Lost in Thought: The End


I was right... and I was wrong.

The series finale of
Lost, a more than two-hour final chapter long known to have been titled...



... revealed that the so-called
flashsideways scenes threaded throughout this season took place not in an alternate timeline, a theory that I espoused in my first 'Lost' in Thought post in January, nor in an altered version of the original timeline, as I theorized earlier this month, but in the afterlife. What we expected to have been the result in some way of the EM/Jughead Incident turned out to be utterly, well, incidental to the narrative of the series, including its conclusion, except insofar as it reaffirmed how bound together these characters were and granted them something of a happy ending.

I don't mind in the least having been wrong about what we were flashing to. And I'm not surprised to have been right about the finale neglecting to address pretty much any of the outstanding plot points itemized in my pre-finale post, much as I wish I hadn't been; the series is truly diminished for the lack of follow-through in those areas.

Yet the finale itself was a tremendous success as gripping, epic, emotional drama. It was as widescreen and intimate as the pilot. It brought more closure than I expected to the characters, both focusing on Jack and spotlighting the rest of the cast in a very satisfying way, and choked me up more than once. It was in and of itself Great Television, although of course it wouldn't mean much to anyone who hadn't followed the series to date.

When I say "in and of itself" I mean that "The End" did practically nothing wrong — there were certainly very few missteps or head-scratchers that occurred to me as it played — and had Season 6 been indicative of the rest of the series it would have been the perfect capper. The failure is really in the season that led up to this, not so much for what we got (even if some of it was rendered oddly superfluous) but for what we didn't get, or with previous seasons for introducing things that would never pay off. The previous 120 episodes, and particularly Seasons 1-5, wrote checks that "The End" couldn't cash, and it shouldn't have had to; Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse, and their staff had perhaps more time than any creative crew in the history of network television to craft not just a worthy series finale but a worthy finale season and they dropped the ball.

The climax and conclusion were pretty good, depending on how you split the hairs to segment the story. The season-long denouement that preceded them — per my laptop's New Oxford American Dictionary, "the final part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved" — left something to be desired, or, less charitably, didn't really exist; everything after the "in which" isn't really applicable to the series as whole.

I was so enamored of "The End" on Sunday night while so aghast at the creators' refusal to fulfill the quite literal promise of Lost's many outstanding individual episodes and its daring series arc that I could practically feel the synapses in my brain giving up. And my disposition towards the whole megillah has actually worsened since then. Initially the white stone tipped the scale, as my very itemization of the burning questions left unanswered before the finale helped me flush out some frustration and accept whatever happened on its own merits; I also knew that if I ever did rewatch the series, unlikely as that would be outside of a paying project, I'd have the commentary of Finding 'Lost' author Nikki Stafford's bloggerati and Totally 'Lost' guru Doc Jeff Jensen's hilariously, brilliantly pan-cultural theorizing to keep me company as we did the storytellers' job for them. Over the past day, however, deficiencies in the finale have become magnified to me, ones that might well have been acceptable for only becoming uncomfortably apparent in retrospect were they not piggybacking upon Lost's cumulative letdown.

There's much more to come after I organize my thoughts further and write more when rewatching the episode. Not a single note nor line of dialogue was scribbled so that I could take in the show as purely as my stuffy head would allow, and while I haven't been able to view it again yet I plan to do so shortly. You're more than welcome to respond to the above; just keep in mind that I haven't begun to dissect things yet and probably won't reply to specific points on the comments page until I cover them here. [Update: I've rewatched but also been dealing with a cold that has kept me far too fuzzy-headed to flesh out my notes and opinions.]

Lost in Thought: Don't Let Me Down


Okay, I guess my episode analyses are going to mirror one another somewhat, the way this season of Lost is at times mirroring itself, and the first season, and the series to date. There will be no individual writeup of last Tuesday's episode, "What They Died For", in advance of tonight's two-(plus-)part series finale, "The End", just as there was no writeup of the first individual hour of the season, "What Kate Does", following the two-part season premiere. Actually, my entry on "LA X" wasn't put up until later in the season, and is among the last of a handful of missing posts that have yet to be republished, but the way things have been going here lately even that fact will be reflected in a delayed post on "The End". My laptop has started acting hinky again, and the Internet connection has been at a crawl when it's been working at all, and my energy has been low lately, on top of all of which I've just come down with a cold.

Season 6 ends tonight and thus so does Lost as a whole, as you might have heard. Its finale airs at 9 p.m. EST on ABC, following a two-hour series retrospective at 7, and runs until 11:30; then, after the local news, the one-hour Jimmy Kimmel Live: Aloha to 'Lost' comes on at 12:05 a.m with cast members and creative staff. That's all true for the USA, at least; what reminds me of viewers outside our borders is that also immediately following the finale is a live online chat (just one of many, I'm sure) at the CTV website featuring my friend and Finding 'Lost' author Nikki Stafford.

Reviews of Iron Man 2 and 24 are sitting around half-finished, and the latter especially I'd like to get up before that show's own series finale tomorrow night, but right now I'll be lucky if these very words are online before the big event this evening. I really want to kick back and enjoy the last Lost as much as possible as television, ideally after catching up with comments from my clique at Nikki's blog, Nik at Nite, and Jeff Jensen's Totally 'Lost' insights for Entertainment Weekly.


Mario Perez photo © 2010 ABC Studios.


The subtitle for this installment of 'Lost' in Thought, however, a Beatles song that I just can't get out of my head, is not a reference to my own recent lack of bloggitude. No, I had the title slotted for my
episode analysis of "Across the Sea" in reference to Island Momma's desperate pleas to Jacob and Esau — until I realized that it perfectly summed up my and so many other viewers' feelings about "The End".

