Sunday, November 26, 2006
"Activity Unsuitable for D.I.H.G."
Decoded: This blurb sits without much context in a fairly remote area on the map. It may be safe to assume that "D.I." stands for "Dharma Initiative" and the "H" may be Hanso, but this set of initials together probably can't be fully understood with our current knowledge. The notion that on some of the island, some sort of "activity" may not be "suitable" suggests something that by now we know - the island was not under the complete control of Alvar Hanso and the Dharma Initiative.
Mysteries: What activity was going on in this area to the West of the beach? What made that area or its activity unsuitable? What does "H.G." stand for? And if this all suggests the island's mysteries pre-date Dharma (which the Black Rock, to say the least, certainly suggests), is the unsuitability a result of some inherent quality of this patch of land in the middle of the ocean?
Degree of Certainty: Next to none. Too short, too abbreviated, and too out of context (for now).
"Alleged Location of Aborted #7 Large Number of Underground Springs Heavy Water Table"
Decoded: Despite the location in what should be a fairly accessible region of the island, the mapmaker can only claim this is the alleged location of something. Can we trust anything these people wrote? As for "Aborted #7," that leads us to recall the "six" that was analyzed in the prior post. If the six is the previously disclosed number of Dharma stations, it would seem they tried to build a seventh, which was never completed. The underground springs may be connected to the cave oasis from season 1 - the lostaways' fresh water source. As you can see at this link (http://www.sno.phy.queensu.ca/public/D2O.html), "heavy water" is composed of the same "H two O" formula as regular water, but the hydrogen atoms are the deuterium isotope, which includes a neutron (regular water is made with regular hydrogen, which does not contain a neutron in the nucleus). Heavy Water is associated with nuclear power plants because of its unique electrochemical structure.
Mysteries: Again, "7" of what? If it's installations, what made Dharma change the plan? Or was it a change? Did they originally intend seven stations but then reign it in to six before making the orientation films? Is the seventh station nuclear-powered? Did some accident with the fissile materials lead to the end of Dharma? Is the heavy water naturally-occurring? If so, what implications does that have for the island?
Degree of Certainty: Not much, but some. At least "heavy water" is susceptible to googling.
"CV 1 Highly Unlikely"
Decoded: This is a tough one, and it recurs throughout the map. "CV" could be short for "cave" but there is little reason to assume that's the case, particularly since "likelihood" is not something we associate with geographic features - they are either there, or not. The "CV" reference recurs throughout the map. Whatever "CV" means, it does not seem likely we'll find out on the Southwest corner of the island.
Mysteries: Everything about this is mysterious. Even if we knew what "CV" meant, we have no inkling of what makes this potential location "unlikely."
Degree of Certainty: Not a lick.
"No Safe Location for Dharmatel Servers/ Hub/ Cabling or Infrastructure"
Decoded: By now we know that Dharma has several communications media built on the island - the signal tower repeatedly broadcasting the numbers (replaced by Rousseau's message), the computer terminals in the various hatches, the alarm claxons that seem to signal outside events, and the cameras feeding the monitors in the pearl station are some of the obvious ones. We also know the island has hazards - rough terrain, occasional bad weather, violent animals (though the polar bears were probably not a problem when Dharma built its intallations) and smokey. Again we have a suggestion that Dharma was not in complete control of the environment. The new information here is that somebody seems to have partially analyzed the infrastructure of the Dharma network(s), and may be able to explain it to us if they're ever encountered...
Mysteries: Exactly what is referred to as "Dharmatel?" What is its function? How did the mapmaker (Kelvin, Radzinsky or someone else) know this terms or the component parts of the network? What makes it unsafe?
Degree of Certainty: Slight. We've seen a lot to which this could refer, but the only guy who seemed to investigate the "hows" of the Dharma infastructure was Michael, and he's off on the Pala ferry.
"Possible Recreation Area for D.I.H.G. Teams"
Decoded: Since this appears to be something in the part of the island we've seen the most of, this could refer to either the beach where the lostaways have camped, or, perhaps more likely, the somewhat inland field where Hurley built a golf course. Again we get a reference to "D.I.H.G." and learn that, whatever it is or was, it included teams. This further supports the idea that "D.I." stands for "Dharma Initiative" since we know that the various stations were staffed by at least two people each. From the TLE Sri Lanka video, we know that the Dharma scientists were supposed to be able to stay on the island indefinitely because of their frequent resupply drops. It stands to reason they would need something to do when they were not pushing buttons every 108 minutes or sending diaries of observations on button pushers to pneumatic tubes to nowhere.
Mysteries: Have we seen the rec area? What sets it apart as being Dharma-related? Again, what's the "H.G."? And did Alvar really care if his world-saving scientists had a good time?
Degree of Certainty: Slight. Some definite "could bes" but nothing that screams out "yes, that's it!"
"Low Priority Zone for Exploration. Possible Site for Above Ground Relevance to Valenzetti-Related Research Activity"
Decoded: The map maker believed that whatever would be found on the island would not be found in the most Southwesterly point. Whatever was here was also not likely contained in a subterranean cave or hatch, acording to the mystery cartographer. Most important is the last phrase: this reference to "Valenzetti" is the only in-show reference to the mysterious mathemetician about whom the late 815 passenger Gary Troupe once wrote and upon whose eponymous equation the Dharma Initiative is supposedly based. With this clue, the TLE Sri Lanka video takes on additional weight and believability. Also, as Kelvin suggested in Desmond's flashback that he was "recruited" by the Dharma Initiative, maybe he or Radzinzky actually knew what it was about and how it was meant to change the numbers. Hopefully Desmond got a few good looks at this map over the years, because Locke's fleeting glance while his leg was impaled by a large metal bar probably did not provide a lot of time to process the bad grammar of this phrase.
