight. It will be interesting, though, to see if he's got some yet unseen superpower in his bag of tricks. Can he twist and stretch himself into any shape he wants? What's hiding behind that cute, bumbly exterior?

Does our jolly old anthropologist have some secret skill like how Susan Storm can bend light waves to make herself invisible?

I guess not, or she wouldn't have those plugs in her bullet proof vest.

Still her interest in Aaron seemed highly suspect, made me feel nervous for the little man.

All in all Charlotte just creeped me out more than your average SuperHero type, but who knows?

Is Miles the Human Torch? He seems pretty flammable.

But most intriguingly, Miles seems to be a bona fide

who, of course, also came to us in a group of four. (Not sure, but I think he's Venckman). He's obviously a bit of a con man as well, with his retrofitted Dustbuster and his grandma scamming. But, hey, that bookcase didn't kick itself. Dead drug dealing grandson told Miles where his treasure was.

The question may be how dangerous is this ghost whisperer? I mean, what if he crosses the streams and causes total protonic conversion? We have to keep an eye on this boy.

We're probably being too literal here. Sure, there are four new characters, but that doesn't automatically mean they represent cultural icons from another genre, does it? Maybe it's the names that matter more. Like Miles Straum...which if you say it with an Australian accent, sounds exactly like the word Maelstrom. As in a violent whirling vortex,

like the Charybdis where Odysseus' almost perished when his raft was drawn into its irresistible maw and he was saved only by hanging to the branch of a tree

before his raft was expelled, miraculously, unharmed.

A Maelstrom being a Vortex is hardly an insignificant factor. One of the unique features of Lost is the incredibly diverse Fanon that has been spun around the show we watch onscreen, a whole elaborate universe that exists to entertain those obsessed fans who can't let go of the show just because the credits have rolled. If you're a habitue of Lostpedia, you already know that the creators of our fake universe have taken it upon themselves to create twelve fake Bermuda Triangles, dubbed the Vile Vortices, which appear to be Narnianesque gateways to worlds unseen and unknown. The Vortices can open when some psycho electromagnetic shit happens (we really don't need to get into it beyond that) and stuff can get sucked into the black holes.

For instance, a polar bear could get sucked into the Sahara Vortex. Or a slave ship into the Mozambique Channel Vortex. Or a passenger plane into the Fiji Vortex...And since the Island may be a kind of central dumping ground for whatever salvage gets sucked into the Vile Vortices, polar bears and slave ships and airplanes all end up sharing one crazy, mixed up nuthouse.... Just go with it for now. It doesn't have to make sense.

The fourth horseman of the Apocalypse was Daniel Faraday. Another obvious name reference, this time to Michael Faraday, the seminal 19th century physicist who laid the groundwork for the entire field of electromagnetism.

And we know electromagnetism is a really important thingie in this whole whatsamacallit. I may not know the difference between a farad and a coulomb (and believe me, I don't) but I know when the Endtimes come on Lost, there's gonna be some big old magnet sitting there with a big fat Cheshire cat grin on its know, in a force field or something.

Whew...The problem with getting your geek on with this show is it gets really hard to take it off. One minute you're thinking about Vile Vortices and the next thing you know you're wondering about the relevance of Number One Lost fan Stephen King's Dark Tower, where all possible realities intersect in the kind of place where the sun might just choose to rise in the North one day. Or when Daniel spoke about the light not scattering, that seemed like a reminder that a reflection that doesn't scatter is considered a specular reflection, as in a mirror. And then that reminds me of another book by King, The Talisman, where a character named Jack Sawyer (no kidding!) goes to a mystical "twinning" world to try and find a cure for his mother's cancer. You keep going along these lines and you start to wonder whether these writers are either A. really clever plagiarists or B. alchemists spinning a new kind of gold from so many pop culture fonts you can literally never hope to keep track of them all. But you won't be able to stop trying either.

Personally, whenever we need to come back to physical reality, we like to start here:

Now Sawyer may be "brave, daring, handsome" (oh, Ben you sweet talker), but he's also very often the one who says the things we're thinking ourselves. And in this episode, he had one line that I don't think anyone doubts will turn out to be true:

"It's only a matter of time before he gets us, Johnny, and I bet he's already figured out how he's going to do it."

Ben knows that Sawyer's hard exterior has one vortice where it's very easy to create an electromagnetic disturbance strong enough to break through into his heart: Kate.

Even with his face as raw as a plate of huevos rancheros, Ben's mind was clicking through the checklist of people he needs on his side. He played on Sawyer's only vulnerability, and took a beating for it, but he was wiling to do it because Ben wants to be sure Sawyer stays put.

Sawyer doesn't need to worry, since Jack and Kate have about as much chance of getting horizontal as Peter and Susan Pevensie do

but still...Ben's scheme is working.

And Locke is helping it to work.