After the wildly uneven previous episode, overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time, I truly feared for
Lost's final few hours. The campfire scene in "What They Died For" went a long way towards assuaging those fears; as I put it at Nik at Nite, I can see given this episode how the next episode would be the finale. Jacob's conversation with the Candidates and Jack's assumption of Jacob's role was a nice, straightforward propulsion of the primary plot that followed well from last week's mega-flashback episode and the Candidates' recent Island adventures. But I still have the sinking feeling, based on what we've seen (or not seen) so far this season, on how little screen time is left, and on recent comments from the showrunners referenced in my last post, that the finale will leave unaddressed things that I feel should be addressed.

Here are eleven of the subjects that to my mind need to be covered for the narrative to wrap up in satisfying fashion. Not all of them require long-winded explanations; a few might, but in other cases a simple acknowledgement that
Lost's world just works this way or even an indication that yes, that is a mystery would suffice. Some are obviously related and others might be more related than we realize, but of course we have little beyond our own suppositions to go on.

2005-2007: We saw glimpses of the Oceanic Six's lives off the Island during this time, and know that the rest of the main characters lived a relatively normal life in the past during the equivalent 30 years ago. Did Jacob, Smokey and Claire, or Richard and the Others do anything significant in this period, and if not why the heck not?

The Numbers: I know we had them explained in "Lighthouse" as corresponding to the Candidates. But it's still unexplained as to why 4 8 15 16 23 42 were on the Hatch door and in the radio transmission, how they ended up as Hurley's winning lottery numbers if that was anything other than coincidence, and why, say, Kate's 51 wasn't among them.

Connectivity: How did these characters' paths cross so astoundingly in the original and altered timelines? Is their tangled web meant to be an indication of fate, an example of how everyone is connected, or an example of Jacob and/or the Island at work?

"Specialness": Walt has powers that seem to include willing things into happening. Desmond can not only survive bombardment by electromagnetic radiation but when doing so have his consciousness travel through time or perhaps across parallel dimensions. Miles and Hurley can communicate with the dead in different ways. Are there people with similar abilities all around the world? Is that just a fact of life in the universe in which Lost takes place? Are these abilities tied to the light that is within us all and if so tied to the Island?

Pallet Drops: Yeah... How did those work, exactly?

Eloise Hawking: When and how did she acquire the awareness she has, which clearly is not just limited to "book smarts" gleaned from Daniel's journal? How many spacetime cops like her are there?

Apparitions: Souls get trapped on the Island when they can't move on for some reason. Hurley sees dead people on and off the Island. Smokey can take the form of those who've died but has never been off the Island. There are still apparitions that took place on and certainly off the Island that aren't explained by any of these facts.

The Cabin: Was it ever one of Jacob's haunts? Did it serve a prison for Smokey, and if so, for how long? How does it move around, why does it appear when and where it does, what was up with Horace building it if that was indeed Horace, whose eye did Hurley see, and most importantly who or what was in there when Ben first brought John Locke to it, since we've actually never seen Smokey be invisible?

Weird Stuff: Even given time travel, healing powers, immortality, telekinesis, and necrotelepathy, wet backwards-talking Walt and comatose Sawyer's channeling of Wayne in front of Kate is some danged weird stuff.

The Island: How exactly does it travel through time and space? How does it stay hidden? How can anybody get to it? I'm not looking for mathematical equations but for clarification on the bits of apparently contradictory information that we've gotten on whether it exists fully in the same dimension as the rest of the world, how often it moves outside of turns of the Frozen Donkey Wheel, and what hides it from outside observers if a spike in the very energy that's apparently responsible for most of its unique properties is what revealed it to Penny's research team.

The Dharma Initiative: Its organizational history, fascinating though it must be, doesn't concern me as much as its presence on the Island as that ties into the previous questions. Why did Jacob let the Dharma folks flourish for as long as they did, and what led him to eliminate them if indeed the Purge was undertaken at his orders? Why would he let anyone come to the Island, beyond the need for a potential replacement, which wouldn't seem necessary if there were never anyone on the Island but him and his brother? Why did the Oceanic Six and friends need to recreate the conditions of their original crash if Jacob can bring people to the Island? Right now I'm not sure if Jacob summons particular vessels or just makes the Island accessible to those in the vicinity when he's ready for another batch of people to observe, and whether his actions, usage of an appropriate bearing, and outright accidents are the defined ways of ending up there. Apparently people have successfully escaped the Island to talk about its funkitude, beyond those given the secret knowledge of proper bearings by Jacob's followers, because the military and the Dharma Initiative, among others, made it a specific destination.

I've prioritized putting together one more round of free association in advance of tonight's episode, despite having more hopes and opinions to share along with some nifty links; my energy is low and there's no guarantee how long it or my Internet connection will hold out. One of the burning questions on viewers' minds is who David Shephard's mother will turn out to be, so once again I've opened up my consciousness to the universe and let the answer come to me by going with the next thing that pops into my head until arriving at an appropriate answer. You may scoff, but I correctly predicted that the mysterious Wallace named in the episode "Lighthouse" was actually Charles Widmore this way back in February. Ready? Enjoy and be edified!


David.


David Duchovny.


Gillian Anderson.


Wes Anderson.


Rushmore.


Rush.


Geddy Lee.


Harper Lee.


To Kill a Mockingbird.


"Tequila".


Pee-Wee Herman.


Herman Munster.


Monsters Inc.


Infinity Inc.


The Justice Society of America.


The Justice League of America.


Superman.


Batman.


The Joker.


Jack Nicholson.


"Jack and Jill".


Jill Sobule,
who must be terribly tired of having her song "I Kissed a Girl"
constantly associated with the newer one of the same name sung by...


Katy Perry.


Matthew Perry.


Friends.


"With a Little Help from My Friends".


Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.


The Queen of Hearts.


Royal flush.


Straight flush.


