Friday, March 21, 2008

Lost, "Meet Kevin Johnson": Ready to die

Spoilers for the "Lost" mid-season finale, "Meet Kevin Johnson," coming up just as soon as I go download Mama Cass' "It's Getting Better" from iTunes...

Well, I'm glad that the strike ended in time for there to be more episodes this season (starting on April 24), because Damon and Carlton were absolutely right: this would have been a terrible season finale. Lots of balls up in the air but no immediate peril for anyone but a minor character like Alex, and a cliffhanger ending that felt rushed and very un-"Lost"-like. (The shocker endings -- good or bad -- tend to focus more on characters doing something we don't expect of them, or us learning something we never would have suspected.)

That said, as an episode in a vacuum, "Meet Kevin Johnson" was quite good. While Michael was never my favorite character, his story was an important part of the show. His struggle to deal with the guilt from his Faustian bargain to save Walt was another moving example of how the writers this season are really trying to build on the emotional impact of everything that's happened before. We also got some intriguing hints about the big picture -- notably that the island's power can, in fact, extend to the mainland (which might explain a lot about Charlie visiting Hurley in the premiere) -- and a fine performance from Mr. Perrineau that was largely free (other than the "previously"s) of "WAAAAAALTTTTT!!!!!"

But it's clearly a show that was designed to be a middle chapter. I can deal with waiting a month to see the story continue, but if the strike had kept new episodes from being produced until next season, it would have been the most disappointing "Lost" finale since we didn't get to see what was in the hatch.

Because I fell asleep shortly after the episode ended and want to get discussion going quickly (for those of you near a computer on Good Friday), I'm going to go straight to bullet points:
  • I'm trying to decide whether the timeframe of Michael's life back on the mainland is supposed to connote more time/space oddness or just the writers assuming that we wouldn't notice (or mind) that, in the span of a month (he was on the island for two and back by the time everyone else had been there for three), he had time to sneak back into America undetected (since he's still pretending to be dead), get to New York, alienate Walt by blabbing about the two murders, reach a suicidal level of depression, completely heal from an airbag-less car crash, and get all the way to Fiji. I'm not saying all of those things couldn't happen within four weeks (except maybe the healing, though you can attribute that to some weird island power), but it's an awfully tight squeeze.
  • Also a chronology question: even if certain Others have the ability to get off the island quickly and go wherever they want, exactly when in the season three timeline would Tom's New York trip fit? He was with Jack for much of the season, and if we didn't see him during every episode while Locke was hanging with the Others, he was there for a lot of them, and then he died (after Naomi was on the island and therefore well after Michael had already gone to the freighter).
  • One of the unfortunate casualties of the show's format, where most episodes are dominated by one character's story, is that other characters tend to get, well, lost for long stretches. Even if they're on camera, we don't really know what's going on with them. The Alex/Rousseau relationship definitely fell victim to that. After waiting most of last season for someone to put the two of them in the same room and explain their relationship, we got that exact moving moment in the finale (courtesy of Ben, of all people), but ever since, we've had to fill in the blanks on how they've been relating to each other. After spending her whole life thinking Ben was her dad and not knowing her mom, how was Alex responding to the knowledge that this strange, crazy woman was her real parent? During their time in Other-town, did the two of them bond? Did Rousseau struggle to pack away the crazy now that her daughter was back? Unfortunately -- but somewhat understandably, given the show's format and the fact that these two are really far down the character food chain -- there was never a chance to show any of that, so when Rousseau died (I'm guessing in a Ben-designed ambush), I felt like the show had wasted an opportunity to make that death far more powerful. Yes, it sucks that Danielle died shortly after finding her daughter, but I wish there was some way we could have gotten a glimpse of their relationship during their brief time together.
  • Fisher Stevens got a bit more to do in these flashbacks, but no sign of Zoe Bell. I guess they really did just hire her to do the jumping off the boat stunt. Ah, well.
  • I hope these appearances of Libby as a figment of Michael's guilt-ridden imagination aren't the only time we'll ever see Cynthia Watros again. It's not super-high on my list of Questions That Must Be Answered, but eventually I'd like to know the point of the "Libby was in the mental hospital with Hurley" reveal from "Dave."
  • I've given up trying to guess (or, really, caring) whether Ben or Mr. Widmore is the real bad guy here, but I can't in any way fault Sayid's actions at the episode's end. The last time Michael was working for Ben, he murdered Libby and Ana-Lucia, and Sayid at this point in the chronology has no reason to trust Ben.
  • The promo for the April 24 episode definitively identified Aaron as one of the Oceanic Six, so unless this is another case of the marketing people acting independently of Damon and Carlton -- and I don't believe they would allow that to happen with something this important -- then we have our answer, once and for all.
What did everybody else think?

70 comments:

Noel said...

I'm not sure Rousseau is dead, Alan. The promos -- and Lindelof and Cuse -- said that some*one* will die in "Meet Kevin Johnson." And I think there's more Rousseau story to tell ,,, stuff that can't just be told in flashback.

bill said...

I've given up trying to guess (or, really, caring) whether Ben or Mr. Widmore is the real bad guy here

My current assumption is that they're equally evil and that our favorite plane crash victims, however they end up surviving, will have to choose their poison.

lungfish said...

I like how Tom's comment of "you're not my type" to Kate a while back (I think when she was captive and given a dress to change into and was worried about Tom watching her change) finally manifesting itself in seeing Arturo in the penthouse.

Also, from Lostpedia: "Likewise, Tom's appearances would seem to have been set between Day 74 and Day 80 as he was at the Hydra before Day 74 and at the Barracks on Day 80."

