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. Read more...

Friday, January 23, 2009


....Lost becomes a different show!

(Note: This will be a combined review of both Because You Left and The Lie. The reason for this is that I am one of those lucky people that still has a job in this economy, and writing TWO of these things in one week is kinda sorta totally impossible.)

In many ways this was Old School Lost. It opened with the annual Oh Snap! revelation of a mysterious headless person's identity.

The numbers said Hi.

We saw dead people.

We got a spritz of love triangle flavored angst.

Locke fell backwards from a high place.

Hurley was the sad clown.

There were quirky self referential inside jokes.

And just when it seemed the night might end without a new Jackface, we got one of those too!

It all felt kind of the same. And yet...and didn't. Something felt different. It seems our old friend Lost has had a bit of a makeover during the hiatus. Where it used to be a show that dabbled in time travel, such as in The Constant where time travel added resonance to the theme of love lost and love's constancy found, in Season Five the heads up was given that this show is not just using time travel any longer to tell a tale - It's ABOUT time travel. It took them four seasons to cough up this revelation in its entirety, but here we have it. And with that Lost fell head first into the rabbithole of paradox and annoying unanswerable questions that are the nature of the time travel beast.

Does time travel go forward, backward, in a loop? Are past events fixed or can the future be reset? Does the time traveler age? What happens to his memories - the ones he already has and the new ones he creates? And what about paradox? What happens when a person travels into the past and sets off a chain of events that preclude any possibility that they could ever have existed to set off that chain of events? Might it really be possible for someone to be his own grandpa?

If Sawyer and Juliet had gone back to the beach while the hatch was still blown, while the beach camp and all its inhabitants were still there, would they have been able to warn themselves about what was to come? Would there have been two shirtless Sawyers on our screen at the same time? Or is that what they mean by the Casimir Effect, that must be avoided at all costs?

One problem with time travel is that a minority of viewers with an unreasonable amount of education tend to intimidate the rest of us with their foofaraw about string theory and exotic matter and closed timelike curves and just generally dazzle us with their stratospheric mathspeak into forgetting that none of this makes a lick of frakking sense.

I mean, if the explanation lies in the existence of a rotating Black Hole that fails to produce a singularity, thereby creating a White Hole fueled by negatively energized exotic matter that can bloop anything within it to infinity and beyond...then are we really doing anything different than pretending that a file cabinet at LesterCorp in the Mertin Flemmer Building can be hiding the entrance to John Malkovich's head?

I think the whole thing is best explained thusly:

We need to enjoy time travel for what it is - total and complete nonsense, no more coherent than Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. But just because it's Wonderland, that doesn't mean it's an anarchy. It's just that the laws, the rules, can be whatever the writers decide to make them. So the first order of business, as we set out on the journey of Season Five, is to establish just exactly what rules these fiendish minds have chosen for this brave new world they've brought us into. What's the answer, Mr. Wizard?

Lost may have seemed like a whimsical world of pretty people undergoing existentialist crises while trapped in an absurdist tropical madhouse, but by tossing all its cookies into the time travel realm, our story has suddenly become constricted by a very stringent set of imaginary, but nonetheless absolute, Rulez and Lawz. If we're going to stay on this ride, we need to live them, learn them, love them. So, I'd like to take a first crude stab at codifying them. With sincere apologies to all time travel purists who are offended by my flippant attitude towards this most sanctified realm of science fiction, I hereby present my version of


1. Time is like a street.

You can travel up the street and down the street but you can not make a new street. I don't know why this is. If time can be a frakking street why can't we make as many Time Streets as we want? Because the Time Fairy says so, that's why. In Time Travel Island, there is only one Time Street. It's like an old Western town with just one dusty road down the middle, with lots of crazy gin joints lined up on it. This is not Alternate Universe style time travel here.

2. Even though you can't make a new Time Street, it seems you can sort of fold Time Street back onto itself.

Or maybe it's like a four way intersection. As an example, The Ghost of Ethan Past shot Locke in the leg, which could possibly explain (in a murky kind of timey wimey way) why Locke fell inexplicably lame years later when he and Boone "first" encountered the Beechcraft in Season One.