He knew exactly what button to push to stop Sawyer from beating Ben. Subtly and skillfully, he found Sawyer's psychological black hole, reminding him that killing him would mean forcing another child to watch a parent violently die.

Young Grasshopper has learned well. It was interesting to watch Teacher and Student exchange glances when Hurley blundered into revealing his knowledge of "The Cabin".

The psychological alliance of Ben and Locke continues to deepen,

with Sawyer joining the nexus as Enforcer, and Locke more in tune with the cosmos then ever.

Colonel Kurtz, indeed.

What's more, the spidery reaches of Ben's comprehension stretch way beyond the mystery of our new foursome. With Sawyer and Locke tagteaming which blood brother would get to murder the bugeyed bastard, Ben cracked and spilled a HUGE amount of information.

No, even Ben doesn't know what the Smoke Monster is (unless he does, of course) but he does know who Charlotte Staples Lewis is. That she went to school at Oxford, (where C.S.Lewis met his dear friend and fellow fantasy scribe Tolkein), that she's here with Lapidowsky and Maelstrom and Mr. Faraday and that she's here with one primary collect the rare specimen known as Benjamin Linus,

probably to bring him back to the laboratory pinned to a cotton ball of formaldehyde.

Who wants Ben? Why do they want him?

Hurley's hospital visitor last week , to no one's surprise, is not a lawyer for Oceanic Airlines. He seemed more an angel of destruction than ever in this week's incarnation as the powerful figure who dispatched the doomed Naomi on a "high risk covert op in unstable territory."

Why did he choose this particular group of apparent misfits? If everything relied on Naomi's protection, why was she the one sent out on point, leaving these screw ups rudderless now that she's

...dead (probably) ?

We saw Abaddon insist to Naomi that THERE. WERE. NO. SURVIVORS.

Perhaps that was a coded message to her to ensure this became a self fulfilling prophecy. Clearly the wreckage found in the Sunda Trench (one of the world's most geologically violent places, site of the Krakatoa Volcano and of the earthquake that triggered the devastating 2004 Boxing Day tsunami) was a staged event. The question is open whether the four explorers are more hip to this fact than Naomi was told. But they seem at first glance to be a quartet of wild cards.

Daniel seemed a little...

...gullible, but he is a scientist, and it would make sense that eventually he'll get hip to the fact that the data doesn't seem to compute.

Charlotte's a skeptic who refused to believe the 815 news even when it was there in black and white, but then again I wonder if this

was the Apocalypse Now allusion we were meant to see, rather than the more obvious one.

Who exactly is the hunter and who is the hunted?

The pilot, who memorized the manifest, has already pegged Juliet as an anomaly - and he also seems to have heard about indigenous populations on the Island.

And just imagine what kind of whispers Miles is going to be hearing in this place! He's not going to be able to walk a mile without one ghost or another kvetching at him. Boone! Shannon! Stop arguing already!

More importantly, how do we know what secrets these newcomers are hiding? I mean it can't be an accident that they brought their very own Do It Yourself Purge kit.

This was a hard episode for a little old fangirl like me to properly digest and I can't pretend to have made any startling new discoveries here. There was a ton of new material, including so much I had to put aside for the moment. Like why do I remember that Seth Norris was the co-pilot, but the newscast was calling him the pilot? And why was Alex so upset at the thought of Ben dying? Does she love him like a father after all? Why did Jack keep trying to play hardass about the phone with Miles, but then let him have the phone and talk on it privately and ... uh, just walk off with it whenever he wanted?

Do you think Jack is telling the truth about being the smartest little boy in his med school?

Who is Ben's "man on the boat" and how is he communicating with him? Why couldn't George come to the phone? He's got better things to do?

In a fictional universe like this, the writers are the gods. They decide what we need to know and when and how. They get to make up the rules as they go along. Like Ben, they give us two lies for every truth. They're building dead ends into their maze so that there's no way we'll find the magical exit until the time is right. But this episode seemed a bit remarkable in the way some things became a lot clearer.

So, here are the Four Things I learned from this episode. Call it Lost for Dummies.

1. Magnets can make weird things happen.

2. Death is but an illusion.

3. There's a Big Bad behind all this.

4. Ben is Da Boss.

Until next week anyway. Things can change on a dime around here.

I may not be able to process everything they throw at us on this show, but at least I'm smart enough to know when I'm being toyed with.


getlost said...

One of your best Fish! Not sure what to make of these 4, I image I'll hate 2 of them, be neutral about 1 and absolutely love the last one.

Props to Drew Goddard and Brian Vaughn for knocking it out of the park!

frizzielizzie said...

Nice job of trying to unpack this one. I think we'll be coming back to this episode throughout the rest of the season, picking over it and understanding more as the story unfolds.

Anonymous said...