BF said...

I loved the bit with MC Gainey's ... er ... friend. Great callback to the scene from Episode 3.1 where he instructs Kate to shower up and says "You're not my type."

And while the Looney Tunes-esque "Not Yet" gag was pretty funny, it does stretch the bounds of credulity. If protecting the Island was SO important, I think Ben wouldn't hesistate to undertake collateral damage in the form of killing innocents, "good guy" or not.

BF said...

lungfish's ISP is quicker this morning...

Mark said...

I think a potential twist is the fact that Ben is in fact a good guy. Why was the Dharma Initiative manufacturing poison gas? On the freighter, it's obvious that Sayid doesn't trust Ben, but in the flashforward, it's obvious that he doesn't have any problems working for him.

Dave Sandell said...

Ben & Jacob intrigue me in new ways after this episode. They've played up Ben's tendencies to act like a giant baby (shooting Locke when he could hear Jacob & "getting" Juliet all to himself) and they're really playing up this 'good guys' thing. I recall that Jacob's list identified the innocent people on Oceanic 815, and I assume Ben is gathering names to create a similar list. It seems really important to Ben & (I assume) Jacob that the Others/Hostiles remain 'the good guys'. It's a very childlike way to see the world (good vs. bad in black and white terms, even though there's clearly a whole mess of gray), of course raising questions about why they took all of the children & why they can't have their own children. Every now and then I feel like we're in Neverland.

Anyway, not sure I have more of a point than that, but it got me thinking.

Toby said...

There were children in the DHARMA compound; did they die during the Purge? I don't see how Ben could continue to believe he was one of the good guys if he sacrificed children like that. (Or did the Others abduct them before the Purge?)

The way this show comes up with twists, I wouldn't be surprised if Ben and Widmore were working together at this point. But Ben would be making people believe that Charles was the bad guy just in case he needed a backup plan. And as we all know, Ben always has a plan. (Only later in the future do they have a deadly falling out, and that would be why they're hunting each other in that Sayid episode.)

One nice thing about being an actor on 'Lost' - you can still get work even after they kill off your character! We had at least four dead characters show up in Michael's flashback (Tom, Libby, Naomi, and George - forgive me if I'm forgetting somebody).

I'm torn as to whom I think might have been the snipers in the brush - the Others from the Temple, working on Ben's orders to insure that Alex remains his; or Keamy and maybe Omar on that mission (kidnapping Alex?) which they wanted Frank to fly for them. Again, both could be working for Ben.....

I'm in the camp that believes Rousseau is not yet dead. We've seen other characters (Locke, Mikhail, Desmond in the Hatch) come back from far worse. (Man, I had high hopes for Naomi at the beginning of this season because I like the actress and character, but she didn't rally long enough.)

I'm intrigued by this concept of the Island not letting them die. But we did see many die so far on the Island. Does it revoke its protection once their usefulness is at an end?

Or are the dead really dead? I'm thinking even after their bodies die, their spirits are trapped there forever. That's who the Whisperers are.

Each season we've been introduced to new groups of people - the original survivors in 1, the Tailies in 2, the Others in 3, and the Freighter Folk in 4. How about the Whisperers in Season 5? So many characters could be brought back once we started seeing the show from their perspective!

Kris Eton said...

This one wasn't that great for me. Michael's story started out intriguing, but then it was sort of predictable. And, yes, Alan all that stuff occurred in a month b/c Michael's mother mentioned them being gone for '2 months.'

I really wanted to see who picked them up once they headed on the course Ben instructed...but, of course, the actor who plays Walt had grown up too much. I mean, how do you go from middle of nowhere in the ocean to New York City? I would have liked to have seen the moment when he showed up on his mother's doorstep the first time.

I don't know. It was just lacking.

I still don't know who doctored the crash site. The guys on the boat think it's Ben, the Others are led to believe it's Widmore. Was it neither? Is this an orchestrated 'war' of sorts with an 'entity' moving the pieces around?

I'm pretty certain now it was Michael in that coffin. He finally was allowed to kill himself.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The promos -- and Lindelof and Cuse -- said that some*one* will die in "Meet Kevin Johnson."

You may be right. But Karl is so far down the food chain that boasting about killing someone and then making him be the death is as lame as when "90210" promised to kill off a main character -- and then killed someone who had been dropped from the cast after the previous season.

(And, yes, apparently I'm just going to keep making "90210" references on the blog this month.)

Alan Sepinwall said...

I'm intrigued by this concept of the Island not letting them die. But we did see many die so far on the Island. Does it revoke its protection once their usefulness is at an end?

I think that's exactly it. Being on the island doesn't make you immortal, but the island has the power to keep its residents alive as long as it needs them. Shannon never had anything the island needed; Michael apparently does.

Isaac, your bartender said...

It also looks like the island didn't want Jack to die in the season 3 finale; he too has something more to do with the island, and he realized it at the end of that episode.

special k said...

I thought it was a pretty awful episode. I didn't mind Michael back when he was a regular on the show, but he completely bores me now. This whole plotline bored me to death. Seeing dead people crop up again bore me to death since this show has employed it waaaaaaay too many times. And the rushed ending was ridiculous, but at least it perked my interest somewhat. Very disappointing.

Bryan said...

Maybe it's my basketball and beer soaked brain but a couple things from last night are sticking with me. Michael's flashback didn't seem like a "normal" flashback for the show. His flashback was his narrative to Sayid - have they done that before? Also the Mama Cass song, the like new car, and Michael getting well so fast and seemingly not questioning any of it- is it possible Michael is not really off the island? that it's in his head? or they've got him holed up somewhere close by?

