Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Lost: And we're just the guys to do it.

"Lost" spoilers coming up just as soon as I buy tickets to The New York Philharmonic Presents The Songs of Three Dog Night...

If you can get past the episode's complete lack of resemblance to the promos (which billed it as some kind of edge-of-your-seats thriller), this was the best episode of the season by quite a stretch, featuring many of the things the fans had been clamoring for: more of the cast in general, more Hurley in particular, more humor, absolutely zero mindgames or torture involving The Others, etc.

Back when "Dave" aired last year, Matt Seitz even argued that Jorge Garcia had become the show's "de facto star and its deepest actor (with the possible exception of O'Quinn), and I think the goodness of "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead" really speaks to that. The flashbacks retread the same ground as two previous Hurley episodes, but Garcia kept me interested in Hurley's deepening misery in a way that Matthew Fox can't with Jack's narcissism. His "Let's make our own luck" speech to Charlie was almost Belushi-esque (John, not Jim) in its conviction in a completely insane, futile and dangerous gesture.

Hurley is the hero of this show -- my hero, anyway. He's the only one who ever asks relevant questions, the only one who really seems to care about the emotional well-being of his fellow castaways, the only one concerned with improving everyone's quality of life. By the episode's climax, I really cared about whether they could get that damn Microbus to start, even if it would only be useful for going around in circles. (In that way, it's a perfect symbol for what the writers have allowed "Lost" to become.)

I could do without Hurley becoming the latest Lostaway with daddy issues (is there any character -- or, for that matter, TV drama writer -- who doesn't have them?), and without Cheech's distracting toupees, but the present-day stuff was spot-on. In particular, I loved Hurley's reaction to Sawyer's return, a moment where even the self-loathing con man couldn't help but enjoy someone else's affection for him. I hope that Hurley really has broken his bad luck streak thanks to the van and a little "Shambala," but even if he hasn't, this was a welcome oasis from all the bad feeling that's been strangling this season.

On the heavier side of things, we have Kate acting tough and proactive in what feels like the first time since early in season one. It always drives me nuts how the writers spent so much time establishing Kate as a bad-ass and then immediately turned her into the girl who gets tied to the train tracks. I just hope that Kate, Rousseau and company don't go to a lot of trouble invading Alcatraz, only to find it empty. Kate's desire to find The Others' village last week -- after Karl said that his people don't spend much time on Alcatraz -- gives me hope that that's her objective.

Some other thoughts:
  • Did Rousseau tell Kate about her daughter in "Maternity Leave" last season, or is that a piece of information that we're supposed to assume Sayid told Kate about at some point? I'm almost hoping it's the latter, as it would imply that the castaways really do trade information in between scenes.
  • Another great Hurley scene: him updating Libby on recent goings-on. The heartfelt monologue at a loved one's grave is an overused cliche, but two things sold it: Garcia's utter sincerity, and the pullback to reveal that they had built a fence around the cemetary. They've now lost so many people post-crash (Boone, Arzt, Shannon, one of Steve/Scott, Ana-Lucia, Libby, Eko, others I'm blanking on right now) that the cemetary is now the most substantial thing the castaways have built. Damn.
  • Did Karl take the boat, and if not, why on earth wouldn't Sawyer and Kate have held onto the thing? Sawyer's objection last week was to navigating at night, but in the daytime they could have just hugged the coastline, and they'd still have a vehicle that would be much, much more useful than Hurley's new wheels.
  • Getting back to the "are deleted scenes canon?" issue from earlier in the week, didn't I read somewhere that, in a deleted scene from "Live Together, Die Alone," Vincent joined Walt and Michael on their boat trip off the island?
  • Now we know the source of all of Sawyer's '70s TV references: he had mono for two months as a kid.
  • Other moments of fine Sawyer-related comedy: Hurley's failed attempt at a nickname comeback, and Sawyer teaching Jin some valuable marital phrases. That particular ESL joke's an old one, but always a good one.
  • One downside to hanging with the entire beach gang: Nikki and Paulo return.

What did everybody else think?


Anonymous said...

If only we could have our Lost and eat it too...

I've been down with Lost and all it entails from day 1. Still, the flashbacks on the show always seem to pull out of the island activity just in time to make them just so slightly irritating, especially when they present little or no knew information about the castaways, their pasts, or their motivation. Hurley's streak of bad luck has already been documented, do we need 15 minutes more of this?