Really really excellent Fish! A great read as always, and you did manage to clear up alot of things for me about the ep, as well as clue me in on more of the 'geeky' stuff. Looking forward to next week. Is it here yet?!?!

so original said...

awesome recap Fish! So much to digest in this episode, having it laid it like this gives it the illusion of being easier to understand.

Love the newbies!

Lynn said...

Fantastic recap, Fish! As someone who admittedly is more interested in the characters of the story I have to say that this episode really captured my attention..I found myself going, WTF many times, being shocked/surprised many times and really just loving it! And for the first time I was actually looking forward to another centric focused on one of these characters - something that never happened with the tailies.

You bring up a lot of interesting points, and as always so many things I didn't know that are worth pondering.

Anonymous said...

I can't quite whip the smile off my face at your reference to the 'Talisman'. Almost every character on this show has had one, it would seem. I've read that book at least six, and never cease to be amazed how enthralling it is. If the writers are plagarizing that piece of work from King...than I say more power to them. ;-) Anyways, I thought this episode was great; and I completely agree, we are being toyed with, and I love it! I don't know what it all means, and that's okay. It's sure fun to speculate about. Kudos to Drew Goddard (you handsome devil) and Brian K Vaughn for introducing these four new characters so seamlessly into the Lost universe. Great review, Fish.


Anonymous said...

Very thought-provoking, Fish. This was a complex episode and it's nice to have your helpful cliff notes. I think it's amazing that they were able to introduce 4 characters and I didn't immediately resent or dislike any of them (as opposed to the tailies). I'm most intrigued by Lapidus. Must be the eyes...
Thanks for another great recap!


Anonymous said...

Great recap Fish one of the best ever!


Anonymous said...

That was a top-class recap, Ms. Fish! what is always so attractive about your recaps (apart from to-die-for sense of humour, witty language and what not) is the little things and the way you bring them out to the light.
Oh, and now i have to go and put on some nerd goggles and read it all on Lostpedia, because your recap made me want to ))
that was certainly as good a watching the epi and sometimes even better.

Anonymous said...

dear fish

i enjoyed reading your recap. thanks.


lyly ford said...

awesome recap fish ;)

Anonymous said...

Great recap, Fish! I love your insight into the new guys and comparisons of them to the Fantastic 4, etc. Can't wait to see next week!

Anonymous said...

For a "little old fangirl" like you, you've done a particularly super job with this one Fish! It's certainly up there with your best work yet! I may not have read the information about those Vortices otherwise too, so I'm so glad you included it here since it is definitely worth reading about.

Whatever happens on this show, I'll always be tuning in here for your forever brilliant take on the ep every week Fish - it's as much a part of my weekly entertainment as the show itself is!

- Midnight

talliann said...

Great recap of the episode. So many new questions and four interesting characters to keep an eye.

LostTvFan said...

Exactly who is the hunter and who is the hunted? Great questions Fish. Amazing how our Losties have become the new Others. One of your best reviews for one of the best episodes. Better than the opening one for this season and that's saying something. Now with the strike settled, we have so much more to look forward to....Lost rules, I am loving S4.

Anonymous said...

Fish, I had a crazy busy weekend, and I've forced myself to wait to read this recap until I knew I had ample time to sit and read slooowly (because that's the only way I'll read your writing) and to absorb every word not just once, but twice. I'm so glad I did!

As corny as it sounds, you really do make me proud to be a Skater. You make us all look good. If I was asked to write episode recaps, I'd be forced to focus mostly on character and relationship issues, because so much of the rest of it goes right over my head. But you not only incorporate that aspect (which so many fanboy reviewers don't bother to), you also gather up every relevant mystery and plot-related tidbit as well, so that even us shippers can get our geek on.

Nothing makes me as excited about the whole show as reading your recaps. Every time I finish one, I have the urge to go and watch every episode of Lost from the beginning. And this just may be one of the best yet. (Bonus... it's loong! The longer, the better, IMO.)

Thanks so much for making the sci-fi and literary references easier to understand. I honestly don't get how people who don't go online can even make sense of Lost. Seems to me like about 50% of the relevant content can only be gleaned from doing homework, and as long as that homework involves coming here, then I hope to remain a straight A student.

(And on a completely shallow note, I laughed my ass off at the comparison of Jack and Kate to the Pevensie siblings. Perfect!)

-Leah Kate

Sophie said...

Whoa! You sure have gone into a good recap. I never realised that Charlotte's initials are C.S Lewis. I loved your comparison with the newbies and Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe characters. Maybe your on to something, whilst in Narnia, time stops which is a theory about what happens in Lostville.

I also loved the Sawyer bit, about Locke using Sawyer's hurt against him, something I never noticed. (I'm so slow hehe)

Anonymous said...

I don't believe for a moment that you don't know the difference between a farad and a coulom. You've probably written a textbook on it and are just being modest.