Wednesday, May 12, 2010

EVERY QUESTION I ANSWER WILL ONLY LEAD TO ANOTHER QUESTION: You got that right, Claudia Jean. How came the chicken? From the egg. And from whence the egg? From the chicken prior, moron. Mild spoilers probably will follow, I should warn you.

I think I've mentioned that, as a rule, when I read Neal Stephenson, I skimmed the philosophy. When I read Lord of the Rings, I skipped the poetry. When I watched Twin Peaks and BSG, I suffered through the dream sequences, not fast-forwarding only for fear of missing something important, plot-wise. Those works are dense, rich show-don't-tell narratives, mounds build pebble by pebble. The philosophy lectures, the ersatz Celtic balladry, the premonitive and allegorical interludes -- they just feel explicative, summary. Given the choice between a confusing but immersive story and some rushed, artificial retconning, I'll choose ignorance every time.

So, too, with the story of Jacob, Silas Adams, the Golden Hole (note: not a euphemism), the Smokey creation myth, and that marvel of pan-European Viking/home-schooled immortal engineering, the Donkey Wheel. What I signed up for was the story of how a rag-tag band of ambiguously culpable and unambiguously incapable castaways survived an island teeming with hostile natives and supernatural phenomena. What I renewed for was the Survivor-like story of competing tribes enduring forced conflict, inopportune merges, and format-mandated attrition while they lie, plot, and scheme to outplay, outlast, and outstupid each other. The point is that I got attached to my dumb Lostaways, with their slacker or irritated incredulity, their hirsute Scottishness, their forgetful and forgiving love. Who I am not attached to: Jacob, his swarthy twin, and their Midwesterly midwife mom. I'm perfectly fine with their playing a role, even a key one, in the stories of my Lostaways -- but only as long as they remember it's not their story. I am capable of taking their motivation on faith, and didn't need to waste a precious resource -- one of the few remaining hours of this show -- establishing what I already could have imagined.

And what did we establish, anyway? Where did Jacob and his brother come from? From a boat that the island claimed, just like the Black Rock and Rousseau's research ship and the smuggler plane and Oceanic 815 and the Ajira flight. And who brought them? Some sorceress who beat them there. How did she get there? Same way. Who brought her there? Beats me. What's so special about the island? The Golden Hole. What's so special about the Golden Hole? Its specialness. Who built the Donkey Wheel? Man in Black. How did he know how to build it? He was born ready. How does it work? According to the Principles of Universal Donkey Wheel Construction. Why can't candidates kill each other? Mom said. Who were Adam and Eve? Three part answer: (a) more like Cain and Eve; (b) people who were wearing different clothes than the skeletons we first saw six years ago; and (c) not the first two people on the island.

I don't mean to sound this pissed. I'm just disappointed. After a fantastic episode last week about men of science and men of faith, about the simple math of survival and loss and abandonment, about unbearable choices and sacrifice and star-crossed, sub-sunk love, I didn't want everything to grind to a halt so that we could go back a few hundred years for a puppet show where the color of one's hair and clothing is sufficient to convey a character trait.


  1. bill.2:25 AM

    Exactly. Though I wonder if I'd feel better about this episode if it had started the season.

  2. calliekl6:16 AM

    The part that bothered me the most was the fact that they felt the need to SHOW us the scene when they discovered the bodies in the cave. When have they ever needed to spell anything like that out for us?? Did they think it was too long ago and people wouldn't remember? They used to have more faith in us than that.

    Also, didn't she fill in the hole before he would have had a chance to finish the wheel?

  3. kevbo nobo7:27 AM

    See your point, Isaac, but I guess this was a way for them to deliver a hot plate of steaming answers. Like bill said, if this is shown at the beginning of the season, it goes down a lot easier.

    That said- love your style of critique.

  4. Kristen7:51 AM

    THANK you. A whole hour away from the Lostaways was not what I was looking forward to. None of the whole episodes around the mythology characters (Richard included) have been very interesting, and they draaaaagged on, much like those dumb poems and dream sequences in the middle of LOTR and BSG.

