Saturday, January 31, 2009


"If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there." - Anton Chekhov

This episode was filled with satisfying little clicks of recognition. So many clues that we'd last seen circling around in the eddies of past episodes bobbed back up to the surface and began to fit together with a kind of sense. Many moons ago, for instance, in the distant shadows of Season Two, Ana Lucia found a U.S. Army knife on the body of a dead Other, a mystery too tiny to even call a red herring.

But my how that little herring grew. Not only was the U.S. Army on the Island at one point, they inspired the khaki tent city concept that the Others continued to favor for many years. Gee, that WWII surplus was sturdy stuff.

But tent technology wasn't the only way that the peripatetic U.S. Army spread goodwill to the far corners of the globe. The Hostiles borrowed guns and uniforms from the soldiers they massacred, soldiers who were apparently part of the mid 20th century American adventure that turned the South Pacific into a vast playground of thermonuclear Duck Duck Goose.

But with Lost, it's all about the clues. In episodes like this one, the story is just a scaffold to hang clues on. And the name on the bomb (the name of an actual cryogenic weapons system that the U.S. Army fielded but never fired) was a clue of the low hanging fruit variety.

Take that clue and put it together with the name stenciled on the young soldier's shirt...

...and you end up with one of Time Travel's greatest heroes: Jughead Jones, Time Cop!

Jughead Jones and his teenie weenie time-traveling beanie spent five collectors item editions of Archie Comics policing the timestream. His mission was to make sure no one tampered with the ineluctable modality of Time as it always was, is and always will be. In other words, Jughead was out there doing the hard work of Course Correction long before Daniel Faraday was a gleam in Mrs. Hawking's pretty eyes. He bounded into Timespace with his lovely deputy, Charlotte .... er, January McAndrews, to make repairs to history, so that time could do what it has to do, which is to keep happening exactly the same way over and over, no matter how many goofy interlopers manage to land in the middle of situations they have no business being part of.

So, this episode was a story, as it seems all future stories on Lost will be, about Time Travel. Desmond, inspired by his shiny new memory of having just met Daniel Faraday four years ago the night before, returned to Daniel Faraday's time travel lab at Oxford and found it a rather more sinister Little Shop of Horrors than he'd remembered. Truth be told, there was always something a little creepy about that greasy haired rat lover.

Watchers of ABC's enhanced version of last week's The Lie were privy to a bit of information that the story itself hasn't told us yet, but certainly will in weeks to come. Mrs. Hawkings' first name was Eloise, the same name as Daniel's wee little maze runner. And given that Desmond's mission to find Daniel's mother seemed to be leading him all too obviously back to Mrs. Hawkings, that means Daniel was the sentimental sort of doting son who named his lab rat after Mommy....right before he killed her in his time twisting torture device.


But that wasn't all there was to learn about Daniel in this episode. It seems that, all schmoopiness with Charlotte aside, Daniel was the kind of boyfriend in the past who left his girlfriends with something they would never be able to forget. Or remember. When Daniel ran out of rodents to give brain aneurysms to, he switched to human subjects.

And the result of those unholy experiments was a scandal that left a poor girl named Theresa permanently lost to the timelessness of coma. The name Theresa was another one of those long forgotten clues. Remember Boone appearing in a dream to Locke in Season One's Deus Ex Machina? Remember how "Theresa fell down the stairs, Theresa fell up the stairs"?

Well, we finally got to meet Theresa.

Poor girl is literally coming and going for all eternity, all thanks to that cute little time scamp Faraday. If you look on the bookshelf behind the head of Theresa's male nurse, there might have been another clue in the book title, something to stow away for future reference.

The Lost Book is a common way to refer to the Inventio Fortunata, a book allegedly written by a monk from Oxford

and later recovered by a man named Jacobus Cnoyen, who popularized it before losing it again. This book that didn't want to stay found described the North Pole as a magnetic island surrounded by a violent maelstrom, and helpfully described this magnetic island as being made from "Rupes Nigra", or in Lost lingo - Black Rock. And yeah, I'm going on the assumption that absolutely none of this is random.