On the flip side, the car story and the returning dad after Hurley makes his millions was a nice bookend for the action on the island. And it was pretty cool to see the Chicken Shack get deep fried. But couldnt we lose 5 or 10 minutes of flashbacks for some sub-plot development outside of the 30 second throw-away of Kate "going for help" and then the final 3 minutes of finding Rousseau. I've got to believe that everyone who has stuck with the show knew Kate's intentions from the get-go.

Why do we have to wait for another tedious episode of Jack-centric activity to look back in on him? Would it ruin the pacing to jump to a shot of Juliet torturing Jack by grilling him cheese, or Ben and the Sheriff shooting the breeze? Can't we cut the fat from the flashbacks, beef up the subplot, and indulge in a full hour (or whatever time is actually allotted to the show) of Lost goodness?

We were initially so blinded from drinking the Lost juice in the first 2 seasons to notice that only one major plot can be addressed per episode, or have the writers legitimately strayed from their previous formula?

Is any of this stuff that Alan didn't already say in his column, or am I just subconsciously regurgitating all of his previous comments.

Still, I'm totally hooked on this show, flaws and all, and I'll be there with bells and whistles to the end. Something about Lost just makes it feel A-grade, no matter what.

J said...

This would have been a great episode had it come, say, after a series of episodes in which something had happened. It's a breather episode, and that it's a high point of any sort (the Desmond ep was much, much more exciting) is sort of sad.

But: It very directly addressed a need this show's had this season. Hurley decides they've got to fix the van because it would be fun. And it was. Hurley-Sawyer scenes rock. The hug was great.

“Red... neck... man!” was funny.
“Touché” was hilarious.

I thought - and maybe this is what you meant, anyway - Sawyer was using the English lessons as a way to apologize out loud to Kate without actually apologizing to Kate. And that was sort of sweet. (Also: “Well look at that. Somebody’s hooked on phonics.” Hooked on Phonics refs always work.)

It kills me how useless Sayid and Locke have become.

Philip said...

Anyone else notice that Hurley and Charlie are becoming 'blood brothers'? Hurley has the numbers' curse on his head. Charlie has the impending death on his head that only Desmond can see coming.

I realized this when Hurley was telling Charlie to cheer up and quit being so depressed. They obviously both needed something to distract them from these Achilles Heels.

I think that the message is that death and doom is always coming for you, but what you do between now and death/doom is how you live.

Anonymous said...

I loved this episode. I loved it because it's basically the show I want to be watching.

All of season one and about half of season two I was really into the mysteries. I loved the questions, and didn't particularly care for answers. But then everything went overboard and I got burnt out (along with, it seems, most of the audience).

Now, all I want is Gilligan's Island without the camp. I want hijinx and laughs -- maybe some light drama. I want a show about people trying to live on an island. I don't need mystery anymore Veronica Mars and Heroes offers plenty.

Lost would be a better show if it spent less time trying to be relevant and more time trying to be fun.

Cinemania said...

This episode we saw more of Lost (wait for it) spinning its wheels.

Sorry, but really, how could one resist?

Hurley is the show's best character (this side of season 1's Locke), and Garcia the show's most consistently engaging performer (again, this side of Mr. Stepfather), so it's easy to overlook the fact that nothing much happened, beyond some nice bonding moments. But at least we got to hang with Hurley, which always works for me.

Anonymous said...


Yeah, Rousseau made it pretty clear to Kate and Clare that the only reasons she was going on their little mission in "Maternity Leave" was to find her 16 year old daughter, Alex.

K J Gillenwater said...

I loved the humor in this episode. That is what we've been missing--the character development and the relationships between all the Losties. It was nice to just watch them interact without needing big questions answered.

And I'm in agreement with Rick. I want this show to be more like a sophisticated version of "Gilligan's Island" rather than this big huge mystery/thriller show. That is what I had expected from the very first episode. Instead of phones from coconuts, I was hoping for these castaways to make do with their lot and try to find a way to build a civilization.

Having the Others ruined it. And having us get to know the Others ruined it even more. It would have been cooler if all the Others were dead, like Roger Work Man, and the Losties had to figure out what happened to these guys.

But, I guess I'll just have to hope for more Hurley episodes. Everyone else is into risk-taking, action-packed lives. Hurley just wants to have a normal, happy life without the curse hanging over his head.

Anonymous said...

With the return of Nikki and Paulo, suddenly I am nostalgic for the Others.

bill said...