3. Traffic accidents are always an imminent threat on Time Street.

If a car traveling forward has a head on collision with a car traveling backward, it seems the byproduct of that collision will be the creation of a new memory where that memory didn't exist before. Desmond didn't remember the day Daniel knocked on his door to ask him to visit his Mum at Oxford U., until Daniel's car backed up on Time Street and sideswiped Desmond's car going forward. Of course, the Paradox Monster comes into play here, since if Desmond knew it was possible to exist outside the hatch without a space suit, he wouldn't have been sitting there listening to Mama Cass when Locke first came to visit. But pay no attention to the Paradox Monster! That's what our Magical Time Travel Wand is for. Be gone, Paradox! This is not that difficult, people.

4. The mind can travel through time without the body, but the body can not travel through time without the mind.

Also you get to keep the clothes on your back when you time travel, and your cool Zodiac boat, but you can't bring any matches.

6. The characters are not driving their own cars on Time Street.

There is no time travel device, no Wayback Machine or Delorean, that can be calibrated to control the time travel. It's all freestyle. The timeskippers are helpless passengers at the mercy of the Time God. This means they could end up literally anywhere at any time. The implications are fascinating. For instance, at one point Sawyer pulls a stick out of his bloody oozing foot.

This being the tropics, and Sawyer being one of those who seems immune to the healing properties of the island, that thing might well end up as a case of gangrene. Now that Sawyer and his foot are being held hostage on an Island careening madly down Time Street, could stepping on that broken arrow ultimately turn out to be the explanation for this?

5. When time trips out on Time Street, you might wake up and find that the Time God has hijacked your car and someone else is driving it.

The possibilities are pretty exciting actually. The Leftover Losties have already encountered a gang of barbaric soldiers with British accents, the kind of guys who will launch a flaming arrows massacre and then hunt you down and chop off your hands. So that's going to be fun. This is where not being able to drive your own Time Car is going to be a huuuuge problem.

7. Only major characters can time skip. Anyone without a long term contract with ABC pretty much has to stay put in whatever intersection on Time Street they've been stranded on. This is an adjunct to the Rule of Redshirt, wherein only SAG day laborers die, even when withering medieval death rains from the sky.

The pretty people will live to see another harrowing adventure. The actors who didn't keep up on those dental appointments will be flipping burgers back at Wendy's on Monday.

8. The memories of the timeskippers travels with them, while those of the fixed characters seem to disappear. This explains why Richard was so disappointed that Baby Locke didn't remember being given a compass in the "past", and insisted on grabbing the knife instead.

Little Locke didn't remember he had once owned the compass because Big Locke hadn't been given it yet.

And Richard didn't remember that the little boy with the Brylcream hair was the same person as the baldheaded mook with the crazy eyes, because Richard was not timeskipping at the time. Yet he does remember that he's not going to remember, because....

...I don't know. I think there might be a lot of drunk drivers on Time Street.

9. The source of the Time God is something that's buried deep in the heart of the Island.

The episode began with a flurry of question answering. Marvin Candle used to have two arms. He was also kind of a dick to his workers. It turns out he came to the Island because he was fully aware of its magical time traveling properties. And even though he made all those misleading videotapes for the Dharma Initiative, he had no problem spilling the big secret to any hardhat who was working on the project. The Dharma Initiative did not put the eightspoked wheel of Time Bloop in the belly of the island. It was there before they came. And it is unclear whether anyone had ever decided to actually turn the thing before Benjamin Linus took it upon himself to finally do the deed.

10. Time travel makes your brain bleed out of your nose unless you have a constant.

Actually the concept of the Constant remains undefined. It may be that this theme was only useful for the one episode, as a metaphor for Desmond and Penny's fidelity, or it may resurface later in some interesting permutation, such as the Oceanic Six (or perhaps just one of them) being the Constant that the Island needs to keep it from having a stroke. It was also unexplained why Charlotte was the only one of the timeskippers whose nose bled. Desmond's nose bled when his 1996 traveled to the future, and Eloise's brain bled out because of future travel as well. But the reasons for the nosebleeds suffered by Minkowski, Horace Goodspeed and the mineworker don't lend to easy explanation. My guess is whatever the reason for Charlotte's nosebleed, she's been tagged as a goner. After all, how are they going to maintain the constant 3:1 ratio of Male:Female characters on this show if they don't keep up the pace killing off the girls?