Mysteries: What makes an area relevant to Valenzetti research? Why is this area so low-priority to explore, and is that just a fake-out by the Dharmaites? Exactly how is Dharma research and experimentation supposed to alter the Valenzetti factors of 4, 8, 15, 16, 23 and 42?
Well, folks, that's that for the Western third of the map. Next week we'll look inside the octagon.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
This week, we look at the "North West" corner of the hatch map. For a visual reference, I refer to you the last link in the list on the right side of this web page.
The map was the creation of Desmond's predecessors in the Swan hatch, Kelvin Inman and the mysterious Radzinsky (it may have predated these two, but we don't know at this point). When these hatch dwellers observed phenomena taking place on the island, they updated their map with an invisible ink that was only readable under blacklight, such as when the hatch went into lockdown mode. Some of the cartographers' observations are things we already know about, others remain unknown. But here's what we know (and think we know) about the top half of the left third of the map. Starting from the top left, and working down the side, we see:
"From following AH/MDG Incident"
Decoded - There are two references in this odd phrase that seem familiar. "AH" could likely be "Alvar Hanso," the financier and co-creator behind the Dharma Initiative. "Incident" may well be a reference to the ominous event mentioned in the Swan orientation film, which told Swan staffers that, since the "incident," it became necessary to enter the numbers every 108 minutes.
Mysteries - What is "MDG?" Do we have a way to tell at this point? What exactly was the "incident?" Is the "incident" referenced on the map the one in the film? Was Radzinsky around long enough to know what the incident was?
Degree of Certainty - Very slight. We just don't know enough to even be sure if, in context, "AH" refers to our Swedish arms dealer friend, Alvar.
"Confirmed Site of Caduceus Medical Station (The Staff)"
Decoded - The staff station, we learned last season, was the facility where Claire was taken and put up in a mock nursery. There had been a big stock of the Dharma vaccine, at least one fully-stocked operating room, and a locker room. Although the Others apparently stripped the place nearly clean after Claire's escape, Kate found evidence in the lockers that the Others' "hillbilly" act was phony.
Mysteries - Why was this facility built? It makes sense that a team of scientists on a remote island would need some sort of medical facility (you know, just in case). But is that the entire purpose of the Caduceus station?
Degree of Certainty - Very high. We've seen the Staff station, and know it's fairly reachable from the lostaways' camp and Swan bunker. The Swan map puts it to the North East of the Swan, and there's no real reason to question this placement.
"But Could Be #6"
Decoded - the orientation films we've seen so far (for the Swan and the Peal) both indicate there were six Dharma Initiative stations on the island. The placement of this phrase so close to the one above suggests that the map's makers may have questioned whether the Caduceus bunker was just an infirmary or part of the Dharma experiments.
Mysteries - #6 of what? The hatches are the only things we've seen numbered as a group of six, but why question whether the Caduceus is the sixth station? And if that is a meaningful distinction, what purpose could this now-abandoned station serve?
Degree of Certainty - moderate. There is too little context to be sure what this could mean. Also, as you'll see in next week's post, there is another numerical reference on this side of the map that lessens the chances of this 6 referring to the six Dharma installations.
Decoded - This Latin phrase is written over the map I've linked to, but translations available on the internet read "the disease worsens with the treatment" and "the remedy is worse than the disease." We've heard about the mysterious sickness from Rousseau, who claims it took her crew (forcing her to kill them). As for the "cure" or the "treatment," that could be the Dharma vaccine. Recall from the Lost Experience that the post-Dharma Hanso Foundation had planned to administer a "vaccine" that was genetically targetted to kill 1/3 of the human population on Earth. Perhaps Dharma tried something similar. More likely, there are side effects to the Dharma vaccine that are positively frightening.
Mysteries - Why write in Latin all over the map? Sure we've heard about it, but what exactly is the disease? And why did Desmond believe he had to keep shooting up the vaccine? Why did the Others keep innoculating Claire with it? What are the unintended side effects? And are they really "unintended?"
Degree of certainty - Tentative. We won't know for a while, I suspect (like until we get Rousseau's flashback story, which likely will not be until next season).
"Estimated Travel Time Incompatible with 108 Do Not Attempt to Survey"
Decoded - The reference to "108" clearly refers to the time between mandatory button-pushes in the hatch. This phrase would seem to indicate that one map maker had discovered the route to the medical station but knew that any meaningful exploration would risk a missed code entry.
Mysteries - The Swan was always meant to be manned by two individuals, yet we know that before Desmond, there was Kelvin, and before Kelvin there was only Radzinsky. Whoever wrote this phrase was most likely alone in the Swan at the time. But as we'll see in a later post, the map-makers crossed out and revised their entries from time to time, so why did this remain even after Radzinsky was joined by Kelvin, and Kelvin by Desmond?
Degree of Certainty - Very high. Other than the motivation question above, there's little doubt about why 108 minutes is a firm deadline, especially now that the Swan has imploded.
"Caduceus Station Believed to Have Been Abandoned Due to AH/MDG Incident of 1985 or Possible Catastrophic Malfunction of Cerberus System."
Decoded - Another reference to the "AH/MDG" incident! This comment dates the incident in 1985, which helps in constructing our island mythology time line. But what's this about the Caduceus station having been abandoned? It looked pretty Others-inhabited in the Claire flashbacks we saw last season. As for the last portion of this clue, many online, myself included, have interpretted the map's references to "Cerberus" as referring to the smoke monster. As the pilot and Mr. Eko discovered, the smoke monster can act in positively catastrophic ways. Rousseau described it as a "security system" and it makes that odd mechanical clanking sound.
Mysteries - This is one of the richest sources of questions on the map. If the station was abandoned, who abandoned it? Dharma? And if the Others then occupied it, are they distinct from the Dharma Initiative? How long after 1985 did the station remain unoccupied? Again, what was the incident, and how much did it directly relate to Alvar Hanso? Is Cerberus "smokey?" If smokey is a system, who installed the system, and what was its intended function? What caused it to malfunction? Can it really bust into a secured bunker?