Dire Straits.


"Romeo and Juliet".


Juliet!

So as most of us thought, Juliet is David's mom. Actually, as this didn't get uploaded until after the finale aired, you can change "most of us thought" to "all of us now know" and "is David's mom" to... well... however you want to describe it given what this season's flashes were revealed to be.

I hope this wasn't too anticlimactic.

Images for free-association segment are the intellectual property of, where applicable, with photographer or artist credits given to the best of my immediate research, ABC Studios, 20th Century Fox Film Corp. (2), WireImage [Jesse Grant], Touchstone Pictures, Rush or Mercury Records, Shipguy via Wikipedia, Time-Life Pictures / Getty Images, J.B. Lippincott & Co., Challenge Records, Warner Bros. Pictures, Universal Studios, Pixar Animation Studios / Walt Disney Pictures, DC Comics [Jerry Ordway, Mike Machlan, unknown colorist, Gaspar Saladino], DC Comics [Alex Ross], DC Comics [Michael Turner, Peter Steigerwald], DC Comics / Warner Bros. Pictures (3), W.W. Denslow, Getty Images, WireImage (2), Warner Bros. Television, Getty Images for NARAS [Larry Busacca], EMI Group Ltd. or the creators (Robert Fraser, Peter Blake & Jann Haworth, Michael Cooper), John Tenniel, Shutterstock, DPS Distribution Ltd., Warner Bros. Records (2), and ABC Studios [Mario Perez], used in good faith.

Lost in Thought: Birthday


The posting of one Lost episode analysis the very day the next episode airs far from ideal, but...



... gave us much food for thought, so once again, thanks to a week's worth of cogitation, that lousy Internet connection you keep hearing about, and my own low reserves of the magical light that is inside of every man, here are my musings on the origins of Jacob and his brother, cutting it close. [Pseudo-Update: Loading pages has actually been so difficult that this is only getting posted several days after the text was pasted into Blogger's little composition window.]

I use the word "origins" advisedly, because we didn't just see the literal, physical birth of Jacob and his brother, known as the Man in Black, whom I took to calling Esau after he was introduced in last season's finale "The Incident". We saw their rebirths, their ascensions to the roles they play in Lost's present-day scenario, very much in the mode of comic-book or filmic superheroes and supervillains. Jacob drank the wine and assumed the mantle of Island protector; in the yin/yang, two-sides-of-a-coin irony that is a Lost motif as well as a longstanding tradition in movie adaptations of superhero sagas, he then empowered his own brother to oppose him by nearly killing him and transforming him into and/or bonding him with the flashing, shapeshifting black cloud known as Smokey.

Since we can't exactly trust anything Island Momma — who doesn't believe that it takes a village to raise a child, but that it's necessary to take out a village to save an Island — tells her foster sons, it's possible that Jacob could and did kill Esau, even possible that Esau and not Jacob is the Island's actual protector. I'll get back to that tantalizing theory later in the post, since the only way to organize my thoughts here is to go through the episode chronologically. Once again I have to thank the commenters at Nik at Nite for challenging so many of my initial reactions to this episode and prompting others; my friend Teebore has an especially good writeup of "Across the Sea" at his own blog, Gentlemen of Leisure.

Perhaps it makes the most sense to let the time-honored great lines and other interesting dialogue guide us through the episode and arrange my commentary that way.

Island Momma: "Every question I answer will simply lead to another question."

And in that line you have Lost in a nutshell. The writers have been not exactly breaking the so-called fourth wall but certainly tapping at it at certain moments throughout the season. Maybe this one was a reference to how viewers have felt to date, including to a surprising degree during this last run of episodes that's promised (at least via commercials and the implicit — sometimes, I think, fairly explicit — contract between the creators and the audience) to answer our questions with, well, answers. Maybe it's an indication that even "The End" will do little more than reveal mysteries inside of mysteries, sure to leave some of us frustrated. There's been quite a debate going about how much, or what, the show "should" answer to be satisfying and within that debate one about what the producers in fact consider questions that are to be answered; there's more on this later in the post, too.

I thought that Allison Janney, best known as C.J. Cregg from The West Wing, did a good job as the tight-lipped Island protector and adoptive mother of Jacob and Esau, a.k.a Brother, a.k.a. the Boy and then Man in Black. The kids themselves were less convincing, at least whenever they spoke; this episode was evidence of why actors usually put on generic British-English accents when playing characters in another time and place (Nazi Germany, ancient Rome, whatever) yet speaking English so as not to have subtitles running for an entire program: Your good old American voices, especially from the mouths of babes, tend to sound weak and whiny.


Screencap from Lost-Media fansite and © 2010 ABC Studios.


Island Momma, after delivering Jacob: "It's another boy."

Claudia: "I only picked one name."

Even at birth, wrapped in what would become their trademark colors, Jacob was serene and the Babe in Black was agitated — as if he knew from the start that he'd live his life without a name or sense of belonging. It seems that the Man in Black's name has never been used not because it would tip us off to some major revelation down the road but because he really doesn't have one. Were it not for the fact that Janney's character asks Claudia "Ago nomine appelarus?" [subtitles: "What are you called?"] and tells her she has a lovely name, it would be easy to believe that the very notion of names is foreign to Island Momma.

I took to calling her Island Momma, by the way, because of how, well, simple Jacob comes across. We get that he's more naive than his brother, but in this episode Mark Pellegrino plays him as only a few rungs up from Lennie in Ben Linus' beloved Of Mice and Men. The official credits simply have his adoptive mother as Mother, which is what he and "Esau" call her, but I easily imagine his plaintive, needy voice falling back on "Momma" — as in one of my invented scene variations of the night, when she intones the baruch atah of immortality and passes to him the mantle of Island guardian:

Momma: "It was always supposed to be you, Jacob; I see that now. Or at least that's what I'm telling y— I mean, uh, One day, you’ll see it too. But until then... You don't really have a choice."
Jacob: "I thought there was always a choice."
Momma: "You don't say that line for centuries, Jacob. Now drink."
Jacob: "Mmm. Wines is tasty, Momma!"