Mark said...

You know, it just occurred to me, Ben introduced a new place on the island called "the temple". I think what the island needs now is a Starbucks, or the Dharma equivalent.

Alan Sepinwall said...

The Temple has been discussed before, late last season when Ben and Richard were leading The Others away from their bungalow colony.

dez said...

And while the Looney Tunes-esque "Not Yet" gag was pretty funny, it does stretch the bounds of credulity. If protecting the Island was SO important, I think Ben wouldn't hesistate to undertake collateral damage in the form of killing innocents, "good guy" or not.


Seemed more like one of Ben's mindgames. It's not enough for him to say he's a good guy; he has to prove it. Plus, it had the bonus of proving Michael's "loyalty" to Ben. Ben is a sick puppy.

I don't think Rousseau is dead; in fact, I bet the island has more for her to do before it lets her go, too. I'm just bummed it wasn't Smokey in the bushes!

jim treacher said...

You know what Michael committed on himself? Vehicular ASSAUUUUUUULT!!!

The wacky pop-up "bomb" was a loyalty test. If he's willing to be a suicide bomber, he'll probably be willing to do anything else you tell him. (Of course, Michael was suicidal to begin with...)

As for Ben insisting he's the good guy, don't most people think that about themselves? Ben's just a victim of circumstance, according to Ben. He wouldn't have to kill people if they'd just stop getting in his way.

And yeah, it was definitely the Longest Flashback Evar. I thought it worked. Maybe I just appreciated the relative straightforwardness, after last week's crap.

Steven said...

I really liked the episode. I thought Michael was an excellent character before he went all Tom Jane from Arrested Development on us: "I'm just trying to get my kids back."

The only thing I didn't get was why the island wouldn't let Michael die. The island had a use for him, but it appears to have a use for Charlie as well and Charlie was able to die.

Oh well, I'll take being confused if it pushes the plot forward, and this week's episode certainly did a lot of that.

J said...

as lame as when "90210" promised to kill off a main character -- and then killed someone who had been dropped from the cast after the previous season

I'd forgotten the promise that someone would die until we hit the last scene. When I saw who was involved, I said aloud, "Crap, they're going to kill the Okie kid."

This episode for me confirmed fears of what might lie down the road. It filled in some blanks without raising new, interesting questions. Questions>Answers.

No offense, but I'm having trouble fearing Penny's Dad. Oooooooooo, a rich guy. Scary!

Susan said...

"I'm intrigued by this concept of the Island not letting them die. But we did see many die so far on the Island. Does it revoke its protection once their usefulness is at an end?"

I think it's more than usefulness - I actually think it's about redemption. Most of the 815 survivors have some sort of healing or redemption arc: Locke gets to be a strong, mobile leader; Kate gets to seem like a Girl Friday instead of a fugitive; Claire raises her baby herself; Charlie got off drugs and became a father figure. So I don't think Shannon never had a use for the island - I think she worked through her issues (in her case, became a nicer person, became able to love and be loved), and then was able to die.

As for Nikki and Paolo... yeah, they were just useless.

Bryan said...

Seems a little slow today so if you don't mind a little more on the flashback (please disregard the all in Michael's head gaff from before but...)

The way I see it Sayid says to Michael "Tell me exactly how you came to be on this boat" and Michael says "well I was sitting in my apartment and decided to kill myself. I got in my car and drove into a dumpster at 70 mph. Didn't kill me though. I was in the hospital and saw one of the girls I killed - really freaky - a couple days later when I was out of the hospital I went to see Walt - who by the way don't love me know more - and my Mom - who don't like me either because I didn't die (I'm so frigging pathetic!). I try to kill myself again in an alley and gay Mr. Friendly shows up and tells me I can't kill myself but I have to go work on a boat so I can save all you guys - including you Sayid who is standing right in front of me and can kill me with one of your little scissor kick things or turn me in- ain't I such a good guy?
And all Sayid say's "your working for Benjamin Linus?" which tells me Sayid didn't by a word of the story other than the part that he is working for Ben.

Freckles said...

What I don't understand is why Michael has to kill everyone on the boat to save the people on the island, which was the rationale that Tom gave Michael for going undercover. Why can't the people on the island just leave like Michael and Tom apparently did? (because then the show would end...) Maybe because the island itself is calling the shots and it doesn't want to be discovered by Widmore?

I think the Captain already knows Michael isn't Kevin.

Also, didn't Walt in the window looked like a new actor?

jim treacher said...

I wasn't scared of Widmore until we saw him kick the hell out of that guy personally.

Anonymous said...

Quick question: How was Alex born to Rousseau and Ben ON the island?? I hope i havent missed anything

Freckles said...

Rousseau was pregnant when she arrived on the island, like Claire. Ben isn't really Alex's father. Rousseau was married to someone else, Alex's real father, who died long ago.

christy said...

Why can't the people on the island just leave like Michael and Tom apparently did? (because then the show would end...)

Well, presumably Tom was traveling to and fro via submarine, which would have been destroyed shortly after his return to the island. Michael took the boat and followed Ben's bearing and we don't really know how he got from out of sight to New York (this was also before the sub was destroyed so maybe the bearing just let to a rendevous with the sub). At this point, we (the audience and most of the characters) don't know of any vehicles that could transport people to anywhere other than the freighter. And even if they did, would anyone other than Ben (and perhaps some of the freighter people?) know how to get a vehicle away from the island without either crashing or getting inadvertantly turned back toward it?

Bobman said...

Why can't the people on the island just leave like Michael and Tom apparently did?