  5. Carmichael Harold7:54 AM


    Though I wasn't as frustrated by the episode as you were (I'm more frustrated by its placement in the season rather than its existence), I didn't love it. That said, I'm not sure your last sentence is right. For the first time this season, I think the physical lightness of Jacob and physical darkness of his brother belie their character. I found MiB to be a much more sympathetic and understandable character than Jacob in this episode. Jacob came off as simpering, quick-to-anger, eager-to-please, and too scared of the unknown to think for himself (in some ways, he actually reminds me of pre-Island Locke), whereas MiB's motivations throughout the episode were understandable and recognizable (even to killing the woman who killed his mother, withheld her love, lied to him and then tried to kill him when he ultimately disobeyed her).

    At this point, it is clear to me that both Jacob and the MiB have killed people somewhat indiscriminately to further their own interests, and they are both culpable in the horrors that have afflicted the Losties since the first scene of the series. In other words, I don't think there's an uncomplicated representative of pure unmotivated good or pure unmotivated evil between them that's easily reducible from their apparel, unlike, say in High Noon or something.

  6. I'm with Isaac. Actually, a mythology episode would have been fine with me if it had actually explained something important about the mythology. But as Isaac ably explains, it didn't. "Who are Adam and Eve" is NOT a central question here. If you want me to forget about all the mysteries of the first five seasons and focus on the larger battle in the sixth, then you at least need to tell me why I should care about that larger battle. And this episode didn't do that at all. I'd say "I'm done with this show," but I know that's a lie. I'll watch the end of the season, but I'm sadly reconciling to the fact that Lost has forfeit its chance to be considered one of the best network television shows ever.

  7. Carmichael Harold8:02 AM

    I meant to add that I would agree that we are meant to treat MiB as the antagonist of the story vis a vis the remaining Losties, but I can imagine the Island's story retold with MiB as protagonist (admittedly, an anti-hero. . . made of electromagnetic wibbly wobbly stuff) without much of a change in the facts that we have been presented. In other words, Lost is like the Brother's Karamazov told from Alyosha's perspective, rather than Ivan's.

  8. Jordan8:32 AM

    ...and if we didn't have this episode, half the internet would be complaining about the lack thereof

  9. As Isaac rightly points out, it's just all so simultaneously circular and ellipitical--"what's that big important thing the Island is protecting?" "Light." "And what's special about the light?" "Light is good, it fights the darkness." (But if you jump in the light, it is a "fate worse than death.")

    And while Janney can be spectacular (she deserved each and every one of the Emmys she's won, and has been great fun on In Plain Sight this season), she just seemed flat and exhausted for much of the performance. I suspect much of that was an intentional character choice (a la Naveen Andrews' amazing changing accent this season), but seemed like she was somewhat miscast--would have gone with someone who plays more world-weary than she does.

  10. Watchman9:05 AM

    It's turtles all the way down...

  11. Watchman9:05 AM

    It's turtles all the way down...

  12. Um, yeah.

    1. This episode should have started the season. This was a particularly bad point in the narrative to break things up, what with all the deaths and the tension.

    2. What worries me most is that we've got 3 1/2 hours to go, and so so much that does matter remains unanswered. Obviously we have to find out what the flash-sideways "mean" in the Mobius strip of Lost-time. But beyond that, okay: it's a magical golden hole with life/death powers that makes some folks immortal, and some who can't kill each other (Jacob/NotJacob, Ben/Widmore), but we may never learn why it works out. Then again, we didn't need to learn about midochlorians either.

    3. Here's my real question: so, was that Smokey incarnated as GhostMom to NotJacob? If so, was he always there on the Island just like the Golden Hole? And how did it then work out that he inhabited NotJacob's body?

  13. The last episode I watched was the Jin/ Sun episode. I really am dissapointed in this season. The flash sideways just aren't working for me. It is frustrating not knowing how they matter and I thought the Ricardo episode was terrible.
    I am not sure what I was expecting for the final season, but it wasn't this.