Degree of Certainty - That "Cerberus" is the smoke monster: high. Anything else? I think we know way too little about the clues here at this point.
"Alleged Location of #4 - The Flame But Unlikely Due to Cerberus Activity"
Decoded - Elsewhere on the Map is a logo and hatch sketch that suggest one of the yet-t0-be-discovered installations is called "The Flame." The producers have hinted we would see The Flame this season, and indeed, that may be where the mysterious eyepatch guy observed via camera from The Pearl was located. Referring to The Flame as "#4" reinforces the notion that the nubmering on the map is a reference to the 6 Dharma stations from the films. The last portion of this note suggests the Cerberus system that may have endangered the Caduceus station would somehow be incompatible in its design with placement of The Flame midway between the beach and the medical station.
Mysteries - If Dharma built the hatches and Cerberus, why couldn't they just send Cerberus on another route? Why would Station 4 be built after Station 6? What goes on at "The Flame?" Other than the fairly obvious "Caduceus" (the ancient Greek symbol for medicine), what meaning can be ascribed to the names of the hatches, i.e., "The Swan," "The Pearl," "The Hydra," and "The Flame?"
Degree of Certainty - Slight. All we know about The Flame at this point is it exists and we should expect to see it soon.
Next week - I'll continue this tour of the map with the South East corner. In the meantime please email or post your thoughts on the map.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
1. The Show Itself
No TV show has ever invited its audience to pick it apart the way "Lost" has. In training us to scrutinize every piece of set decoration in the background, the casting of extras, the meaning of every line of dialog and the believability of what we see on screen, "Lost" makes us a more critical audience for TV in general. A lostophile does not tolerate leaps of logic or out-of-character actions without a good explanation.
Think about this: the "h" in "Dharma" stands for "heuristics." The Encarta online dictionary defines "heuristic" as "a helpful procedure for arriving at a solution but not necessarily a proof." That perfectly encapsulates the experience of watching the show -- we must question what we see, and our assumptions about everything on that fekakte island, lest we be taken even more by surprise than is necessary.
2. The Powers that Be
This phrase is what the online lostophile community has affectionately nicknamed the show runners, Damon Lindeloff (who co-wrote the pilot) and Carlton Cuse. Lacking the celebrity (for now) of co-creator JJ Abrams, these two are now the driving creative force behind the show. Moreover, they have made themselves in many ways more accessible than almost any other creative type in Hollywood. Their roughly weekly podcasts on ABC.com clue us in to what was important in the prior week's episode, what to watch for in coming installments, and, to the extent something appeared more ambiguous on camera than they intended (e.g. the suicide of Jae Lee), exactly what we saw. They also have developed a special relationship with certain columnists and reporters, including TV Guide's Ask Ausiello, and Entertainment Weekly's...
3. Jeff Jensen
The "Doc" of lostologists, I've cited to Jensen's columns frequently on the blog. He has a wealth of literary references at his ready disposal that provide an incredible insight into the creative forces that may or may not have influenced the powers that be. His theories, while occasionally "shark-jumping" in their unsupported assumptions, are usually quite thought provoking. And by publishing Cuse's weekly "ten-word tease" every Wednesday morning, not to mention his very active role in the recently completed "Lost Experience," Jensen is the foremost partially in-the-know expert around. He also links to...
4. ew.com's TV Watch
Every week, Entertainment Weekly's website posts recaps, much like mine, which are fantastically illuminating considering their brevity. I routinely steal at least one observation from the "Lost" TV watch.
5. ABC/ American Express's "Lost and Found"
A new feature on the official "Lost" website (lost.abc.com), this recap cuts the previous night's episode into a 3-4 minute highlight reel of relevant moments. The video is followed by a series of still frames that asks (but never answers) many questions you may not have thought to ask when the episode aired.
6. The Online Lost Community
Alas, but this blog is not all there is out there. Nor is it the most complete site online. Maybe it's the timing -- "Lost" hit the airwaves as broadband internet access became commonplace -- but the online following for this show is unmatched in TV history. Some sites are clearly better than others. A favorite that I reference often (and which is in my links list to the right) is thetailsection.com. It offers what few other sites do - legitimacy. This kicked in over the summer when thetailsection.com's "Lost Experience" recap was hacked by TLE character Rachel Blake, bringing these bloggers into the actual narrative of the "Lost" universe. Other sites are out there, too, some better than others.
So that's where "LLL" comes from. Of course, there's my own innate brilliance, but I didn't want to hog all the credit!
A three-part tour of the Swan hatch blast door map, and the hints it provides.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Saturday, November 11, 2006
2. Battlestar Galactica
4. The Shield
5. The Sopranos
6. The Office
7. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
8. Grey’s Anatomy
10. Desperate Housewives
You can read my thoughts on these by checking out the October archives (check the links under the mini-map on the right side of this page).
So, without further ado, here’s 11-30.
Although the breakout hit of the new TV season seemed a little slow at first, think about how long the “origin” portion of superhero movies lasts – "Spiderman," "Superman the Movie," "Batman Begins," "Fantastic Four" – all took more than an hour before the protagonists understood their abilities and their missions. Now create seven (or more) new superheroes who begin the story all over the world, and you realize seven episodes in that you’re right on track. What makes this show feel different from all those movies? Although the show boasts a senior writer, Jeph Loeb, who spent years writing comic books and the Superman-based “Smallville,” the series’ creator, Tim Kring, had never read a comic book in his life, and supposedly cooked up these characters and their world from scratch. Kring used to work with "Lost" show runner Damon Lindeloff on “Crossing Jordan,” and the two are mutual admirers of each others’ work. Best of all, Heroes has given us the loopiest catch phrase in years: “Save the cheerleader, save the world.”