Well, they don't want to, mostly. Obviously the island is something more than just a home to Ben et al. They dont' want to just leave and concede control of the island to the nefarious Whitemore / Widmore /whatever his name is.

Toby said...

Because Tom was so free with info about Michael to his lover Arturo, I'm wondering if Arturo is a member of Ben's group as well.

And if so, could he have been the blindfolded guy who was beaten, kicked, and probably killed by Widmore?

Alan Sepinwall said...

Well, presumably Tom was traveling to and fro via submarine, which would have been destroyed shortly after his return to the island.

Is there a significant enough gap in Tom's appearances prior to the sub blowing up that would make this possible? My assumption was that Tom gets off the island the same magic way Ben can.

lls said...

Alan help me!

wouldn't EVERYONE on the freighter know that "Kevin Johnson" was really Michael, a victim of doomed Oceanic Flight 815???????????????

Clearly the flight manifest was known, especially to a group of people on a freighter whose mission is it to recover the plane.
Miles listed off Kate's rap sheet to her, they knew Juliet wasn't a survivor... (granted Miles knew Michael was lying about his name- but didn't seem to know who he was.)

christy said...

Is there a significant enough gap in Tom's appearances prior to the sub blowing up that would make this possible? My assumption was that Tom gets off the island the same magic way Ben can.

I'd thought Ben's magical way was the submarine. We haven't actually seen him leave since the sub exploded, have we? (Of course, this is LOST, so nothing's ruled out until it's actually ruled out, and we're certainly heading toward finding out whether Ben has even more resources than he lets on, but at this point I don't think we've seen hard evidence of another way off. By which I mean what I'm writing here is what I think we're meant to believe so far, but that as always things could always "really" be completely different).

Anyway, lungfish indicates above that Tom's visit to the mainland would have occurred between Day 74 and Day 80. According to the Lostpedia time line, the sub Locke blew up the sub on Day 81. How quickly the sub traveled back and forth is unknown (at least to me).

christy said...

I have an extra "the sub" up there; please disregard.

I think we're to believe that Miles is getting his info from ghosts. Makes me wonder if Ghost Libby really is following Michael around, and mentioned to Miles that his name isn't Kevin and he's going to try to set off a bomb but don't worry it's not a real bomb. Hey, maybe it was even Ghost Federal Marshall that told him about Kate's background. Or not. :) And...I think we're to believe that Frank is just completely obsessed with 815 conspiracy theory and thus memorized the manifesto. But I do wonder if he'd have also researched what the 815 victims looked like, too. I think it's possible that Frank knows who Michael is.

CoolSid said...

I'm trying to decide whether the timeframe of Michael's life back on the mainland is supposed to connote more time/space oddness or just the writers assuming that we wouldn't notice (or mind) that, in the span of a month (he was on the island for two and back by the time everyone else had been there for three), he had time to sneak back into America undetected (since he's still pretending to be dead), get to New York, alienate Walt by blabbing about the two murders, reach a suicidal level of depression, completely heal from an airbag-less car crash, and get all the way to Fiji. I'm not saying all of those things couldn't happen within four weeks (except maybe the healing, though you can attribute that to some weird island power), but it's an awfully tight squeeze.

The flashbacks did show that Walt saw Jack ad the others tied up on the dock.So, Micheal could have told Walt about what he did as they were leaving the island in the boat. (too bad they could'nt use Taller Ghost Walt for the flashback).So he could have been feeling suicidal even before he got to Manhattan.

I am however, more interested in the chronology on the boat. Didn't we see a calender in Desmond's episode in which the dates were marked from October? Also,in the same episode,did'nt Minkowski say something about them waiting around for months?

nathaniel said...

Didn't the producers say last year that this year was supposed to be about "The Ruins" the same way that, say, season two was about "The Hatch"? I'm assuming they must mean the privileged area around The Temple but I'm just surprised we're only getting to that stuff now as it was always meant to be an abbreviated season. They must be planning for a lot of the rest of the season's action to take place there.

Freckles said...

To clarify, I'm trying to understand why Michael would agree to kill everyone on the boat instead of demanding that Tom explain why his friends couldn't just leave the island through whatever method Tom used.

Michael thought the Boaties were going to kill everyone on the island. This would not be a problem if the Losties could leave before the Boaties got there. I don't think Michael agreed to this plan to protect the Others and people who don't want to leave the island.

As I have thought about it, I guess this falls under the categorty of questions people should ask but don't because they won't get answers. Tom would not tell Michael how Tom got to NY or why it would not work for Michael's friends. So the writers didn't bother to have Michael ask.

As far as how people get on an off the island, I am throwing out some kind of teleportation as a suggestion. Maybe something to do with the Orchid hatch training video and the polar bear in Tunisa. Or the "Magic Box" that brought Locke's dad to the island.

Anonymous said...

Fisher Stevens mentioned "The Shining" so is that a reference to the freighter's cabin fever, where people are going kinda crazy?

chris w said...

I"m not sure if it's just me but I've noticed recently (after going back and watching some of season one) that the show lacks the gorgeous cinematography. How the show looked in the first season made it one of the best looking shows on television with crystal clear shots of gorgeous Hawaiian beaches and beautiful people running through verdant jungle. But recently the show seems to have more of a flatter and dull look about it. It just doesn't seem to have the same cinematic look as the first season.

I'm sure this is some sort of budgetary reason but it's still a bit of a let down.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Show looks just as good as ever to me, if not better. (I got a high-def TV midway through last year, and this is by far my favorite show to watch on it.) If recent episodes seem a bit dingier, I suspect it's because we've been spending so much time on the deliberately unglamorous freighter.

So it goes said...