    It feels like I have 5 hours of homeowrk to do. This episode description does not make me want to get it done.

  14. Andrew10:04 AM

    I feel like we've been waiting all season for the on-island story to pick up, and now we're two episodes (or 3.5 episodes worth of story time) left, and we're taking another pause to tell the story of Jacob and Esau, with the most direct connection to our characters and the only appearance by any of the main cast coming in footage from season 1.

    If this same episode had come closer to the beginning of this season, would naything have been spoiled? Would it have affected our perception of Smokey? (That he was a man turned into a smoke monster by a glowing hole in the ground isn't much of an answer that clarifies what's going on.)

    How long has it been since we've seen Ben? And how long has it been since he's had anything interesting to do?

    I've found the pacing of the season so frustrating. We've had major characters completely off the table for entire episodes at a time for no compelling story reason, and this interlude changes the game far less than Cuselof thinks it does, to hold it until the third from final episode. Cast it as part of the mystery earlier in the season, rather than part of the runup to the endgame. Jacob and Smokey once didn't really understand the island, either-- from the time they were born, they were used as pawns of some kind.

    And I *liked* the episode! If this was the first episode of the season? That would've been ballsy in a great, audacious way. At this point in the season? It seems like this entire season has been stalling and keeping time until the finale.

  15. If you skip the dream sequences of Twin Peaks so you can hurry the plot along, you're doing it wrong. Not every objet d'art takes as its highest function the delivery of plot.

  16. Remember how they spent a whole episode telling Richard's story? Uh, how much screen time has he had since that point?

  17. I'm very torn on this episode. On the one hand, it definitely kept me engaged---I could scarcely believe it when the "LOST" logo popped up on the screen at the end. On the other hand, it was frustrating, particularly with the timing. As you say, earlier in the season would have been much better.

    One thing that I did like about the episode's refusal to answer all of the questions I might have expected it to answer, and even to raise new ones was this: it actually raised the issue as to whether all of this secretiveness is a good thing. If Crazy Momma had been open and honest with the boys, would we have this long-running struggle that has entrapped our lead characters? Do either the MIB or Jacob become murderers? With more honesty, do we have a smoke monster? Do we have a game where folks are lured to the island against their will, and have to stumble blindly around, looking for answers because, again, the people in the know aren't being forthcoming? This kind of secretiveness may have been necessary in order to have the show last as long as it did, or exist at all, but the question is whether it has ultimately been the source of a lot of evil and heartache for the characters on the show.

    So, maybe Crazy Momma and the MIB really are Adam & Eve. Her failure to be honest with him led to him becoming the Smoke Monster and led to his battle with Jacob and his desire to leave the island at all costs.

    One other thought: the boyfriend asked how it could be that Jacob and the MIB cannot kill each other but the MIB's body was so apparently dead in the end (and ultimately turned into a skeleton). My thought is that his soul was ripped from his body and turned into the smoke monster. Which may not be deep, but there it is.

  18. Callie - YES, exactly. The second he brought his mother and brother to the cave, every Lost fan (and only long-term fans are watching at this point) knew they were "Adam and Eve." We didn't need the flashback.

  19. What -- you'd rather he just say, at some point, "Oh, how did I get here? In the mid-19th Century, I was taken here on a slave ship -- the Black Rock -- which I had boarded as penance for accidentally killing some dude after my wife died. Jacob gave me eternal life so I wouldn't ever have to go to hell, and since then I've been his intermediary to people."

    I guess they could've done that too.

  20. Thanks, Isaac - I totally agree with you and most of these comments. I'm into Lost for the characters, but Jacob and Smokey have had such an impact on their lives that I was really looking forward to this episode. I wanted to know why Smokey can't leave the island - and the answer is because Mom said so? I wanted to know why Jacob brought people to the island (to find candidates to be a new island protector? to play a game against his brother? to make a point between fate and free will?) and why he chose these specific people - nope. I would have liked to know where the mother came from, or how she knows this light needs to be protected, and why it has to be a stupid pool of glowing light anyway?