12. Family Guy
The most shameless show on prime time network television takes advantage of the animation medium better than any other sitcom in TV history. Seth McFarlane’s cult fave literally tries to get away with everything – and generally tends to succeed. Taking Machiavellian baby? Check. Talking, erudite binge-drinking dog with a crush on his owner? Check. Evil monkey? You bet. Congrats to the fans, who bought enough DVDs and merchandise to convince Fox a year ago to un-cancel this crass gem.
13. Boston Legal
The show brought Candace Bergen back to TV, and brought us the seedily noble Alan Shore (James Spader). The unique cross between David Kelley’s two previous Boston-based legal dramas (“Ally McBeal” and “The Practice,” from which BL is a spinoff) is exciting, funny, whimsical and sexy. There are brilliant in-jokes that break the 4th wall, both subtly, as in the casting of umpteen stars from the various "Star Trek" series, and overtly, with lines like, “you can’t be the new guys or you would have been in the season premiere.” The show’s greatest accomplishment is bringing William Shatner back to TV in a role that both celebrates and satirizes his past work. As Shat closes his legal arguments with his character’s name, let me close this blurb by simply saying, “Denny Crane.”
Filled with more witty one-line insults in a single episode than “Married with Children” packed into its entire run, the drama about a bitter, pill-popping clinical genius and his three “duckling” sidekicks is one of the best dramatic series to function more on an episode-by-episode basis than in its long arcs. Sure, we care about Cameron’s attraction to House, House’s love-hate-impregnate relationship with Cuddy, and House’s patience-trying friendship with Wilson. But the nature of House’s unique practice allows for more bizarre medical oddities than other doc-dramas get away with. Produced by Bryan Singer (who brought us "The Usual Suspects" and the first two X-Men films), the show is frenetically-paced, which is surprising given the title character’s painful limp. And, sigh, my wife thinks Greg House (Hugh Laurie) is hot.
15. Prison Break
Brett Ratner, who took over from Bryan Singer on third "X-Men" film, brings us this nail-biter that’s part "24," part "Lost," part "Fugitive" and all implausible. But if you don’t think too hard about this show – and indeed, despite the running storyline about a mysterious conspiracy underlying Lincoln Burroughs’ (Dominic Purcell) framing for a murder he didn’t commit, there is little brain scratching going on during an hour of this Fox hit – the tense plotting and satisfying characterizations will keep you glued to your seat. Escaped serial killer and pedophile Tea Bag is creepier than "Lost’s" Benjamin Linus and more despicable than just about any villain you can imagine. The addition of “Invasion’s” Bill Fichtner as an obsessed and corrupted FBI agent on the trail of protagonist Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller) has been a great boon.
The breakout hit amongst pay-TV sitcoms, this dark satire on suburban life features a widowed mother and ne’er-do-well brother-in-law who turn to drug dealing to keep their family afloat in the cookie-cutter fictional West San Fernando Valley suburb of Agrestic. Kevin Nealon’s disgraced former counselman and Zoey Deschanel’s casino-thieving whacko are two of the colorful characters that make incisive comedy a hoot. And the surprising cliffhanger ending to season 2 just two weeks ago has us jonesing for "Weeds’" prompt return like a hit off a joint from one of Nancy’s (Mary-Louise Parker) MILF Weeds.
17. The Unit
Playwright and screenwriter David Mamet has brought this he-man look at the army’s ubersecret Delta Force to TV, and it’s smart, edgy, and surprisingly touching. Detailing the lives of the military’s most secretive unit, as well as the lives of the wives they leave behind when they drop into enemy hotspots under deep cover, "The Unit" simultaneously celebrates the bravery, intelligence and toughness of the army’s best while also assaulting the beaurocracy that makes army life tough on the troops’ families. I never would have believed that Scott Foley could pull off the role of a super-soldier, but Unit field leader Jonas gives Dennis Haysbert a fitting follow-up role to "24’s" late ex-president, David Palmer.
18. The L Word
Like most of the straight men that watch "The L Word," I came to the pilot episode excited that Showtime would give me lots of beautiful women making love – with each other. But the characters are so rich and detailed, and their stories’ so compelling, I’ve been hooked since the get-go. Unlike many shows with an underlying gay conceit ("Will & Grace," anyone?), not everything in the plot is just about the women’s lives as lesbians. This is a fantastic show about relationships – romantic, married, friendly and family – that feels more real and relatable than most of what you’ll find on TV, even if you happen to be straight.
19. My Name is Earl
A fitting companion to “The Office,” “Earl” should not be as funny as it is. The one-dimensional characters, their low-to-no-class lives, and the overall silliness have no right to be as entertaining and enjoyable as they are. But even if your heart doesn’t get a little warmed by the exploits of Earl (Jason Lee), who, having discovered “karma,” spends each episode trying to right one of his past wrongs, Jamie Pressley as Earl’s ex, the loathsome trailer queen Joy, should have you in stitches when she delivers her schadenfreude-laced catch phrase, “oh, snap!”
20. American Dad
The follow-up to Seth McFarlane’s "Family Guy," "American Dad" has come into its own. The zany exploits of an ultra-ultra-right wing CIA man, his doting and underestimated wife, their ultra-ultra-ultra-left-wing daughter, their confused dork of a son, the crash-landed boozing campy alien in the attic and the former Nazi scientist whose brain was implanted into a goldfish are nearly as funny and twice as satirical as anything on FG. Patrick Stewart’s frequent guest appearances as Stan’s boss at Langley are a riot, and the show’s commentary on America and its place in the world under the Bush administration is hysterical.
This one can go either way – it might fall off the list entirely or move up, depending on how the next few episodes go. I’m still impressed by the show about one of the last towns in the U.S. to survive a nuclear holocaust. The folksiness of it all gets a little grating at times (maybe I’m too much of a coastal state dweller for my own good), but the way that the nightmarish scenario provides different challenges each week has been well-explored. The things we take for granted – food, electricity, medicine, law and order, economics, etc. – are explored as each falls in short supply in Jericho, Kansas. Lurking beneath it all is the strange mystery of who exactly attacked the country (nuking nearly every major city apart from New York) and why and how the town of Jericho’s newest resident seemed to know it was coming.