To clarify, I'm trying to understand why Michael would agree to kill everyone on the boat instead of demanding that Tom explain why his friends couldn't just leave the island through whatever method Tom used.

He has been trying to kill himself, so I wouldn't but much stock in Michaels decision making process at the point when he is overwhelmed him with all of that information in Friendlys hotel room. Also, after his island experiences I doubt he thinks he has room to negotiate with the others.

Undercover Asian Man said...

bf: "If protecting the Island was SO important, I think Ben wouldn't hesistate to undertake collateral damage in the form of killing innocents, "good guy" or not."

This 'not killing innocents' seems like a POST FACTO, hole-filling development by the writers to try to fan-wank an explanation why the O815ers weren't killed as soon as they crashed on the Island, and a bad one at that. As noted by someone else, Ben had no problem gassing all the hippie, peace-loving Dharma people on the Island (including presumably his young girlfriend and her family) during the Purge. Except of course that Dharma nutball who was pushing the button every 108 minutes - Ben left those Dharma guys alone for some (non-)reason.

Ben also ordered that Sayid, Jin, and Bernard be executed in last season's finale, and only Tom's disobedience saved them. He also threatened to kill Sawyer if Jack didn't operate on him. And also shot Locke in the back.

Yes, all these people survived, and it could be said that Ben "knew" these innocents were never going to be harmed because the Island would have saved them somehow, so we can fan-wank and believe he cares about not harming innocents. But if Ben knows the Island is capable of magical protection, why not REALLY blow up the Freighter and rely on the Island to keep the innocents safe?

Rousseau's death is just another example of poor character planning. They keep her alive for years on the Island - even though she set up a tower to transmit her French warning and rescue message, surely a no-no to Ben and Island discovery - and no was an armed lunatic that the Others should have logically squashed. Surely, she was kept alive by writers to fulfill an important plot role?!?

Now, she is given a meaningless death. A character that was once so packed with intrigue and mystery checks out without answering much of anything. Maybe they will bury her body fittingly next to Nikki and Paolo.

Side note: The finals for the Most Liked Character on Lost is today:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/artsandliving/television/features/2007/lost-central/lost_madness.html

Sad commentary that the final four Most Liked characters were Sayid, Ben, Charlie, and Desmond. Remember when we used to care about Jack, Kate, Locke, Claire, Sun, Jin, Hurley, Sawyer....?

dez said...

As for Ben insisting he's the good guy, don't most people think that about themselves?

Let's put him on "The Moment of Truth" and see what the polygraph says!

One thing that cracked me up about the ep was how forthcoming everyone was with the info last night, like Ben blurting out "It's Michael" when they were discussing his spy on the boat. It was nicely meta.

I also think the captain already knows who Michael is.

Anonymous said...

Whoever said it was probably Michael in that coffin had the right idea, I think. He would be just the guy to fit the bill of being an islander who isn't part of the Oceanic 6 but still making it off and he wouldn't have anyone come to the funeral. Plus, we already know he wants to kill himself. I'm goint with it.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Sad commentary that the final four Most Liked characters were Sayid, Ben, Charlie, and Desmond. Remember when we used to care about Jack, Kate, Locke, Claire, Sun, Jin, Hurley, Sawyer....?

Considering that the Post set up its brackets in a way that had all the (still living) Oceanic 815 survivors in the same region, there was no way more than one of them could have made it to the final four.

christy said...

To clarify, I'm trying to understand why Michael would agree to kill everyone on the boat instead of demanding that Tom explain why his friends couldn't just leave the island through whatever method Tom used.

Oh, I see. Sorry about that. Yeah, I agree with you that I was feeling that old familiar "why isn't he asking more questions???" feeling during the Tom/Michael scenes. I guess if Michael had asked that, Tom probably would have said something cryptic like "that's not what the island wants" or "that's not what's supposed to happen" or something. While of course the "real" reason none of the Losties could go back the same way the Others were is that Ben had control of it and chose not to let them.

The thing with Ben is that we can't really take anything he says seriously. We don't really know why he does anything. We don't really know how he does anything. When he says "I don't kill innocents," he could be lying to get Michael to do what he wants, he could be telling the truth, or he could really believe it and be wrong. We know a few events from his past, that he claims to be taking orders from Jacob, and there is a list or lists. I just don't think it's enough yet to understand where this is going or whether it's going to make sense.

Rand said...

I think for Ben all the Dharma Initiative people were bad just because they were jerks to him (except Annie and I believe he was concerned about her when the gassing happened). As was said by someone else, Ben's innocent and guilty justifications are very child-like.

I'm wondering the degree of what we saw was actually what Michael said. Specifically, we saw Michael watching the TV where they said the blackbox of Oceanic was unrecoverable, if he did mention that it would give Sayid and Desmond a big question to ask the captain (who said they found a blackbox from the fake Oceanic).

Overall I thought it was a good, not great episode, I kind of wish given the span of time summary nature of Michael's flashback it was interspliced with other scenes, maybe just Desmond and Sayid questioning him (even when you want someone to tell you what happened, its rare that people are just allowed to talk an entire story continuously in reply). I also would have liked to see ghost Walt appear at some point to Michael (I mean come on, even if his dad did become a murderer, I think Walt would care one way or the other if his dad was suicidal).

Undercover Asian Man said...

Alan: "Considering that the Post set up its brackets in a way that had all the (still living) Oceanic 815 survivors in the same region, there was no way more than one of them could have made it to the final four."

True. But "Desmond" is going to win it all?!? And Sayid came out of the O815 bracket? Not one of the "Big 4" - Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke? And remember how much people hated Charlie when he was being creepy with Claire and double-crossing the O815 camp? Now he is a Final Four guy?