    And yes, I miss Ben. But the old, sneaky, unpredictable, unknowable Ben, not this season's beaten-down version.

  21. Adam C.11:43 AM

    My take on your No. 3: No. GhostMom was a ghost, just like the ghosts who have appeared to Hugo on and off island (or those who talk to Miles on and off island). As Darlton stated in a recent podcast, the Whispers (and thus the ghosts whispering) are not Smokey. And Smokey was not Smokey until later in the tale -- Smokey was what Mother?Not Mother? called the "fate worse than death" result of sending NotJacob into the Golden Hole.

  22. ChinMusic11:44 AM

    Interesting that this episode followed The Candidate. The internets were aflutter with word from the creators that they killed off several well-liked characters in the Candidate just to establish that Smokey really was the bad guy Jacob claimed him to be. After this episode, I might need another convincing, but there just aren't enough likeable people for him to kill off anymore (Hurley? Desmond?). If the creators really wanted us to go into the end game knowing who was good and who was bad, why place this ambiguity-introducing episode here and now? (Assuming Smokey is the same being as MiB and doesn't just take the form of MiB's body to fill Jacob with guilt over what he did to his brother. But this assumption has to be true if non-mother is correct that Jacob couldn't kill his brother. Interestingly, even if non-mother were wrong, maybe Jacob actually could kill his brother but is not able to kill Smokey.)

    Also, part (a) of the three-part answer to Adam and Eve recited above might more accurately be described as Abel and Eve, no?

  23. isaac_spaceman11:51 AM

    But, and I think I've mentioned this before, I hate dream sequences, visions, and premonitions. I think they are lazy storytelling and not nearly as interesting as their authors imagine them.

  24. Like everyone else the timing bothered me a lot. I have depleting time with these characters, and I had to spend an hour on young Jacob, his nameless brother and C.J.

    My worry is the same thing that CHarold notes above ... I sympathized with LittleMIB much more than LittleJacob, and I fear that wasn't the intent. As we go into the final battle, I don't really want to see Smokey kill all my friends, but I also kind of want the poor kid to get across the sea.

    I do appreciate that they needed to show us the magical golden hole (even if the light looked a little cheap and anti-climactic), because we have no one credible to believe if they simply tell us "the island is special" one! more! time! It could have been done at a different time as a smokey flashback or something with some of the gaps filled in by dialogue - like back when he was talking about his crazy mother in the first place. I didn't mind the explicit call back to Adam and Eve as an opportunity to actually use the footage of an earlier scene (maybe I was just glad we got to see some of them briefly at the end). I am fine with the light is a powerful source of good and evil that humans will misuse if it's not protected, and I am ok with the knowledge that I have to put some things together for myself at this point ... Eventually the donkey wheel was built, eventually jacob built a temple to protect the light, the light is the source of the island's special powers and sometimes I know those explicitly and other times I don't, and no we're not going to go into great scientific detail on how the light moves people and the island, it just does. Great, fine, can we please get back to the real story now.

  25. Emily1:14 PM

    I love Claudia Jean as much as any Sorkin junkie, but I agree with Matt that she was miscast here. I did like the moment when she thanked MiB for stabbing her, like she was just as tired of this game as he. And we finally see the knife being able to kill, but we don't know if MiB was allowed to kill her because she hadn't spoken, or because she had named her successor in Jacob.
    And if Jacob can't see dead people, like MiB can, how does he see his brother for years after MiB becomes Smokey? Or after Jacob basically kills his brother (sins?) can he see dead people, too? Yes, more questions and only 3 1/2 hours left.
    I agree with everyone that this episode would have been better received if it had placed at the beginning of the season. I also think that they didn't need to tell us that CJ/MiB were Adam/Eve (or Abel/Eve). They had plenty of more subtle gestures to lingering questions earlier in the episode, like when MiB said to Jacob while they were playing their version of checkers that someday Jacob could make up a game and then he would also get to make up the rules, but that this game was MiB's.
    One more question: are we to understand that Jacob's refusal to let any of his band of merry men (and women) get close is because of his own mommy issues? And that he continues to play favorites, while keeping those most devoted to him/the island at arm's length (I'm thinking of Ben, in particular) because CJ screwed Jacob up in loving MiB more?