11. Whatever happened, happened.

This actually appears to be the penultimate Rule of All Rules in the Book of Lawz. This will not be a reset style time travel story. Cause will follow effect, in exactly the same determinist manner as they appear to do in our real world. Anything that seems as if it might be a rip in the fabric of time will be healed by ensuing events. This concept was previously described for us as Course Correction, which is more formally known as Novikov's Self Consistency Principle. And we may have been seeing this all along, how past and future knit together to make sure, for example, Locke doesn't climb up to the Beechcraft and fall and die.

Instead Boone gets to be the lucky one.

Because destiny, know, the Island...demanded it. In a way this is bound to the idea that, since everything causes something else in a way that is fixed and immutable, the known result in effect causes itself to happen. Charlie died because he'd been told he had to die in order to create a future that in actuality never required him to die. The future causes the past just as surely as the past causes the future. The way this Book of Lawz has been written, there is no element of chance. Whatever is going to happen has already happened - sort of like whether Kate will choose Sawyer or Jack - and we just have to wait patiently to see how it is all going to play out.

12. Desmond is uniquely and miraculously Special.

For Desmond, and only for Desmond, none of these rules apply. Right after Daniel explained to Sawyer that he must not interact with the past because he could not interact with the past....Daniel immediately tried to interact with the past. And he succeeded. The only example Desmond gave of his Ultimate Rule was its exception. Not only did Daniel change the past by telling Desmond to visit his Mum in Oxford, he immediately altered the future that would have been, because that memory sprang into Desmond's future consciousness, at just that very moment, and he dashed off to do what he had been told to do so many years in the past, that he had never remembered being told until that moment. Obviously this is how they are going to escape the Paradox Monster, by letting Desmond be a free agent in the timescape. Desmond is the wild card that will keep the story from spiralling into a void of pointless repetition.

So there we have it. The rules of order have been laid down and now we will see what kind of story can be spun from them. This is New Lost, which hopefully won't suffer the same fate as New Coke, but which is definitely not the same as Old Lost. The premiere seems to have generated good buzz, but I wonder if I'm the only one who felt a little something was missing. A little...I don't know...heart. Maybe it was just a casualty of time - the real kind of time - where because there was so much to stuff into one episode, there was only time to give us the bare bones of each character's story. Interestingly, every character was represented, if only in flashback mode. And some characters definitely seemed to be taking on new importance.

Widmore scolded Sun for disrespecting him, but they continued to bond over their mutual agenda. It is starting to seem that, among Mr. Widmore's many assets, he also wields a controlling interest of some kind in Oceanic Airlines itself.

Capo Kwon really put the screws to Kate, even though I'm pretty sure Kate didn't get it. No way Sun forgives either Kate or Jack for what happened to Jin. And she seems awfully interested in Aaron having a play date with Ji Yeon, even though that seems like it would involve a rather inconvenient amount of transoceanic plane travel.

Little Aaron has grown up to the stage where he's asking cute metaphysical questions about his morning cartoons. He's really talking now! Unfortunately, his function in the plot at the moment seems to be that of sacrificial lamb. It still seems that he's the one the Island is ultimately after.

Kate feels really, really bad about everything. She's scared because it seems some genius has finally realized the Big O6 Lie was full of holes, and now her charade with Aaron is about to be exposed. But she didn't call Jack! Good girl.

Jack, meanwhile, shaved off his addictions with a Gillette Mach 2. I wonder why more crackheads don't just try this excellent method of detox. It seems to be so much more comfortable than the more conventional weeping and vomiting and convulsions method.

Sayid had a comic book Death by Dishwasher fight in the not safe house, but after that he mostly got a chance to catch up on his rest.

Ben as usual has his spoon in every cooking pot. Once he sends Jack toddling home to pack up his undies, he manages to get Locke put on ice with a creepy Mrs. Lovett kind of butcher lady. For such a socially awkward dweeb, Ben sure has friends everywhere! He screwed up with Hurley though and had to run off to say his prayers before getting a smackdown from the Grand High Mistress of Time Mystery herself, the ivory coiffed Mrs. Hawking.

Mrs. Hawking seems to have truly mastered the synergy between Faith and Science, planting her geotracking math lab in the bowels of an ancient Catholic church.