I just think it points out how terribly un-thought-out some of our former heroes on the show were and continue to be. It's sad that the O815ers are the new "Tailies" in terms of relevance to the story.

Alan Sepinwall said...

True. But "Desmond" is going to win it all?!?

Desmond's easily been the most popular non-original castmember (other than maybe Mr. Eko), and his most recent spotlight was considered one of the series' best episodes ever.

And Sayid came out of the O815 bracket? Not one of the "Big 4" - Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke?

In the beginning of the series, Sayid was just as important as the other four. And his spotlight episode was one of this season's other highlights.

And remember how much people hated Charlie when he was being creepy with Claire and double-crossing the O815 camp? Now he is a Final Four guy?

And Charlie also memorably sacrificed himself to save the others.

People have a short memory, especially when voting on a silly thing like this. The results of the Post contest has less to do with what's going on in the show -- where most of the audience seems much happier with it than you -- than it does with how the Post set up the brackets (putting all the original characters in their own bracket, as opposed to, say, making your "big 4" the top 4 seeds) and how little thought people put into voting on this stuff.

Taleena said...

I am not convinced that Rousseau is dead.

I didn't hate this episode it gave some fodder for thought and although Michael is not a sympathetic character Harold P. wrung as much sympathy as I could dredge up for him.

It will be interesting to see how Sayid gets into the same Devil's bargain that Michael is in. Sayid knowing very well how you can get sucked into morally black areas with no way out; I think he (Sayid) walked into Ben's employ with his eyes open.

Ben is a master manipulator who pulls the puppet strings even as you know he is doing it. See the situation that Sawyer found himself in.

I tend to think that Whidmore and Ben are both bad. Whidmore through Greed and lust of Power; Ben through the Fervent Believing Martyr who none the less can get other people to make the actual sacrifice.

I think that Sayid and our Losties will make the Devil's bargain with Ben, not because Ben is good, but because the Losties will buy into the belief that the Island needs protecting. I think that Ben is the last person on Sayid's personal kill list.

Anonymous said...

It seems like we're being told, or led to believe, that Widmore is the bad guy, or at least, the worst guy. Because Sayid, believing the captain's assertion that Ben's the bad guy, outs Michael, but then he ends up working for Ben himself in the future.

christy said...

And Sayid came out of the O815 bracket? Not one of the "Big 4" - Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Locke?

You betcha. Sayid is my favorite character, period. Tied for second are Sawyer, Hurley and Jin. Then probably a tie between Desmond, Sun, Rose and Bernard. (Aren't you glad you know that?)

Dennis Wilson said...

Short memory here: Was Tom not one of the three Others run over by Hurley in the VW bus?

jim treacher said...

Yes, Tom was not. He was the one who Sawyer shot in cold blood, sneering, "That's for takin' the kid."

Sean said...

This 'not killing innocents' seems like a POST FACTO, hole-filling development by the writers

I disagree, ever since Ben stated
'we're the good guys' in Live Together, Die Alone I've found this toying with convenient notions of good/bad one of the more compelling aspects of the writing. Subtle yet relevant allusions to the geopolitical status of the US in the world.

Ben had no problem gassing all the hippie, peace-loving Dharma people on the Island

We've good reason to believe Dharma may not have been all that innocent, what with their disingenuous psych experiments and poison gas factory.

(including presumably his young girlfriend and her family)

I have a feeling we've yet to find out the full Annie story.

Ben also ordered that Sayid, Jin, and Bernard be executed in last season's finale, and only Tom's disobedience saved them.

Au contraire, my interpretation was that Ben had pre-arranged that the order to execute was a fake, and Tom was railing against that order as he (Tom) wanted to kill them. YMMV.

He also threatened to kill Sawyer if Jack didn't operate on him.

'threatened'

And also shot Locke in the back.

Presumably at this point either (a) Ben had reason to consider Locke no longer innocent or (b) that Locke had heard Jacob speak was evidence that the island would not let him die.

Michael said...

My current speculation on the timeline thing: the direction you go through the time/space anomaly determines how far into the past or future you go.

Michael's heading took him back in time to a point far enough where he could be rescued (somehow, by someone), taken to New York, spend time with his mother, spend time in the hospital healing after his car crash, meet with Tom, fly to Fiji, and sail to the Island on the boat, all in time to meet Sayid and Desmond aboard the boat. Let's say for the sake of argument that he and Walt went back six months.

When the helicopter took off from the Island, it was supposed to follow a precise heading that would get it there in real-time. Instead, it went a bit off-course and they slipped a day into the future.

Suppose there's another heading off the Island such that you go back in time only a week. There's your way for Tom to be spending time in NYC on vacation. Ben can also use that heading to spend a week off-island and come back right after he left.

It only affects physical things, though. Radio traffic is still real-time.

Anonymous said...

It's a bit arbitrary, though, to categorize a radio transmission as non-physical. You know what I mean?

Bobman said...

Michael had only been off the island two months. If he went back six months, he could end up running into himself, and Doc Brown told us this could destroy the universe. How could he go back to his mother with Walt before the plane even crashed in her timeline?


As for the silly bracket, I think who came out of the O815 part of the bracket shows just how much this show has come along, and it's a good thing. Sure, at the end of season one, Sawyer, Locke, Jack and Kate would be hands-down favorites. But in the course of 3+ seasons, other characters have developed in a much better arch than those four, and certainly become much more sympathetic to the audience. With a show like Lost, I think if the same four people were always in the forefront it would be very boring.

BF said...