With the return of Nikki and Paulo, suddenly I am nostalgic for the Others.

I surprised myself with how much hatred I felt towards those two. My wife asked, "Where's Rose and Bernard?" Good question, and why do we get Barbie and Ken's retarded cousins instead?

BF said...

So, on this uncharted Pacific Island, we have...

* a crashed and abandoned Hot Air balloon (courtesy Mr. Gale)

* a crashed and abandoned pirate ship (Black Rock)

* a crashed and abandoned VW Van

* 2 crashed and abapdoned planes (Oceanic 815 and Air Nigeria).

What sort of otherworldly transportation hub is this? What other long-ago vehicles will we find?

a Train?
a Greyhound?
Ogdenville's Monorail?
The Sword of Orion?

Anonymous said...

Surely they will find an autogyro bound for the Prussian consulate in Siam.

Anonymous said...

I didn't love this ep, but I did like it a lot, especially after last week's disaster. Hopefully, they're getting back to what made this show great: more duuuuude!

I hope Nikki & Paolo are just there as fodder for more deaths.

Anonymous said...

As most everyone's said, props to Garcia for carrying the episode, and to the writers for having some fun with a one-off that got away from the convoluted mysteries and reminded me why I like these characters.

Also, it's nice to see an enjoyable (for me anyway) Sawyer, which is probably due to his interacting with someone other than Kate. He's been grating on my nerves all season being solely part of the love triangle. His comraderie with Jin and slow acceptance of Hurley's hug were the highlights of the show for me.

Alan Sepinwall said...

There's going to be a Nikki and Paulo episode in a few weeks (I think it's episode 14 overall), that Damon and Carlton claim will change everyone's perception of the two and make us understand why they're there. Uh-huh.

bill said...

There's going to be a Nikki and Paulo episode in a few weeks (I think it's episode 14 overall), that Damon and Carlton claim will change everyone's perception of the two and make us understand why they're there. Uh-huh.

I'm not calling for a boycott, just saying I'll personally be busy that night.

Alan Sepinwall said...

My wife asked, "Where's Rose and Bernard?" Good question, and why do we get Barbie and Ken's retarded cousins instead?

Lindelof says that the two actors (the one who plays Rose in particular) have a lot of other jobs (stage and screen), so they're not as available as much as the Lost producers would like, and the show doesn't need them enough to spend the money to make them regular castmembers so they'll always be around.

Jason said...

I just don't get the "Lost" hate. When was "Lost" ever "Gilligan's Island?" Never. It's like people have made up some idealized vision of what they wish the show was and have convinced themselves that it was always that show.

If you had to read a novel one chapter at a time, and the chapters were spread out by weeks or sometimes months, you'd lose perspective on the flow of the novel's story too. I get the feeling that "Lost" will end up working much better when viewed on DVD as a complete story.

In the meantime, though, I enjoy the ride immensely. But then, I take the show for what it is and don't try to imagine it if it was a story about identical-twin clowns who solve crimes.... on an island!

Alan Sepinwall said...

I get the feeling that "Lost" will end up working much better when viewed on DVD as a complete story.

Then you have far greater faith in Lindelof and Cuse than the rest of us do. You want a real "novel for TV," try watching "The Wire" on HBO, where it's obvious there will be payoffs down the road even when individual episodes offer little to no closure.

The longer "Lost" has been around, the more obvious it becomes to me (and others) that the producers are making it up as they go along, so the only way to enjoy it is on an episode-by-episode basis. Hours like this one or the Desmond show a couple of weeks ago are good, whether or not they advance the story, while all the Others episodes simultaneously fail to move the plot and to entertain on their own.

Unknown said...

I posted somewhere else earlier about how sick I am of everyone having daddy issues. Then it occurred to me that this is another common thread of everyone on the island. Yeah, that's the ticket! It must be part of the ISLAND MYSTERY!

Seriously, someone on this island had to have a daddy they liked.

Anonymous said...

BTW, speaking of Lost, did anyone notice how much weight Garcia's dropped? Even his flashbacks are skinnier...


Tosy And Cosh said...

Alan - Can you clarify if the regulars get paid for eps thay aren't in? I always asumed they did, but all of the stuff with Veronica Mars characters disappearing for eps at a time so that they can save budget by not paying them would seem to counter that. ?