22. The Nine
As extreme as the scenario that links the titular group of characters may be – a 52-hour hostage crisis during a botched robbery of the bank where some worked and others used the ATM or applied for loans – this may be the most “real” show on TV. The way the events of the harrowing experience affected each survivor’s life is profound. As details about what went on during the crisis seep out a few minutes at a time, the new relationships, changed relationships, and new beginnings facing the characters who shared this common bond are riveting and believable. I don’t know how long we can continue to care about the eight survivors and the one who died just as the crisis ended without knowing more about what happened in there, but for now I’m captivated by how each character has reacted after the most important experience in their lives has ended.
Through the end of its third season, "Smallville" may easily have made my top ten. By the end of its fourth, it wouldn’t make my top 30. But now that we’re well into season 6, this umpteenth version of what forces molded young Clark Kent into Superman has fully redeemed itself. No longer the freak-of-the-week, show, Smallville has introduced us to such familiar concepts and characters as Braniac, Aquaman, The Daily Planet, General Zod, the Phantom Zone, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olson, the Fortress of Solitude and the increasingly evil Lex Luthor, whose own journey to destiny has been at least as interesting as Clark’s. In retrospect, season 4 was tripped up by the unexpected and tragic death of iconic former Superman Christopher Reeve, who had played the role of the scientist who discovered Krypton and set Clark on his path of destiny. Now, at long last, having met up with Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow, Clark has begun to realize his destiny to use his gifts to save the world. I truly hope this series ends this year (or next, at the latest) because it has already gone on too long. But the writers have righted the ship and seem to have a direction, so "Smallville" is back on my list.
24. Six Degrees
J.J. Abrams has become one of the most ubiquitous creative minds on TV. Although "Felicity" and "Alias" are no longer being produced, the creator of "Lost" and "What About Brian" also has this freshman entry on the schedule. "Lost" fans will recognize the major theme – the interconnectedness of random strangers whose lives continue to intersect in multiple ways. These are likable people, despite some of their recent or not-so-recent anti-social tendencies. Unfortunately, ABC has yanked "Six Degrees" from the schedule until at least January. But when (and if) it returns, I invite you to get to know this likable cast that includes Oscar® nominee Hope Davis, as well as Erica Christenson, Bridget Moynihan, and Campbell Scott. You won’t be sorry you did.
25. The 4400
The second best show on Basic Cable (after "Battlestar Galactica"), this U.S.A. Network thriller that combines "The X-files" with "The X-Men" may soon be seen as "Heroes'" lower-budget cousin. Chronicaling the lives of 4,400 individuals who were abducted to the future from the past century only to be returned with super powers to a time when they can shape the face of the crucial events in history, and the investigators who work sometimes with, and sometimes against them, the 4400 has some great characters and a solid premise. A lot of the powers are of the "mental power"/ low-expense special effects variety, but the possibilities are honestly explored and well-plotted. Tending to run in the summer, when there is less competition from the big networks, the first couple of seasons are available on DVD - and worth the investment - and the third season was the best yet.
26. Law and Order SVU
Okay, so this spinoff went through a phase where, instead of being the darker, edgier L&O, it was a displaced series of after-school specials about kids in trouble. Back to its original promise and better-written than ever, the stories of the elite NYPD unit that investigates sexual-based offenses has never been better. Admittedly, it’s off my regular rotation (what, you think I have time for all these shows?), but SVU, for which star Mariska Hargitay won this year’s Best Actress Emmy®, is still thoroughly reliable and surprisingly sophisticated.
27. CSI Miami
No longer as sophisticated, but still plenty of fun, CSI Miami holds the distinction of being the prettiest show on HDTV. The lush Florida foliage, pastel coloring of Miami buildings and seemingly perpetual sunset just jump off the widescreen high-definition TV like nothing else. Sure, the writing has gotten sophomoric at times and David Caruso’s Horatio Caine is turning into a bit of a caricature, but the rest of the cast are still just a bit more likeable than the characters on the original. I’m hopeful for a return to form.
Darker and less character-driven than its Miami-based spinoff, the “original” (yes, I’ve heard of “Quincy” and other scientific procedurals) still makes for good TV. Another entry not on my regular rotation, CSI is one of those rare gems – a compelling drama you can tune out of at any time and not feel like you missed much, only to tune back in and be able to pick up right where you left off. One of the most reliable hours on TV, CSI may not break any more new ground, but it’s still a great way to kill an hour.
29. Brothers and Sisters
Despite a great cast and timeslot, more seems to have been written about the problems this series had getting to air (pilot reshoots, recasting, script changes) than about how well it has come together. Combining some of the creative minds behind “Alias,” i.e. cast members Ron Rifkin and Balthazar Getty and writer/producer Ken Olin, as well as iconic TV stars Calista Flockhart, Sally Field, Rachel Griffiths and Olin’s former "30-Something" co-star Patricia Wettig, this “grown-up” show is about a wealthy but troubled family’s attempt to recover from the shocking death of its patriarch (Tom Skerritt), only to realize the horrible financial situation in which he left the family business may bring them all to ruin, criminal prosecution and disgrace. Flockhart’s Kitty, a conservative TV commentator who can be thought of as Ann Coulter with a soul, is a clear departure from Ally McBeal, and slowly the Walker family has come together as one we want to see succeed. The addition of Rob Lowe in the coming weeks as a recurring guest star makes this the best recycling of TV stars from recently-canceled series in history.