Didn't the producers say last year that this year was supposed to be about "The Ruins" the same way that, say, season two was about "The Hatch"?

My guess is those plans got scrapped when Cane got picked up and Immortal Richard moved to Miami. So this season became about the freighter.

Brendan said...

Hey everyone,
I have to say I'm very surprised that more people aren't completely livid about the "NOT YET" scene. I actually felt like I had been ripped off. No one else felt they'd been patronized? Their intelligence seriously insulted?

This is the second week in a row that we've been subjected to a gimmick. Why tease us so much? Would it not have worked if a phone popped up with Ben on the other line saying, "I can't believe you actually set it off"?

I understand the show is meant to be all twisty and what not, but that scene was like the writers thinking they could throw anything our way and we'll be fine with it.

I can't tell if I've just been spoiled growing up with "The Sopranos" or if everyone else was peeved with this too. Am I thinking too much about it?

jim treacher said...

No one else felt they'd been patronized? Their intelligence seriously insulted?

A little bit, yeah. But compared to last week, it wasn't so bad. And it was hardly out of character for Ben.

Undercover Asian Man said...

Sean: "We've good reason to believe Dharma may not have been all that innocent, what with their disingenuous psych experiments and poison gas factory."

"I have a feeling we've yet to find out the full Annie story."

"Au contraire, my interpretation was that Ben had pre-arranged that the order to execute was a fake, and Tom was railing against that order as he (Tom) wanted to kill them. YMMV."

" 'threatened' "

"Presumably at this point either (a) Ben had reason to consider Locke no longer innocent or (b) that Locke had heard Jacob speak was evidence that the island would not let him die."

Sean, while your response is reasoned and polite, it also falls in line with what I think typical Lost apologists will answer to any challenge - namely, that since the show is completely mired in ambiguity, anything thrown out there can be "fit" into the Lost mythology as you have done here. If the Lost Producers had Ben say "In a war of this importance, there are bound to be innocent casualties," instead, you would be using all my examples as proof of Ben's feeling this way and the producers wanting Ben to be that way all along. This is what Lost does best - sets up ambiguous situations that fans can interpret any way they want.

Saying that all the Dharma people are now evil just to match up with the new "harm no innocents" rule bends belief. Even Ben's own father, while flawed, went to the Island to provide for his son, and not because he bought into the whole Dharma movement. Annie and others never showed any malice.

And now justifying Ben's actions as "Ben has a very childlike view of Guilt and Innocence" (as others have done) is again an Apologist's creation. We are to believe a character as sophisticated and with as much foresight as Ben is now a simpleton? He really does not believe he is responsible of Libby or AnnaLucia's death because he did not physically pull the trigger, or Goodwin's death because he did not plunge the stake, or Charlie's death because he did not pull the grenade, even though he either ordered the executions or, with his magic foresight, knew it would lead to them dying (Goodwin)? Not credible as a well written character to have Ben so inconsistent with his logic.

Two more points before continuing on my March Madness weekend: 1)I'm in the position of trying to prove a negative. Short of Lidelof or Cuse admitting that they never had an overarching story and were making large portions of it up on the fly, I doubt I can ever prove my point. Any inconsistencies I point out can always be met with some kind of winding, meandering excuse, especially when we are now dealing with "god" characters like Ben, Jacob, Charles Widmore, The Economist, who "work in mysterious ways" and "everything happens for a reason." If I point out the existence of dinosaur bones to a Fundamentalist Christian as proof that the Dinosaurs existed, he responds "Well the Devil put those bones into the ground to trick mankind into believing that," and we are back to stalemate. I feel at times I'm doing the same here.

2) While any good mystery should have twists and some ambiguity, Lost exploits this to a shameful degree. My main gripe has always been from a storyteller's perspective- how loose the plotting, characters, environment, everything are just to make shocking television at the expense of honest storytelling. Characters behave and things happen on Lost simply because it would make good television, and not because it serves the story in any believable way. The whole "NOT YET" flag on the bomb is just the latest example.

I also do not believe I am outnumbered as it seems. It's just that others of my ilk just abandon the show, while I'm too curious to let go since I feel I realize what is really going on and want to see them write their way out of it. But the Neilsen ratings seem to show many have stopped believing in Lost, and drops significantly every week (another 5% this episode). I predict that the next full season of Lost will have episodes below 10 million viewers for the first time, and there is a small chance we do not see all the remaining episodes on ABC.

I will re-watch the Tom/Jin/Sawyer/Bernard scene again though to see if your interpretation makes more sense.

Anonymous said...

undercover asian man: I liked your post a lot. I think the reasoning is quite sound, informed as it is by a cogent skepticism.

At this point, I'm not sure what my main reason for watching is. The production values? What I mean is, I think I've lost any expectation that, indeed, in the end, all will be revealed and the answers will satisfy. For one thing, the show seems to _posit_ time travel and speaking to the dead, so, I mean, how inevitable (in a good way: simple, logical, deterministic, satisfying) can the overall solution to the mystery(-ies) be. You know what I mean?

Best case scenario, how pleased do you think it'd be possible for you to be with any grand, ultimate answers the show ends up providing?

Anonymous said...

I'm confused by the recurring debate over how predetermined the full story was buy the writers & producers. Unless I dreamt it, I saw an interview with one of them in which they said in season 1 they had no clue what was inside the hatch. As soon as season 1 wrapped shooting, they sat down to write season 2, and they were like, "Ok, now we've got to figure this out."

Not only does it seem clear that they're only (at least so far) plotting 1 season at a time, I believe they've said as much.

Having said this, I don't mind much. Lost is among my favorite series of all time, and as much as I'd love it to have zero flaws, I appreciate the audacious ambition of the show, and I'm very much enjoying the ride.