Unrelated, but how great would it be if we get a flashback soon that features another heretofore unseen Daddy and it's made abundantly clear that the character and his or her father had a remarkable, close, loving relationship?

Anonymous said...

The presidential candidate that vows to abolish Nikki and Paulo has my vote.

rukrusher said...

If Lost was a novel I would be skipping to the last chapter right now.

Anonymous said...

Jason, is it just me or were you channeling Garden State a little there in your defense of the show?

Anonymous said...

Alan, Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Explanation: Thank you for verbalizing what I couldn't quite put my finger on last night about Hurley in that van. "Belushi-esque" couldn't be more perfect. I kept wondering who he was reminding me of so much, but it was just outside my memory's grasp. Stupid fibro. fog messes up the best little things!

Jason said...

Anonymous: Nope, no channeling.

Alan: I do believe that the producers know where they're going and aren't "making it up as they go along." Does this mean that every step is planned? Of course not. J. Michael Straczynski knew where he was going with "Babylon 5," but every time an actor dropped out or an opportunity for an interesting modification to the main story came along, the story had to change somewhat. I do believe that the fundamental parts of the "Lost" story remain the same.

Believe it or not, many (most?) novelists don't write outlines where every single story point is mapped out in incredible detail. Instead they have overall plot plans and know where they're going, but during the writing process things change and evolve. Sometimes the story details go in a different direction that you expected, but it's more organic or more interesting and so you go in that direction.

The difference is, unless you're Dickens or someone else who's writing chapters in public, as a novelist you get to write your whole piece, revise it, and then release it on the world. On TV there's no chance for that, and people are judging you every step of the way.

Several TV seasons have looked MUCH better to me on DVD, when I've been able to appreciate them in rapid succession rather than stretched out over months. There was a particular Buffy season (five? six?) that was FAR better upon review because what I felt was an interminable subplot was really only interminiable because it was stretched around months of reruns with only spotty re-airings.

Is "Lost" without failing or fault? Absolutely not. But I think my opinion that they're not making it up as they go along has just as much validity as yours does. Mine has the added advantage of being what the producers say, which means that I think they're telling the truth, and you think Abrams, Cuse, and Lindelof are lying. If you want to assume they're lying, that's your right, but I'm inclined to think they aren't.

Jason said...

I should add that if there is a major fault to be laid at the feet of the "Lost" producers, it's not that they're making it up, but that their planned story is just too thin. As a result, they've got multi-year story points plotted out, and they figure out before they start a season about what the major events are going to be, and what the season finale is going to be.

Which is fine if you've got a lot of story to use. But one does get the sense with "Lost" that they don't have enough material to stretch over an entire season. The end result is that the pace of the plot is so slow that it's essentially ground to a halt.

I see that, absolutely. Personally, I enjoy "Lost" for many more reasons than the advancement of the plot. I didn't find the Others episodes dull at all, but I understand that many people did.

Anyway, I do belive they know what story they want to tell -- I just think they may not have enough story and are spreading it too thin. Perhaps that's one of the reasons they're openly talking about when they should end the show. They may have realized that for their show to succeed they're going to have to play out their story much faster, which is going to cause trouble if ABC wants them to go seven years.

Though with all the backlash I see, I'm starting to wonder if they'll make it to a fifth year.

Anonymous said...

Another good line, when Hurley gave his speech about looking death in the face and saying, "Whatever, man..."

I agree with Alan in that I enjoy the show on a per-episode basis, and I too thought the Desmond ep and this Hurley one were the best so far this season. I am sticking with it, and I still think that it's one of the best shows out there. I don't have cable, after all, so with only network TV to choose from, my choices are limited. Lost stays on my "must see" list, and I don't foresee this changing. I sure hope it doesn't, but of course I was one of the many "Twin Peaks" and "X Files" viewers who got burned in the end...

Anonymous said...

This episode felt like a spec script recut to fit the current status of the show. The bus is out of nowhere and I am guessing will go nowhere.

Still, it was nice to smile with the characters. A little comic relief is helpful. Just ask Wm. Shakesp.

The van was a little too "Little Miss Sunshine" for me.

But I'm still hooked.

Anonymous said...

There's going to be a Nikki and Paulo episode in a few weeks

You liiiie! Why do you liiiie? [/Ned Flanders off]

Sara Anne said...

"Touche." made me giggle...I missed those other characters...but then, I'm in it for the characters and relationships moreso than the mysteries/mythology...

Unknown said...

Joe in Philly OTM.