30. The Simpsons
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. At its best, one of the 10 best shows in TV history, it has not been at its best for some time. Last season marked a decent rebound for the show, but this season has already squandered all of last’s gains. Perhaps all the “good” writers are working on next summer’s feature film. Here’s an idea – after 18 years, maybe it’s time for Bart to graduate to 5th grade and Maggie to start to talk. Still, just about every episode produces at least one laugh-out-loud moment and, truth be told, there’s nothing better in the Sunday at 8 (7 Central) timeslot.
So that’s my list. I invite you all to try these gems out and let me know what you think. What do you think about the order? The shows I left off? I confess, I’ve never seen "The Wire," "Deadwood," "Veronica Mars," "How I Met Your Mother" or several other successful shows. In any case, this should give you something to do until February 7, when Lost returns to the air. During that time, there will be a whole host of Lost (and non-Lost) postings on this blog, so have no fear.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
So Kate (Monica?) loves Sawyer (James?), while still maintaining a connection with Jack, some time after marrying Kevin. As Hurley (Hugo?) would say - dude.
Not a lot of big reveals in the so-called "fall finale," but plenty of character development. The flashbacks belonged to Kate, but the episode really belonged to Jack.
In flashback, we learned that Kate, some time after the mysterious black stallion enabled her escape from the marshall, had shacked up with a Miami-Dade Police officer named Kevin (played by "Firefly's" brilliantly understated Nathan Fillion), whom she married under the alias "Monica." We later learned that Kate believed she was pregnant, only to have a test confirm otherwise (the test she mentioned to Sun last season). Believing she finally had a chance at a normal life, she called the marshall and pleaded with him to stop chasing her so she could settle down out of love. Not the brightest move, but at least she was smart enough to use a kitchen timer to hang up before the call could be traced. Once the pregnancy test came back negative, however, Kate realized her on-the-run nature was incompatible with being a cop's wife (and with, as she put it, "taco night,") drugged Kevin, confessed, and fled, running away from her honeymoon to Costa Rica aboard...Oceanic Airlines!
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
COMMITMENT CHANGES EVERYTHING
For more on this tease, a couple of shark-jumping theories on the true nature of the Others, a Cambellian discussion of Desmond as the classic hero and how Eko was transported back in time to relive he pre-murder childhood with Yemi as his own personal heaven, and an analysis of how the repeated rabbit referenced indicate a great "trickster" lives on the island, see Jeff Jensen's column on ew.com, available at:
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
(Thanks to Entertainment Weekly for this image).
If you don't want to know anything about the producers' plans for Lost, you'd better stop reading this post right now. That said, with one possible exception (the end of this post), there are no revelations of story elements that have not yet appeared on screen.
In interviews in Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide, and in their weekly podcast, producers Damon Lindeloff and Carlton Cuse discussed the behind-the-scenes goings-on that led to the death of Mr. Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) in last week's episode. In short:
- The character of Eko was always meant to be a short-lived, but crucial part of the cast.
- Eko did not die last season because the deaths of Ana and Libby made that just a bit too much.
- The producers would have preferred that Eko lived a little longer. However, since Adewale wanted to end his time on the island, they wrote the death in early this season.
- Part of the reason Niki and Paolo were conspicuously, yet lamely, introduced early this year was a red herring designed to counteract the ads the producers knew that ABC would run. They knew that killing off a main character during November Sweeps would require ads that said a character would die. So they introduced two new characters, much like Dr. Arzt, in part so that fans would assume the ads referred to the newbies instead of Eko. Were you fooled?
The producers also discussed some of what we have to look forward to after the coming 13-week hiatus ends in February. Again, there are no "answers" given here - just a partial timetable of topics to be addressed:
- In roughly the 8th episode (second one back), we will learn what happened to Cindy, the children, and the other tail section abductees.
- The characters will return to the Black Rock at some point soon.
- The end of this week's episode, a Kate-centered edition entitled "I Do," will fundamentally change the game for the survivors and shift the focus of the show back to the beach on the "main" island.
And finally, the producers discussed some of the Smoke monster mystery, and what we've seen already. What follows may or may not be a spoiler; on the other hand, the producers may not intend to better explain this. With that caution, read on or not (it's up to you)...
Lindeloff said in this week's podcast that you would not be wrong to interpret the end of "The Cost of Living" to indicate that the manifestation of Yemi and the smoke monster are one and the same. They also suggested that, when we last saw Smokey, the images from Eko's past that played were Smokey's "downloading" of images from Eko's mind that could be manifested this way. They stopped short of saying all of this was clearly the case, but implied it very strongly.
So that's it, Lostophiles. See you later this week for the recap of "I Do" and of the "Fall Season."
Friday, November 03, 2006
And now, my big question - is "Smokey" an "it?" In other words, is there only one monster. Consider the appearances. The first time we got a clear look at Smokey, it was as a thin, wispy, fast-moving streak (from "Exodus, Part 1", the penultimate episode of the first season). (The moving image below was taken from "Amber's" myspace page, http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=441550).
Then, in last season's "The 23rd Psalm," we got a longer, closer look at the...whatever, when it approached and confronted Eko. Before it began projecting images from his past, it looked like...(Thanks to the Lost Wikipedia entry, lost.wikia.com/wiki/The_Monster, for these images).
At the time, I figured this just indicated an increased effects budget from ABC. But then, in this week's "The Cost of Living," Smokey had both appearances. The thin wispy version streaked past Eko as he followed the Yemi doppleganger. Then the big, thick, morphing cloud version loomed, attacked and ultimately killed Eko.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
The fifth episode of the third season brought some answers (again, one of them is simply, "Ben"), expanded some recently introduced characters, introduced us to yet another Dharma installation (and its inhabitant), brought back a favorite mystery, and killed off a beloved character. Could this much in one hour indicate that we're in November sweeps? I submit that it can...