"Mama" is a short, simple word, and the variation of spelling I'd normally use, but "Momma" to me is pronounced by lingering on the initial M with a less open "ah" sound — the way Elvis would say it, the way it's invoked by John Travolta's Bill Clinton doppelgänger during the "Mommathon" in the film version of Joe [Anonymous] Klein's novel Primary Colors.

Now back to the analysis.

Momma: "Jacob doesn't know how to lie. He's not like you."
Esau: "Why? What am I like?"
Momma: "You're... special."

We've heard that word on this show before. But does she mean "special" like "Momma's favorite" special, or preternaturally special like Desmond, Walt, and others are special (if not all in the same way)?

It makes sense that Island Momma appreciated Esau's inveterate ability to lie, because she practiced controlled, profound deception with regularity. She professed there to be nothing "across the sea" and no other people on the Island, which was big-time untrue. I don't think she really left that game for Esau to find, either — as we've seen both Ben and the Man in Black do many times, I think she picked up on the answer most beneficial to her and gave it; her strange examination of the game right before her death, as if seeing it for the first time, reinforced my interpretation.

The game turns out to have been senet, which dates back to ancient Egypt — as does backgammon, also played with black and white chits or stones, and seen in Lost's very first episode as John Locke introduces a recurring concept when he describes it to Walt as "Two players. Two sides. One is light; one is dark." I got all Jeff Jensen recently telling blog buddy Teebore that Senet is clearly meant to invoke Mack Sennett, slapstick-comedy film director of the early 20th century, and thus lead us to "Mack the Knife" — a.k.a. Mackie Messer of The Threepenny Opera; obviously this means that there are actually three separate universes at work in Lost, each with their own Penny, and that the knife used by Esau to kill his mother (and later given by Temple master Dogen to Sayid) should be called "Mack". This is what Lost does to people.

Now that we've seen Jacob and Esau with that game, by the way, we have confirmation that when the Man in Locke tossed the white stone into the ocean from the seaside Cave o' Numbers and dismissed it to Sawyer as an "inside joke" he wasn't just winking loudly on behalf of the writers.

Esau: "Did you know about the people?"
Momma: "Yes."
Esau: "Why didn't you tell us about them?"
Momma: "Because they're dangerous ... They come, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt — and it always ends the same. ... If they found you, they would hurt you."
Jacob: "Why would they hurt us?"
Momma: "Because they're people, Jacob, and that's what people do."
Esau: "But we're people. Does that mean that we can hurt each other?"
Momma: "I have made it so you can never hurt each other."

We still don't know for sure whether this is part of, even the beginning of, the so-called Rules that seem to govern Jacob and Esau's relationship to one another and their interaction with the Candidates. Frankly, we don't even know if Island Momma was telling the truth about this, although I tend to believe that she was; it would be reckless to say such a thing and have the boys think that they could roughhouse without fatal consequences (granted, also without a concept of "fatal" since they'd never seen other people before the Island villagers and thus never seen people die) — and Esau has to have tried beating, stabbing, or otherwise doing in his brother in their millennia together, especially given that we now have some context for why, in "The Incident", he said to Jacob, "Do you have any idea how badly I want to kill you?"

Now that I think about it, Momma was clearly either lying or speaking sloppily when she said that the boys could never hurt one another, because Jacob really does a number on Esau before tossing him in the stream that leads to the Cave o' Light. There's hurting and there's hurting, of course, and in context it does sound like she's talking about mortally wounding, but maybe she was indeed trying to steer them away from trying to hurt one another by fibbing that it would be to no avail; after all, when Esau had earlier asked Momma "What's dead?", she replied "Something you will never have to worry about." That's against the spirit if not the letter of her concerns above that the other people on the Island would hurt the boys.


Screencap from Lost-Media fansite and © 2010 ABC Studios.

Esau: "What is this place?"
Momma: "This is the reason you're here." ...
Esau: "What's down there?"
Momma: "Light. The warmest, brightest light you've ever seen or felt. And we must make sure that no-one ever finds it."
Esau: "It's beautiful."
Momma: "Yes it is. And that's why they want it. Because a little bit of this very same light is inside of every man. But they always want more."
Jacob: "Can they take it?"
Momma: "No. But they would try. And if they tried they could put it out. And if the light goes out here... it goes out everywhere."

I'm not sure what to say about the Cave o' Light at this point. Some folks wanted a real, nitty-gritty explanation of what that light was, others don't find further explanation necessary, and still others feel that the explanation we did get is pretty much irreducible — it's clearly more than just electromagnetic radiation, an energy that is if not magical or divine then probably far enough beyond our scientific ken that it may as well be magical or divine. I tend to think that we won't get and don't need a breakdown of what it is or even why the Island is apparently its sole font of concentrated exposure on Earth, just as I don't think it's necessary to be told Island Momma's own origins or trace the history of Island protectors.

Every story has its beginning, designated as such by the storyteller for the purposes of the narrative at hand. I think the birth of Jacob is as far as we'll go on Lost, and far enough. Absent further information I assume that Momma's story, and her mother's story and her mother's (or father's story), is very much like Jacob's — with at some point of course there being a First Protector, perhaps Momma herself and perhaps generations before her, something I'm certainly curious about but not knowledge that I feel is integral to the story.

What I would like is some lip service paid to how the light is responsible for healing, time-traveling, and if applicable some of the Island apparitions, and whether the exercise of those powers is controlled in any way by some consciousness on the part of the Island, but I'm not confident that we'll get anything on that.