  26. But I thought Smokey confessed to Jack that he was the one portraying Christian.

  27. bella wilfer1:41 PM

    You guys have said pretty much everything I felt - Janney miscast (it just took me out of the show b/c I've seen/loved her in so much else), wish this episode had come earlier in the season, etc - one question I don't think anyone's brought up: so MiB can't leave the island but Jacob has been able to (to visit the Lostaways pre-crash)? How does MiB/Smokey (if they are the same) feel about that?

  28. One random observation -- I thought the conspicuous use of the term "special," which of course was also conspicuously tied to Walt in season 1, was unlikely to have been coincidental. Is Walt more important to the story than we've been led to think of late?

  29. Who? I'm not familiar with a character by that name. Hasn't been mentioned in quite some time.

  30. Adam C.3:15 PM

    My $.02 re: Jacob seeing Smokey: Smokey is of a different nature from the other dead people that characters have seen. The true ghosts -- e.g., Charlie appearing to Hugo at Santa Rosa, Michael appearing to Hugo, Richard's wife appearing to Hugo, and GhostMom appearing to the pre-Smokey MiB last night -- appear to people who have some special abilities to see/talk to the dead, and usually impart some useful/factual information to those specific special people when they do. Smokey, though, can take on the persona/appearance of a dead person, but all can see -- everyone can see Smokey-as-Locke, for example, and multiple people saw Smokey-as-Christian on the island (Jack, Claire, Locke, Sun, Ben, Lapidus). So, no reason why Jacob shouldn't have been able to see Smokey taking the form of the late MiB, whether or not Jacob can see the ghosts.

  31. Adam C.3:23 PM

    Right, but that's not Christian the ghost, that's Smokey-as-Christian. Arguably, what Jack saw back in L.A. when drunk/stoned was ghost-Christian, and what Michael saw on the freighter was ghost-Christian (since Smokey can't leave the island). But Smokey-as-Christian on the island is a different thing -- for one, everyone can see Smokey when he takes on another appearance (all can see FakeLocke, right?). For another, it seems to me that when Smokey takes on another appearance, he does so with a purpose to manipulate and often to deceive; the ghosts, on the other hand, appear to folks like Hugo to impart useful - and if memory serves, truthful - information (or, in the case of Richard's wife, to resolve a conflict).

  32. BTW, Adam, I don't know how you did it (Island-inspired time travel, I suspect), but congrats on your teenage self being cast in Glee!

  33. Jenn.3:58 PM

    Would you know who he is referencing if I use the other form of that character's name: WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALT!

  34. Adam C.4:55 PM

    I can't begin to express how disappointed I was a couple weeks back that they could not find a way for Ghost Michael to yell that.

  35. bill.7:49 PM

    How come Jacob can gallop across all dimensions and time touching people, yet his unnamed brother is stuck on Donkeywheel island? They could have at least answered that.

    This show now has very little in common with the first two seasons. That show I cared how it would end. This one, not so much.

  36. Emily8:08 PM

    bill. I think Jacob can leave because he is still in human form. Unnamed brother is electromagnetic smoke and has no real human form. Even when he was inhabiting other forms (Christian, Locke, etc.) he was just using their outer appearance. Remember that Locke's body was still in the casket even though MiB was walking around all Locke-like.
    Which raises another question: MiB isn't really in Locke's body at all (Locke's body is buried back with all of the other dead Losties), so how does he leave the island? As a cloud of badly behaved smoke suddenly set free?

  37. Adam C.11:59 AM

    Good question re: just how corporeal Smokey is when taking on human appearance. Note also that while bullets seem to go through him, a knife can go into him with some squishy sound effects (and create a noticeable hole in his Locke-shirt), and Jack can shove him off a dock.