We learned that Daniel's hands are no cleaner than any other character's on Lost. Not only is he ok with abandoning the wretched refuse of his unethical experimentation, but he's been funded all along by one of the grand high villains of the piece, Charles Widmore. At least it seems like Widmore's a bad guy. He is paying for the girl's care, which is big of him. And he keeps cooperating with Desmond, despite claiming to despise him, which is sort of odd and inexplicable. But the visit to Widmore's office was a fun field trip to Cluemania. We got another glimpse of the wonderful painting that hangs behind Widmore's desk.

The one with the Polar Bear and Namaste and the Buddha and the mountaintops that look like the ones on the Island. It's a masterpiece of clue dropping. And the painting by Jackson Pollock that hung behind the receptionist, might only have been a shoutout to the great splash artist, whose 97th birthday coincided with the U.S. airdate of this episode, but it reminded me as well how memories are being built up under the Lawz of time travel as it exists in the Lostverse. Just as Pollock continuously added layers of paint, continuously altering the vision of the layers beneath, so does each subsequent trip to the past in our story create new memories that bubble up into the future.

Once a time traveler sticks his foot into places he has never been before, this new version of the past seems to patch in a new memory for those involved. We saw this with Desmond's willingness to sail all the way back to England once Daniel managed to insert a new memory into his consciousness by tampering with past events. But the most fascinating example was definitely the game Locke and Richard were playing called Compass, Compass, Who's Got the Compass?

Last season, we saw Richard try to identify Locke as the Island's baby Dalai Lama by getting him to choose the compass as the item he had once owned. Locke however had a knife fetish even at that young age and had no memory of ever owning the compass.

Of course that was because Richard hadn't given him the compass yet, which we saw him do last week. But where did Richard get the compass?

Duh. He got it from Locke!!! The compass has no original owner. It was Locke's before it was Richard's before it was Locke's. We're spinning in circles.

Once again in this episode, Locke forlornly informed an Other that he was their Leader. And once again, the Other looked at him like he was crazier than a Bessie Bug. Which is an understandable reaction when it comes to Locke.

But Richard was at least thoughtful enough to hear Locke out. And apparently he took it to heart. In another one of the circles within circles, memories splashed down on top of older memories to create new ones. In this way, the future continues to create the past. Locke is the Leader of the Others because Richard told him he was the Leader. And why did Richard tell Locke he was the Leader? Because Locke went back in time and told Richard that he had told him that he was the Leader! But why did Locke think he was the Leader when he told Richard he was the Leader? Because in the future...or the present....or someplace....Richard told Locke he was the Leader! It sounds confusing but it's really no more confusing than the idea of a circle itself. After all, look hard at any circle and try to put your finger on the point where the circle begins. It has no beginning, and neither does the chain of Cause and Effect in our story.

Informed that his Leader would be born two years in the future, Richard verified Locke's information by making a visit to the hospital to witness the birth of the "sodding old man" in 1956. The baby who would one day return as intrepid time traveler to give up his life to save the Island that gave meaning to his life in the first place.

This all makes good sense. In the Lostverse, there is nothing that can ever pry apart the death grip of Cause and Effect. Certainly not a piffling thing like time travelers bouncing around in time like a hubcap across a six lane highway. While Desmond is searching for Daniel Faraday's Mum in Oxford, Daniel himself has traveled back in time to meet a very familiar looking young lady named Ellie, no doubt a nickname for Eloise, as in Eloise Hawking. (Thank you, ABC Pop-up Department!)

And while she looks pretty damn annoyed with his prattle about time travel, we've now had a very strong foreshadowing that this is exactly how Mrs. Hawking ultimately found her life's work:

Her own son inspired it by explaining Timespace to her about ten years before he was even born. And this, apparently, is how it always happened. Because whatever happened, happened. Mother and Son were arguing even before Mom had ever met Dad.

Speaking of which, who IS Daniel's Dad?