Esau: "There are very smart men among us — men who are curious about how things work. Together we have discovered places all over this Island where metal behaves strangely."

I love Titus Welliver's utter commitment to this line and his performance in general. He and Mark Pellegrino have real chemistry (which they've carried over to some hilarious parody videos for Jimmy Kimmel Live and elsewhere). My big question in this scene was why the lodestone totally loses its pull as soon as Jacob wrenches the knife off of it even though continues to hold the knife in his hands, gingerly, mere inches away.

Jacob: "What's down there?"
Momma: "Life. Death. Rebirth. It's the source, the heart, of the Island."

Years after Esau asks about the Cave o' Light during the boys' first trip there, Jacob repeats his question verbatim when Momma takes him to it for his inauguration, and she's just as enigmatic — although she may not know much more than she's saying; it's also possible that any explanation would be redundant to whatever arcane knowledge he might receive along with immortality when he drinks the hoodoo-charged wine.

The closed captions when Momma made the incantation read only "(speaking Latin)", but the episode's transcript at Lostpedia has it as "Nam non accipimus hoc quasi vulgarem potionem, sed ut ille sit quasi unus mecum," which elsewhere is translated a bit more poetically than in the transcript as "For we do not accept this just as a common drink [or simple potion], but so that he should be one with me." And Momma does say, "Now you and I are the same." Does she simply mean that they are now alike, both ageless, both carrying the responsibilities of guarding the light, or does she in fact mean that they are somehow the same being?

Since Momma had earlier told the boys that they would "never have to worry about" death, I didn't take the wine as conferring Jacob's immortality, or at least not only that, so much as the overall recognition and abilities as Island protector. Or perhaps since Momma may have been lying about the not dying earlier it does grant immortality – and it's through drinking the wine, not through his touch, that Jacob made Richard ageless in "Ab Aeterno". If so it's rather sneaky of Jacob to imply to Richard otherwise; he clearly learned something about guile from his mother and brother in that regard, because while earlier in life Momma taught him how to be crafty with the weaving only Esau learned how be crafty with the deceiving. As we saw Esau break the bottle, which Jacob used as a metaphor for the Island and the evil it supposedly contained, in "Ab Aeterno", for the sake of the next Candidate one assumes that the incantation would work on whatever imbibement was at hand to be imbued with the properties of eternal life and Cave o' Light lore. Hurley might be needed to translate from Invisible Dead Guy if he's not the chosen one himself.

One also has to wonder just how much Island information the spell grants, however, since Jacob clearly didn't know what would happen to Esau after his body drifted into the golden grotto. It's possible that full awareness had yet to take hold or that his anger blinded him in the moment, but post-incantation Jacob doesn't seem markedly more with it than pre-incantation Jacob.

After thinking back on the episode and how outright mercenary Island Momma seemed — from taking the babies to manipulating them as she did while raising them to thanking Esau after he stabbed her as though not only grooming a successor but ending her life was all part of her game plan — I wasn't sure that had Esau not defected, whichever of the two Momma chose to replace her (and it felt like Esau was her first choice), she wouldn't have killed the other son herself rather than let the "winner" have the companionship that she likely never had.


Screencap from Lost-Media fansite and © 2010 ABC Studios.

Island Momma: "Just promise me, no matter what you do, you won’t ever go down there."
Jacob: "Would I die?"
Island Momma: "It’d be worse than dying, Jacob — much worse."

That line along with the previous dialogue indicating that Momma had somehow made it so the boys couldn't kill each other leads us to conclude that, however badly Jacob beat up his brother after their mother's murder, Esau wasn't actually dead when he was dropped in the stream and went floating into the Cave o' Light. Yet many viewers believe that Smokey was a preexisting condition within the light that simply sucked up the dead Esau's memories and was able to take his form, just it later took the form of dead John Locke and accessed his memories (ditto others, probably including Christian Shephard). I think that at the most there was an entity within the light that absorbed Esau's soul, bonding with him, because just about every chronologically later scene involving Jacob and Esau together or Esau discussing his past life with the castaways indicates that they both consider Smokey in the form of Esau to be Esau; yes, the Man in Black lies, but like the Devil he knows that the truth is often the most powerful, most damning weapon, and he echoes Esau's old desires with great conviction.

What confused me about Smokey's debut was the burial of Esau next to Island Momma and the revelation that they were the Island's "very own Adam and Eve," as Locke put it in the scene from "House of the Rising Sun" flashed back/forward to at the end of this episode. Not because I was convinced the pair would be Rose and Bernard or Jack and Kate but because, despite the revelation at the end of "The Incident" that the Man in Black had merely taken Locke's form but not taken over his actual body, it seemed to me upon Smokey's emergence from the Cave o' Light that Esau had literally transformed into the creature; when Jacob later came upon Esau's body laying lifeless in tangle of branches, I figured that he'd merely resumed his human form and collapsed — but no, Jacob buried that body and it decomposed over the next couple thousand years, despite the fact that we only ever saw Smokey, and not the body, exit the light, so either Smokey was carrying the used-up Esau body inside of it in a way that we couldn't see or the light mystically ejected it into the branches the way it dumps people into the Tunisian desert after they turn the Frozen Donkey Wheel.

The argument that Island Momma may well have also been like Smokey is a compelling one on many fronts. One is that her having gone into the Cave o' Light, voluntarily or otherwise, and been smokified herself would provide certain knowledge of why and how entering it was a fate worse than death. Another is that it would explain how she was able to waste the entire village of Claudia's people herself while Esau was unconscious, although based on Jacob's serious fighting skills in "Ab Aeterno" it's also possible that either the mantle of Island protector or centuries spent practicing ninja moves make one a virtually unbeatable opponent. Working against this theory is that her body seemed quite human decomposing next to Esau's original body, and that she was able to be stabbed at all when we've seen Esau in John Locke's guise impervious to both bullets and to the selfsame dagger in Sayid's hands in "Sundown". That dagger was given to Sayid by Temple master Dogen, who told him that if he let the Man in Locke speak it would be too late to kill him; there's been debate on whether this is actually some kind of rule, as Esau says the same thing to Richard in "Ab Aeterno" when telling him to stab Jacob yet Ben successfully stabs Jacob in "The Incident" after considerable conversation, but it's hard to discount the fact that Esau stabbed his mother from behind without a word.