The loss of Mr. Eko, the occasionally violent religious nut played brilliantly by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, is a tough one to swallow. Mr. Eko's journey seemed to be one of the ones with more stops left than most of the 815 survivors' (he really didn't outlive Claire?) His death reminds Locke, Sayid, and the we the audience that life on this island is nothing to be taken for granted. Moreover, from a pattern-spotting perspective, Mr. Eko's death reminds the audience that any character featured in an episode's flashback is the most likely to die before the scenes from next week (Shannon, Ana Lucia and Eko were the featured flashbacks in each of their death episodes). And while "The Cost of Living" raised some interesting questions about our ability to trust what we see on the Island, the producers have often reiterated, if a character dies on-screen on Lost, that character is dead. But that does not necessarily mean we have learned all there is to know about Mr. Eko...
And what did we learn about the on again/off again priest from Nigeria? In the immediate aftermath of Yemi's fatal gunshot and Eko's betrayal by his ill-fated drug gang members, Eko returned to Yemi's village to take his brother's place as the local priest. Years before, in the church where Eko would someday embark on some of the more brutal "justified" homicides in his life, Eko was both scared and defiant when a nun angrily ordered him to confess to stealing food to give to his starving brother. Upon his return, as a fabricated member of the cloth, Eko learned two things about Yemi: 1) he had been procuring a vaccine from a local medical clinic and funnelling some of it to the local gangster/ warlord to protect the village, and 2) he had planned to relocate to London. As a notorious drug lord himself, Eko knew he could only hide under the collar in Yemi's village for so long, so he formulated a plan - he would procure the vaccine, ostensibly to funnel to the gangsters, sell it on the black market instead, and run off to London in Yemi's place. The gangsters learned his plan, tried to hack off Eko's hands with a machete, and found themselves beaten and cleaved to death by the angry priest. When the villagers saw Eko emerge from the church carrying the bloody machete, they knew what had happened. Alter boy Daniel told Eko his mother had said that Eko was a bad man. When he asked Eko if this were true, Eko replied, "only God knows." Before leaving for London, Eko saw the villagers boarding up the church. He took umbrage, but was told the church was no longer sacred because murders had been committed inside. Eko's defense that he had saved the village from the gangsters was met by the harsh truth that others would take their place, and the accusation that he owed Yemi "one church."
So now we know exactly why Eko had started to build the church on the island. But when we look at the order things went down, some interesting questions arise, which may even explain Eko's demise - he started to build the church, presumably to repay his debt to Yemi. He then saw images of Yemi leading him to the Pearl hatch, where he found his new calling - pushing the button in the Swan hatch, at which point he abandoned the church. Was that the moment his fate was sealed? As producer Carlton Cuse teased this week, "What does the island want?"
An excellent question, and one which Eko's final day attempted to answer with a number of disturbing visions. Still recovering from the Swan implosion and time spent as a polar bear chew toy, Eko awakens to Yemi, telling him it is time to confess and be judged, and that Eko knows where to find him. At that very moment, Eko's tent begins to burn, but Eko is saved by Hurley, Charlie and Sayid, who has just returned from his boatless hike back from the Pala Ferry. Charlie recounts the brief emergency for Locke, and that he had muttered something about his brother, only to discover Eko has wandered off.
Having accompanied Eko on the journey to the Pearl last season (and encountered Yemi, himself), Locke knew that his plan to use the Pearl station's computer and monitors to search for Jack and co. would coincide nicely with the search for Eko. Locke calls for volunteers to join him, Desmond and Sayid, which Hurley immediately points out is quite different from Jack's technique of quietly selecting expedition members. Locke reminds Hurley that he's not Jack, and, accompanied by Charlie, Hurley, and newbies Nikki and Paolo, they make for the Pearl. I actually liked how Nikki, speaking for all the nameless extras, jumped at the chance to be included for a change, though I'm not a fan of grumpy Paolo's at this point. Caution, Nikki - when Dr. Arzt went on his first trip with the main gang after grousing about being an outsider, he blew up.
In the jungle, Eko has another couple of visions. First, the warlords we would learn he slaughtered attack him, but Eko again gains the upper hand. As he is about to slay their leader, the helpless victim transforms into alter boy Daniel, who tells Eko to confess before disappearing. Pausing to reflect by a stream (a scene quite reminiscent of Eko's cleaning off the gangsters' blood with holy water), he is joined by...our old pal, Smokey! Smokey appears intrigued, hovering over Eko as if wondering what he will do next. When Eko turns around, Smokey skittishly departs...
That's when Locke's party finds Eko, and together they journey to the burnt out husk of the drug plane. Locke shows Sayid and the rest how to access the Pearl hatch but remains topside with Eko. Eko discovers Yemi's body is missing from the plane, which Locke explains could either be due to the fire Eko set or the animals on the island, and returns Yemi's cross, which he found on his polar bear hunt, to Mr. Eko. Eko reacts violently to Locke's mention of Yemi's name, and Locke leaves Eko to join his crew in the Pearl hatch.
Down in the Pearl, Nikki, having watched the Mark Wickmund orientation tape, notes that the multiple monitors are meant to watch the other stations (plural) and not just the Swan. So she comes up with the idea of trying to establish a feed from another post to try to find their missing comrades. Sayid and Locke start splicing cables, and an image appears of what can only be described as a 1970s cubicle. Suddenly, into the frame steps a mysterious figure with an eyepatch, wearing a Dharma jumpsuit. Mr. eyepatch knows he's suddenly being watched, and disconnects the camera, leaving only static (real subtle of the Dharma folks to put a signal on the "hidden" cameras that someone has tuned in).
Who is this guy? Where is he? I could not get a clear look at the Dharma logo on his jumpsuit, but suspect I know what it would show (see the possible spoilers section, below, for my thoughts). As for the eyepatch, is that covering the space the glass eye found by the tailies in the arrow station used to occupy? Speaking of things found in the arrow station, am I the only one who notices Eko keeps finding answers in bibles that are anything but scripture (i.e. the removed section of the Swan film, and the picture of him and Yemi)? Locke's crew doesn't have time to investigate this new mystery, however, as a disturbance topside gets their attention...