Bobman said...

undercover asian man,

While your point is valid and well-stated, there's some middle ground. YOu seem to be along for the ride just to find inconsistencies and point them out; the "apologists" as you say will defend every action as if it were gospel. The middle ground is accepting as much as is reasonable, occasionally scoffing at some implausible or cheap storytelling, and moving on and enjoying yourself.

I think you have to see it from a writer's perspective sometimes; making network television that draws in 8-10 million (I think) viewers each week for several years takes more than "consistency". You have to bend the rules of storytelling in order to appeal to the masses on a weekly level. It annoys those who pay close attention when the show stretches and sometimes obliterates plausibility, but in the end it's still wildly entertaining. And if you can't see past the occasional deus ex machina then maybe there's a better way to spend your 42 minutes every Thursday.

Sean said...

Mr UAM,

Sean, while your response is reasoned and polite, it also falls in line with what I think typical Lost apologists will answer to any challenge - namely, that since the show is completely mired in ambiguity, anything thrown out there can be "fit" into the Lost mythology as you have done here

Well, thanks for appreciating my politeness!

I rarely if ever post anywhere about Lost, and I find it amusing if not absurd to be seen as an "apologist" regarding something as unimportant as a TV show. But hey ho, I don't particularly mind either...

I'll admit it's the glorious ambiguity of the writing that appeals to me so much. After adding my response I realised that simply accepting that Dharma are "not innocent" because they can't be if Ben doesn't kill innocents is silly. What intrigues me is that the character Ben Linus may well think that way, and that some of the reasons as to why may yet be revealed.

I do tend towards the belief that the writers have an overall arc that they are following, whilst making up a lot of the intervening detail. However I have friends that are interested but yet to watch, and at this point I've said that they might as well wait till the end and get me to let them know if it's actually worth it or not - I'm prepared fot the possibility they're going to let a whole set of unanswered questions slide.

I am someone who loves ambiguity and paradox, who doesn't believe the world is simply and conveniently classifiable with coherent design and intention behind all. Lost seems to reflect this whilst carrying me along for a roller-coaster ride of entertainment.

Like Bobman I do enjoy pointing out where the Lost writing falls down - say the mistake they made in ignoring the change in London phone numbers between 1996 and 2004 in 'The Constant' or the paucity of legal coherence in 'Eggtown'.

I just don't think Ben's 'we're the good guys' line falls into that category - you can sit either side on whether you think (a) he believes this himself and (b) whether there's any merit to the statement, but I think to complain simply because neither point is clear is to mistake Lost for a different type of narrative.

Anyway it was your misunderstanding (as I see it) regarding the Jin/Sawyer/Sayid non-execution that inspired me to make a rare post, the rest was extrapolation from there.

(and yes, the flag was a bit cheap - although pretty entertaining nonetheless)

christy said...

UAM, I don't think you're wrong at all. I think it's very probable that the writers are making the vast majority of this stuff up as they go along. It may even be bad or sloppy storytelling, depending on your standards I guess.

But like Bobman I think there's quite a bit of middle ground. For me, even assuming they're just making it up, I also assume they're going to try their damnedest to find a way to put the pieces together somehow, and it's just kind of fun to speculate on exactly how they might do that. And in the meantime, it's just fun to watch.

It's funny that Brian K. Vaughn is writing for LOST these days, because when thinking about LOST and storytelling, my eye keeps drifting over to my collection of Y: The Last Man graphic novels. I'm not a huge comic book reader, but I think there probably is some overlap between comic book people and LOST people. Comic books is an area where you're releasing the beginning and middle of a story long before the ending is written, and yet there's an expectation that the project as a whole have a coherent story arc. LOST is more like that than most TV shows, I suppose because of the mystery element. But...the story is halfway over. I'm not sure how it should be different at this point to prove itself coherent. Just as "apologists" can come up with answers to your questions, likewise can you dismiss any and all of those answers as excuses of the blind faithful. (Again, for me, answering those questions can be fun and nothing more; it's not meant to be proof of a master plan). I can certainly accept that it's imperfect, and that it could end up anywhere from pretty good to pretty sucky when it's all over with. I'm just not sure what more we should be expecting of it at this point in the story. If we both read 2/3 of the way through, say, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, then sat down to try to discuss how we thought it was going to end...would the conversation be different?

Usually when trying to convince a religious person of their logical fallacies, it's because that person is using their religion as an excuse to do something that causes harm in the world...alienating the people they love with incessant proselytizing or killing people, for instance. The varying degrees of faith people have in the LOST story arc cause people to enjoy a television program and then chit-chat about it with their coworkers and people on the internet.

I've gone on a couple of tangents. I guess my main point is that I don't have to think it's perfect or even necessarily all that good to enjoy it. I also like American's Next Top Model and often speculate about who will get kicked off next week. LOST is certainly better than that, plus it has even better looking people on it.

The CineManiac said...

Loved the episode. I really enjoyed having the flashback all together without going back and forth. Not something I want every week, but a nice change.
I agree that you can't fault Sayid's actions, but knowing that he ends up working for Ben, I'm pretty sure he just made a big mistake.
Can't wait until the 24th.

Dan said...

If Michael is the person in the coffin during Jack's flash-forward, then why is Jack so visibly upset by this? Doesn't he contemplate suicide when he finds out? I'm sticking with Ben as the man in the coffin.

treved said...

was i the only one singing "MacGruber!" when Michael activated the "bomb"???

Mrglass said...

was i the only one singing "MacGruber!" when Michael activated the "bomb"???
Yes