The revelation that Charles Widmore lived on the Island in his youth was the big bomb drop of the episode. It's certainly possible that Widmore and Ellie had a thang going on at some point and produced a love child that neither wanted to give their last name too. But I'm going a different way with it. One of the joys of time travel is that it allows us to fashion stories of exquisite absurdity without breaking any of their ironclad Lawz.

Let's take this adorable little family for example. Suppose for a minute that little Charlie Hume wasn't just named after Desmond's old partner in predestination, but that he had his mother's middle name as well. Perhaps his ID reads Charles Widmore Hume. And suppose his mom and dad, in their wanderings, ended up getting zapped in the time travel shrink ray, and ended up back on the Island lost to time. Hey, it could happen. Now suppose Penny and Desmond died. Definitely possible. And suppose little orphaned Charlie's paperwork got a little wet and all that could be read was Charles Widmore. The boy grows up to be a big nasty beast and by hook or by crook he ends up exiled from his Island home. He marries and, when his daughter is born, he names her after the remembered name of his mother. And in good time she, of course, gives her own dad!

That's right.

He's his own Grandpa! See? I knew it was possible!

All kidding aside, how DID the Hostiles end up on Lost Island? They seemed to have a preference for primitive weapons.

Were they descendants of the Black Rock sailors? Or perhaps of an even earlier civilization of marooned unfortunates? How far back? Does Richard's kohl eyed manscara indicate Egyptian roots of some sort? That might explain the hieroglyphs seen on Ben's secret chamber. But why are they speaking Latin? Latin is the language of Science. It's also the language of Faith. The Catholic faith, to be specific.

And we've certainly had many breadcrumbs strewn our way leading us down that path - from Eko's disguise to Desmond's brief stint in the seminary to most recently, the church Mrs. Hawking does her research in. And despite having killed the U.S. soldiers, there's something austere and priestly and mostly pacifist about Richard Alpert. Who IS the great and powerful Richard Alpert anyway?

The name "Richard Alpert" of course belonged to the Ram Dass, who sought 1960s style enlightenment through both Eastern religions and pharmaceuticals. But this story isn't going that way, or at least it doesn't seem so at the moment. This is a time travel story now. Richard appears to be Immortal. Or at least he's aging at a rate best measured by the half life of radium. He did not seem to have any prior knowledge of time travel until Locke sat him down for the talk. And, while he clearly knows who Jacob is, it doesn't seem that he is Jacob. It doesn't seem like he can even talk to Jacob without an intermediary, more like he's a kind of consigliore to him, not really entirely in the loop.

Is Richard a kind of Jack Harkness in this tale? A handsome devil whose ascent into immortality we haven't seen yet, a secondary but constant figure that guides the hero through a shifting timescape. It's not an exact comparison to be sure, but given the eponymous prop in this episode, I couldn't quite get it out of my head.

In fact, the whole episode was like that. I'm not going to pick too many nits though. I'll even let it slide that another Liz Sarnoff episode had a key plot point hinge on a shmoopy love declaration (cause, you know, Richard letting Daniel go because he loves Charlotte just gave me a hideous Eggtown flashback.) But it did feel at times like the more I tried to grasp it, the more it slipped through my fingers. I mean, when I hear a bizarre name on Lost, they've trained me to expect an explanation.

When an episode starts with Desmond screaming "Efren Salonga!" over and over at the top of his lungs, what diligent Lost fan doesn't jump straight to the Anagram Generator to figure out what clue they were giving us there? And what did we get?

Fear Angel Son?

Flaming Goners?

Females Groan?

Nah, we got nothing. It was, a weird name. Bah.

I had a few other questions too. Like what was that guy doing delivering Penny's baby anyway? If it was me, I would have reached down and pulled the baby out with my bare hands before I'd let a filthy troll wipe the whiskey and cigars off his hands and come at me with medieval hardware like that.

I found myself wondering why Desmond was dressed like the Fourth Doctor Who. Was that a shout out? Or is it a little known fact of time travel lore that timey wimeyness makes your neck cold?