That disturbance was Eko's last stand. Yemi emerges and again tells Eko to confess. However, grasping Yemi's cross, Eko says he will not confess as he has not sinned - everything he has done, from killing the old man to save Yemi from being press-ganged into a life of crime, to stealing to feed Yemi, to killing the gangsters who menaced the village in Nigeria, to killing the Others who ambushed the tailies, was necessary, and Eko is in fact proud of some of these actions. I was a little bothered that the things Eko did as a vicious drug lord between some of these incidents didn't inspire some amount of guilt...and apparently so was "Yemi," who angrily snatched away the cross, snarled that Eko spoke to him as though he were his brother, and marched off into the jungle. Shouting "who are you?" repeatedly, Eko follows Yemi, only to be overtaken by Smokey, who suddenly looms large and menacingly, then grabs Eko like a giant arm, and pummels him to death against the trees and ground. When Locke finds Eko in his dying moments, Eko whispers to Locke that they are all next...
Which would have been enough to make this a fantastically full episode. But we actually got to spend some time with Jack, Juliet and Ben at the Hydra station. "Invited" to attend Colleen's viking-style funeral in the linen pajamas the Others are all wearing, Jack tells Ben he knows it was Ben's spinal x-ray that he saw. Ben denies it at first, but after asking Juliet why she told Jack the x-ray was his (she did not), he confesses several things. First of all, Juliet's flirtations were meant to subtly win Jack over to perform the surgery (does Ben really think Juliet looks like Sarah? I mean, other than blond hair a certain level of attractiveness, I don't see it). Second of all, the Others' manipulations were designed to get Jack to want to perform the surgery, since we all know a motivated doctor is a good one. And finally, Ben believes there is a God, since two days after he learned he had a spinal tumor, a spinal surgeon literally fell from the sky.
Since the cell is monitored constantly, Juliet could not tell Jack out loud to intentionally botch the surgery, so she pretended to be showing Jack "To Kill a Mockingbird" while instead doing her best INXS/ Love Actually impression. Interesting choice of films - doesn't Juliet know, as Atticus Finch told Scout in TKAM, "it's a sin to kill a mockingbird?"
So now, as always, there are more questions. Can Juliet be trusted? Does she really want Ben killed? Is he in fact dying from a big tumor? What does their rift mean for the Others' society, and how will Jack's choice, whatever it may be, impact himself, Kate and Sawyer? What did Eko do in London before relocating to Sydney? What, if anything, is the connection between Smokey, who last year projected blurry images of Eko's past, and Yemi (and the other visions on the island)? What did these various island entities want from Eko (and the rest of the group, for that matter)? How did Eko deserve death in his third encounter with Smokey, and not in his first two? Who was the guy with the eyepatch? Where was he, and why did he not want to be watched? And what else is in store in next week's mini-season finale, entitled "I do?"
Taking a look at the Swan hatch map, it should be obvious there is at least one station that has been teased that we have not yet seen - The Flame. The producers have said that we will see the Flame this season. It would seem that this was the spot where Mr. Eyepatch was lurking. As for what goes on at the Flame, and what Mr. Eyepatch is doing there, your guess is as good as mine.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
As a “programming reminder,” due to my attendance of the Kings-Penguins game tonight, I will not be able to watch tonight’s Lost episode, “The Cost of Living,” until tomorrow, which will delay my recap. To make it up to all of you (who are probably reading this post after you watched the episode, but before I did), I invite you to post your questions about the episode as comments to this post, which I’ll try to respond to in the recap.
On to other tidbits…
As I’ve said before, one of my main sources is ew.com’s resident lostologist, Jeff Jensen, whose weekly essays and theories about the show are often insightful, though frequently “out there.” This week’s edition deserves a special shout-out. Some highlights:
- Jensen clearly has regular contact with Lost show runners Damon Lindeloff and Carlton Cuse, and, for the second Wednesday in a row, Cuse has given Jensen a “tease” to keep in mind heading into tonight’s episode (I don’t consider Cuse’s teases “spoilers” because the producers are far too tight-lipped about their creation to actually reveal any substantive information before it shows up on screen). Here’s the tease: “It's judgment time. Yemi. Eko. What does the island want?”
- Jensen promises he knows who the Others really are, and will tell us next week.
- It’s no secret Lost is riddled with references to pop culture and literature. Last week’s reference to Of Mice and Men was pretty obvious. But there was another reference last week to a non-fiction memoir by avowed Lost fan Steven King (entitled On Writing). The quote from Jensen (quoting King, who posits that writing is in fact telepathy):
“’Look — here's a table covered with a red cloth. On it is a cage the size of a small fish aquarium. In the cage is a white rabbit with a pink nose and pink rimmed eyes. In its front paws is a carrot stub which it is constantly munching. On its back, clearly marked in blue ink, is the numeral 8.’
It's King's belief that upon reading that, and reflecting upon the bunny, we would all agree that ‘the most important thing here... [is] the number on its back.... This is what we're looking at, and we all see it. I didn't tell you. You didn't ask me. I never opened my mouth and you never opened yours. We're not even in the same year together, let alone the same room... except we are together. We're close. We're having a meeting of the minds.’”
How fitting that Steven King would use one of “the Numbers” …
- Jensen reiterates his belief/wish that Lost and NBC’s Heroes will at some point cross over (and that the eclipsed helix symbol that recurs on Heroes will turn out to be a Dharma logo, with the “heroes” themselves the product of a Hanso experiment). At least we know Lindeloff watches Heroes.
- The latest of Jensen’s master theories, the “redemption of television” theory, is far more interesting and thought-provoking than some of his whackier ideas. I can’t do it justice here, so I’ll just refer you to Jensen’s column:http://www.ew.com/ew/article/commentary/0,6115,1553147_3_0_,00.html.