Hurley was heavily featured in these premiere episodes. It turns out that only Hurley saw the flaws inherent in the stupid, self serving Lie that was concocted on The Searcher. His basic sincerity and goodheartedness has been in constant conflict with The Lie since the day he returned. Nonetheless he is bound and determined to never go back - at least, not if it means he has to go back with Ben. It was good to see Hurley again. Even if we can't understand what the hell is going on in the plot, Hurley grounds us. No matter how complex Lost gets, they never forget to remind us that Hurley...

... is fat.

Juliet continued to be the most heroic of characters. She was brave, selfless and good. Clearly, she'll meet a tragic end.

Miles also talks to dead animals. They say "Eat me."

Charlotte seemed to be embarking on one of those fakey EQ-deficient romances with Daniel, the kind of romance that Lost likes to put its female characters in right before they get killed off.

Daniel's role in the story increased exponentially in size. He is the skinny tied Tooter Turtle of our story,

the keeper of the Book of Lawz, and as such, has been designated as the character who will keep up the facade that this new time travel fantasy is based in something resembling science. What's more, Professor Faraday has clearly been a busy boy. My guess is that the scene of him appearing down in the mineshaft, in the opening minutes, takes place in a part of the past that Daniel has not yet visited.

I think his journey to the center of the earth is going to be one of the ongoing story threads of the coming season, because Daniel knows a lot, but he's still in search of the ultimate answer, the uncaused cause of all this chaos.

Desmond is "uniquely and miraculously special." He is the living embodiment of Godel's Incompleteness Theory. The one aberration in the Book of Lawz. This will certainly be spelled out in greater detail as the story unfolds. In New Lost, Desmond has morphed from Odysseus back to the guy who makes his own kind of music.

The shapeshifting of some characters felt like as much of a set up as the laying down of the new time travel lexicon. But as much as I enjoyed watching them set up the board for the new game, I have to admit there was something missing for me. I didn't really feel anything from any of these characters - except one.

Sawyer seems to be the one character who has survived all this time trippage with his heart and soul intact. When he broke down at the hatch that Daniel wouldn't let him enter, when he growled "I know what I can't change", the despair and the grief that was ravaging him came through like heartbreak. For me, that was the only genuine moment of real emotion in the whole two hours. Sawyer has become more than just the Han Solo of Lost.

He's becoming the Everyman, the entry point for the audience. He asks normal questions. He worries about normal things, like getting food. He feels real pain and real loss that the sacrifice he made for Kate ended up sending her (he thinks) to her death. Who would ever have guessed in Season One that the emotional heart of this story would ever turn out to be Sawyer?

Of course, Lost being Lost, it's not as if we weren't left with dozens of new questions in this episode:

How exactly did the Island's movement in Time make it impossible to see its location in Space?

WHY does Locke have to die to get the O-Suckers back?

Why will the whole plot fail if Locke isn't brought with them? Does Locke have some kind of metareligous resurrection waiting for him?

How did people like Richard, Ethan and Tom travel back and forth to the Island so cavalierly in earlier seasons, if the whole thing has suddenly become so confoundedly difficult?

Was it significant that, when Desmond cranked up the anchor on his boat, the chain kept running down?

Is it worth noting that Dr. Chang was wearing a lab coat from The Arrow Station, designated for the development of defensive strategies against the Hostiles, when we have now learned that the weapon of choice for some earlier hostiles was indeed holocaust by flaming arrow?

Was it a coincidence that whenever the Time God did his oogedy boogedy, it looked so much like Smoky?

But most importantly, I'm wondering this: If everything course corrects, if everything happens as it happened and there's no possibility of interference, why is Mrs. Hawking having such a cow over the possibility that the O6 won't all go back? Unless that Rule is not true, it doesn't seem like human intervention is required here.

So, is it true? If nothing can be changed, if everything happens as it must, then wasn't the escape of the O6 just all part of the grand inalterable scheme? And if they have to go back to make things work out right, then haven't they, on some other coordinate of the timespace grid, already gone back? What is everyone stressing about? Seems like all they need to do is chill out and let the universe work its will, right? So why is Ben lighting holy candles and saying his prayers?

Obviously the Book of Lawz has a few more chapters left to be studied.