Given that Esau probably saw his share of death in the village but Jacob may not have had any first-hard experience with the concept, since despite killing boars for dinner the only two people he truly knew were still alive, it was strange that when Esau stabbed their mother Jacob even realized the ramifications. "Momma! Wake up, Momma! You never told me how to make babies, Momma! Momma?... Brother! Helps me wake up Momma! How you make Momma go so hard asleep, Brother? We gots to wake up Momma!"


Screencap from Lost-Media fansite and © 2010 ABC Studios.

Jacob: "Goodbye, Brother."

This was touching but also tied with considerable aggravation as it felt like the episode ended too soon. We got plenty of answers, including big ones about the light at the Island's core, Jacob's role as its guardian, and the nature of Smokey, too plain or blunt for some viewers and too vague for others, but I felt that the episode itself brought up questions that it promised to answer and didn't. It would have benefitted greatly from one more jump ahead after Jacob's burial of Momma and Esau's bodies in the last act, if not an outright tie into the present-day Island adventures, as "Ab Aeterno" had, with more than clips from a previous episode.

Clearly Jacob thought at the time that he was burying his brother, and indeed he had no way of knowing that Smokey contained Esau's essence when he saw it roar out of the Cave o' Light. What did he think when he next encountered the creature? What did he think when he first saw his brother again? Did Jacob ever think about trying to revive Momma by casting her into the light? I think we deserved to see the first two, but the last is just potentially rich story-based speculation — although part of me thinks that there will yet be a showdown between Esau's impersonation of John Locke and the real thing, when someone gets the bright idea to dig up the real Locke's dead body and float it into the Cave o' Light to transform him into the only thing that might stand a chance against Smokey. Perhaps throwing the bones of Esau's original body into the light, or just burying them, would also work some kind of spell trapping or neutering his Smokey identity; we've seen references to the urgency of burying bodies on the show, presumably because this prevents Smokey from taking the forms of those bodies.

I'd have liked to see more of Esau's exploration of his abilities as Smokey, including his first assumption of another form. How unable to grasp the vastness of land and civilization he must have been before that, even after all he discussed with the villagers on the Island, and how overwhelming it must've been the first time he was able to absorb someone else's memories or each time he encountered knowledge of new technologies and philosophies.

Early on in this post I broached the theory that Esau and not Jacob was actually the Island's protector, in keeping with the references to Smokey as its "security system" by Danielle Rousseau and its being called Cerberus on the blast-door map in the Dharma Initiative's Swan station. I don't know that I actually subscribe to this theory, but the more I mused on Island Momma's deception the more I wondered if her incantation over the wine did not grant Jacob enhanced immortality and Island awareness but rather recant some of that immortality so that he would continue to be ageless but also be vulnerable to death by Smokey's dagger. Separate from but tied to that thought was whether Claudia was not actually pregnant with twins, the Island instead manifesting Esau inside her as Jacob was born; given the times in which they were living, their lack of technology, and Island Momma's presumed dearth of experience in midwifery, it's of course totally plausible that the women were simply unprepared for more than one child, but this is Lost. While these seemed like interesting ideas when they occurred to me, though, at this stage I very much hope that at this point the show is wrapping up mysteries instead of launching new ones, even if not as satisfyingly as the quality of the series to date suggests, and that absent any serious indication of further explanation to come the most simple, most obvious extrapolation of any answer is the right interpretation.

I can understand why the producers chose to hold this episode until so late in the game, but also why many viewers wished that it had come earlier. There's a pretty good case to be made for it airing at least a week earlier, flopped with the devastating events of "The Candidate", because it makes Smokey's motives sympathetic even as his machinations in the previous episode suggest that his ends can't possibly justify his means. Maybe the same could be said for Jacob, who despite appearing in "The Incident" as representing choice and free will comes across much like his mother as a knows-better above-it-all righteous force of nature this season. While I don't read much in the way of outside interviews or listen to the producers' podcasts, however, sometimes I see or hear about something from friends, and I couldn't escape learning that the showrunners gave us the submarine deaths in "The Candidate" in part to reveal the true depths of Smokey's evil — not just desperation, but evil; that's hard to reconcile with airing "Across the Sea" one week later.

The producers' pre-finale media blitz and its almost bizarrely qualifying content have been the subject of much discussion over at Nik at Nite, as it feels to many of us that they've changed their tune in terms of what's going to be answered (and what was ever going to be answered) before the series ends. Particularly galling is their framing of Lost as a show about characters, as if those of us expecting revelations about the mythology care about those details to the exclusion of characters and aren't expecting those revelations largely because the producers practically gloated about how we'd all be blown away by the grand scheme of things when this epic reached its conclusion. A great television show or novel does not have to be about characters at the expense of being about its form or technique or plot, and the reverse is also true; it seemed, for a while, that Lost was going to be many if not all of those things.

Lost's mythology is inextricably tied to its characters and its innovative structure; even the most seemingly ordinary interpersonal details of the Castaways' or Candidates' lives seem to be bound up in their strange connection to one another and to the Island. And it's not just that we the viewers deserve to know a good deal about what's going on because of the time and brainpower we've invested in this tale, promised through wild tangents that things do not fall apart and the center does indeed hold. It's that anyone who cares about the characters wants them to know why they have this strange connection, for what purpose they've been put through this ordeal, and how it's all cosmically possible.