Speaking of clothing, I wonder if the great wheel of Cause and Effect explains why Daniel keeps that tie on? If he takes it off, does the universe unravel?

The white rabbit on the shelf in Penny's super swank boat made me wonder ... Is there any chance at all that this story is still About Bunnies?

And one more thing: If Latin is a Dead Language, why can't Miles understand it?

I can't fault an episode that gave us so much to chew on and clicked so many loose ends into place. It was odd to have the story being carried forward with only TWO members of the original Losties left standing, Locke and Sawyer. Now it's not as if I can't go an episode without a new Jackface to add to my collection. And I can always enjoy an episode if it's got enough Sawyer in it, especially now that he's all Hot Hero Man.

But I didn't understand why Widmore sent Desmond to Ben's BFF, Mrs. Hawking, considering the danger that puts Penny in. And I still don't get why only a select few characters get to time zap. Plus, I'm pretty sure Rose and Bernard aren't dead, even though there seems to me to be no logical reason why they wouldn't be. Some beliefs need to stay suspended, even on a show as tightly written as Lost. Which brings us back to The Bomb. Or as I like to call it, the gun on the mantelpiece.

Obviously the Hostile Others took Faraday's advice and buried the thing in cement once their alien visitors bopped off into timespace. But where is it? Was it buried under the Swan? Is that what caused the great detonation that happened when the button wasn't pushed? I can't buy that. It may have used an obsolete technology, but I still think a hydrogen bomb of that size could have easily vaporized even a magical Island. The only thing that would have been left is Richard Alpert's Chesire Cat grin. But we've been shown the gun. It has to go off at some point. Only question is....When?

Come to think of it, with what's been going on in this story, that turns out to be a very loaded question.


Anonymous said...

I didn't catch half of those references! Great re-cap.

Crystal said...

Seriously. I didn't even remember the knife Ana-Lucia found in season two. Nice catch, Fish! I really enjoyed this review. It blew my mind as much as the episode did. LOL.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant connections. How much time must they have spent weaving this story together?

Benny said...

Locke DID pick the compass, along with the vial of sand and the knife.

It is when John picks the knife that Richard reacts. Just before, John had put aside the two previous items.

Anonymous said...

The Widmore-Hawking-Ben thing is interesting, it seems both Widmore and Ben have no idea the other is working with the same woman. If Widmore did know, he surely wouldn't send Des (and evidently Penny) there.

If Ben knew, he probably wouldn't seem so intimidated by Hawking.

If Widmore knows, he may be trying to secure a spot for himself on the journey back to the island...

Anonymous said...

Great review. Lost is becoming more and more confusing for me but reviews like this help to make it easier to get. At least some parts ;)

beth said...

Wow...just wow. Your connections seem to fit and have cleared up a lot of my questions about this mindfrak of a show. How do you do it? Jughead Jones? Incredible. Hey, are they paying you? Do you work for JJ and Lindelof ;) You should write for them! Great work - I enjoy your witty recaps and painstaking attention to details!

Anonymous said...

About the compass. Pretty much everything I've read says that the the compass has no beginning or end. That can't be correct though because the compass must mean something to Richard or else it wouldn't be the key to winning his trust.

This leads me to believe that Richard already has a compass and that for 1954 to whatever date Locke was given the compass in the jungle, there must have been two in existence (which could never come near each other without exploding the universe or somesuch).

patty said...

am i the only one who is sad this is no longer on dark ufo? i loved seeing all the fan boys up in arms over fish's review now the only people who comment on docs blog are us :(

fishes reviews used to get 200 comments every recap

Anonymous said...

Great review as always, Fish! You pick up things I never even noticed every time!!! Just a question... I can't find FBL at all and I really miss it... Can anyone help?


Anonymous said...

That's where FBL is now.

Anonymous said...

I love reading you reviews. Widmore is Widmore's grandfather?!?!?!?!?! I LOVE it, sooooo Funny.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great recap and for the second week in a row putting a big smile on my face by referencing my other favorite show Doctor Who (and Torchwood as well).