I liked quite a bit about "Across the Sea" and until the end figured that the biggest hurdles for most viewers would be the outright "fantasy" feeling of the whole chapter and the Cave o' Light in particular. Most folks still watching Lost are probably prepared for almost anything, but I can see some followers long leery of the more out-there aspects of the show wincing at this episode's stilted speech, Renaissance Faire vibe, and glowing tunnel by the stream with swelling strings. Despite my thrill early on how deeply we were going into Island mythology, by the end I was distracted by the questions I posed several paragraphs above; once I realized that we were getting major revelations there was something of a big fat grin on my face during at certain moments, but I also felt like the episode as it was unfolding promised to give certain us things that we didn't ultimately get. On the eve of this season's premiere, in my first 'Lost' in Thought post, I said with double meaning that it was about time, and time is running out.

Mean Business


If you've ever left a comment on a blog, you may very well have come across word verification — and if you've been following this blog at all the past several months, you may very well have seen my lists of verification-word definitions.

As explained in my first such post, "Mean", and in fact illustrated in one last month, "Even Meaner", word verification is a check that bloggers on Blogger/Blogspot can put in place to help ensure that it's humans leaving comments and not spamming robots. When one has comments enabled on his/her blog, among the info at the end of a post (with labels, the time of the post, etc.) is how many comments there are, with the word "comments" customizable. So you may see "5 Comments" or "0 Replies" or "7 Smart Remarks from the Peanut Gallery" or, in my case, "X ¢ (Penny for Your Thoughts)". Clicking on that line takes you to the comments page and/or a pop-up window where you can read the comments to date and submit your own. If word verification is turned on, then below the comment box will be a jumble of letters that usually could almost be a word — as opposed to the total mess of consonants and numbers often seen when filling out forms online — but aren't (unless the randomizing algorithm ends up with an actual word by accident, which happens on occasion); you must type those letters correctly for your comment to be accepted. Some bloggers also have moderation turned on for all or at least older posts, so your comment won't show up until the proprietor of the blog has reviewed it.

I've taken to sharing definitions for my verification words in my comments, if a definition comes readily to mind for the word on the screen at that moment. The idea is similar to Sniglets, which Rich Hall popularized on HBO's Not Necessarily the News and in a series of books back in the '80s, but in reverse. I lay absolutely no claim to being either the first or the best at this, but I amass these definitions regularly when commenting on other blogs and now offer them up periodically here on mine, often when there's a dry spell. In this case, while I have some posts in the pipeline, the Internet connection has been troublesome and my metaphorical batteries are low, so it's as good a time as any. You're not only welcome but encouraged to leave definitions for your own verification words when leaving a comment on this or any post here.

antanaut — n. One who travels among insects of the Formicidae family (cf. Henry Pym).

brinewe — n. Saltwater sheep.

bustort — n. Legally actionable incident on public transportation.

civerse — adj. Just one letter's worth less multifaceted than diverse.

comackin — v. Two people mutually into totally sucking face.

Dewsquil — The sniffling, sneezing, aching, coughing, stuffy-head, fever, so-you-can-condense-on-the-lawn medicine.

dingic — adj. Of or relating to dingoes: "The main reason why Claire wanted Aaron to be adopted by a couple in the States was Australia's noted problem with dingic infanticides."

epersons — pl. n. Folks with a Second Life.

failfle — n. A failed waffle (possibly gone so awry that it turned into a felafel).

howiv — Michael Caine's Cockney interrogatory: "Howiv yeh bwekfift, den, Suh?"

hugenias — pl. n. Really, really big gardenias.

joilty — n. Dyslexic cheerfulness.

kabion — n. Taxi molecule with a net electric charge.

litin — n. Peaceful demonstration held by smokers.

luouser — n. Someone who brought lice to the luau.

matsomat — n. All-night, coin-operated hangout for unleavened bread.

Nourn — A Viking goddess of fate (British spelling).

Osplashi — Japanese water park.

PediCA — Los Angeles chain of foot-care spas.

prodgi — n. A kid who's extremely good at putting on his judo outfit.

rebeak — v. Fix up a poor, poor bird.

SinSin — The Devil's licorice. [Here's reference for the young; they were before my time, too, but familiar from my mom's generation and a Billy Joel song.]

spitiv — n. A saliva drip.

squese — n. The secret language of huggers.

tallysm — n. Severe neurological reaction to doing addition too quickly.

troutic — adj. Of or relating to certain species of fresh- and saltwater fish.

unbunper — n. Pastry rationing in franglais.

wavary — n. The undulation of the ocean.

werea — n. Lycanthropes who transform into the first letter of the alphabet.


Boing!


Not to be confused with "Bing!", although I did have dinner with my grandparents the last couple of nights.


Photo from a page © 2010 Television Food Network GP

Wednesday, Grandmom and I spoke mostly about Lost. I'm taking a break from that subject for at least one post, though, since the coming weeks will be full of it; my thoughts on Tuesday's episode will be up shortly.

Thursday, we enjoyed a function at the Gs' residence with better food than the ballyhooed event two months back featuring (mostly cold) uninspired cuisine from local restaurants. Among the offerings last night were scallops wrapped in bacon in a barbecue glaze that was literal awesomesauce. There was no ice cream, but my diabetic grandfather downed most of three miniature cups of crème brûlée; at 95, he's entitled to cheat on occasion, especially if it makes him happy and puts on some weight.


Screencap © 2010 Worldwide Pants Inc.

While food was not a subject of this post before I began to type, that's part of the "Boing!" — it's going to be all over the place.

It was last night's Late Show with David Letterman that prompted the title and most of the tangents herein. Only clips of the show are online via the CBS website at this writing, but by next week the entire thing should be up at the link above; right now, the latest full episode is Monday's, with Lost's Evangeline Lilly (...oops) in feisty form.

Alec Baldwin was the first guest yesterday, promoting 30 Rock and his hosting of tomorrow night's Saturday Night Live 2009-2010 season finale. I've had a hard time taking Baldwin in dramatic roles (good as he was in The Closer) since he revealed tricks from his soap-opera days on Letterman several years ago — his earnest, ridiculously serious comportment made it nearly impossible to watch him wear a straight face with a straight face. Luckily, his comedy work plays off of exactly that ability to deliver seriously ridiculous material, say as Jack Donaghy or SNL's Delicious Dish guest Pete Schweddy, with absolute conviction.

Screencaps © 2006, 1990 NBC Universal Inc. & Broadway Video.

This will be Baldwin's 15th time hosting SNL, tying him with his recent Oscar co-host Steve Martin. When Baldwin made his 12th appearance as host a few seasons ago in 2006, Martin welcomed him into the Platinum Lounge; he'd rehearsed the bit, of course — sans the surprise appearance from Paul McCartney, as is obvious from his awestruck look. It echoed what, me being an in-joke junkie, is one my favorite SNL sketches: Upon Tom Hanks' 5th hosting gig — a mind-boggling 20 years ago in 1990 — he was ushered into The Five-Timers' Club, where he was joined by Martin, Elliot Gould, and Paul Simon ("There was some concern after Joe Versus the Volcano, but...").

You can find transcripts to "Five-Timers Club" and "Platinum Lounge" online through simple Google searches, but they're no substitute for seeing the video, particularly because of the cameos. "Platinum Lounge" is available at both the NBC website and Hulu; a copy of "Five-Timer's Club" with poorly synched audio is up at a Conan O'Brien fansite due to O'Brien's small role in the sketch during his time as an SNL staff writer, before he replaced Letterman on NBC's Late Night. If you ever catch the full episodes, Hanks' 1990 episode (actually his second hosting gig of the year) is also notable for an appearance by my beloved Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, supporting Ghost of a Dog — it's when Mr. Simon met his future wife Ms. Brickell — while Baldwin's 2006 appearance featured Tony Bennett, there to duet with musical guest Christina Aguilera on her second number, playing Tony Bennett copycat "Anthony Benedetto" (his real name) on The Tony Bennett Show, as Baldwin did his great, great, great Bennett impression.

Jacket © 1962 Ingri & Edgar Parin d'Aulaire.

In the not too distant past I was in the checkout line at Borders and overheard a family trying to find a book with the aid of a sales associate at the nearby Information desk. Pretty quickly, I realized that what the party — led by, I think, a mother looking for the book for her son or daughter — was not very successfully describing to the associate was in fact D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, not only one my favorite books on Greek mythology but one of my favorite books ever. As mentioned in my recent post on Supernatural, I was a mythology junkie as a kid and racked up books on the subject good, bad, and ugly; I never cared for Thomas Bulfinch (though I haven't re-read it in maybe decades), liked Robert Graves very much early on, and when I started reading more serious stuff went back to Edith Hamilton again and again, but the D'Aulaires' entry was perfect for a budding reader and remains a delight.

So I stepped out of line and mentioned the title to the group. The mother instantly lit up with recognition, after which the associate simultaneously breathed a sigh of relief and practically smacked himself in the forehead. All of them thanked me, including what I took to be the mother's parents, one of whom asked me if I could show them where the book was; the mother had to explain that I didn't work there.

One of my cousins' kids recently became enamored with Greek mythology, due in large part to the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, and I picked him up D'Aulaires' Book. I started to explain that while it had lots of illustrations, it wasn't meant as "merely" a children's book, but he told me that he had, in fact, been wanting it; he's a really smart kid with a real mind for characters and organization, and as I'd predicted he, like I, went straight for the family tree.

Photo from a page © 2010 ECrater

The above story, in a roundabout way, ties into the highlight of last night's Late Show episode, a return to Dropping Things Off the Roof of The Ed Sullivan Theater onto 53rd Street. Now, Dave said that someone in the audience had complained that he never does this anymore, which isn't true, but I'm glad that the remark prompted him to order up another installment of the activity anyhow. As I get older, the wastefulness of it bothers me more, yet it's just so darned much fun to watch — in slo-mo and backwards, especially.

My absolute favorite roof-dropping scene dates back to the days when Dave would get up on the roof himself. He grabbed a long, cylindrical fluorescent light bulb, perched one leg on the ledge of the building, and proclaimed himself to be Zeus, God of the Sky, Lord of the Thunderbolts.

First off the roof last night, at the direction of head stagehand Pat Farmer, were magnums of champagne — apparently cheap, but still legally champagne (not an issue brought up on the show, just one in my mind since it was in the news some years back). There's a nifty list of what bottles larger and smaller than the standard bouteille of champagne are called at production coordinator Mike McIntee's installment of The Wahoo Gazette. Nomenclature for the smaller sizes is mostly French, with half a standard 6-glass bottle being a demi-bouteille and one-eighth standard being a huitieme, but for larger sizes, after the double-sized magnum, it gets, um, Biblical, from Jeroboam and Rehoboam through Methuselah up to the twentyfold, 120-glass Nebuchadnezzar.

Next to be launched were bags of flour, while last were a bunch of melons plus big jugs of water. But for me the pièce de résistance came second-to-last, as my prayers were answered and Dave once again went to the Zectron Super Balls, also known as High-Bounce Balls and, during my childhood, advertised on the gumball machines as Super-Hi Bouncing Balls. I just loves me the Super-Hi Bouncing Balls; let them babies loose and your humble blogger is practically, as Dave would say, hyp-mo-tized by the strangely calming nature of their very franticness.

Boing!