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Island Fever

By Marc Peyser


This season, 'Lost' had its share of setbacks and frayed nerves, but it's still the coolest show on TV. NEWSWEEK hits the beach for the wild finale.

May 22, 2006 issue - To get to the set, you have to drive 45 minutes north of Honolulu, and you have to know where you're going. There's no sign

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Season finale opens the hatch to more riddles

By Laura DeMarco - Plain Dealer Reporter


As promised, the creators of ABC's hit show "Lost" answered several questions in Wednesday's season finale.

Then they raised even more.

The twisty episode opens with the surprise return of former hatch inhabitant Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick). It quickly leapfrogs to the first of two plotlines: the battle between Locke (Terry O'- Quinn) and Desmond vs. Eko (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) about whether to stop pushing the hatch button. Outside the hatch, Jack (Matthew Fox), Sawyer (Josh Holloway), Kate (Evangeline Lilly), Sayid (Naveen Andrews) and Hurley (Jorge Garcia) attempt to foil Michael's (Harold Perrineau) plan to trap them for the Others so he can get his son, Walt (Malcolm David Kelley), back.

Themes of faith were central to both plots. In the end, Michael seemed to be free to leave with Walt after betraying his compatriots. Will he? And the hatch seemed to have been blown up in an act of salvation by Desmond. Was it?

Questions answered:

Why did the plane crash? Because of a system failure on Sept. 22, 2004, when Desmond pushed the hatch button too late, causing an electromagnetic disruption. Does the button need to be pushed? YES. Otherwise, a buildup of electromagnetic energy could destroy the island (and the world?). Was Henry Gale an Other? Yes, he seems to be the leader. What's the deal with the door map? It was painted by prior hatch inhabitants Kelvin and Rudzinski.

Clues, Easter eggs (and red herrings?):

The most obvious clue was repeated references to Charles Dickens' "Our Mutual Friend" - about a man named John who is mistakenly presumed dead (by drowning) and uses this chance to investigate the destiny forced on him by his father. Other Easter eggs included a passing view of Jack in the scene with Desmond in the stadium; a large role for Libby in Desmond's past (she gave him the boat that led him to the island); Kelvin was the American military man who taught Sayid how to torture in Iraq; and the emergence of Widmore Industries as a major player. Widmore has been mentioned several times in "Lost," from the brand on Sun's pregnancy test to a poster for Widmore Construction in the London-Charlie episode.

More mysteries:

Was Libby working with Dharma to get Desmond to the island? Is Desmond dead? (Rumors have it he's joining the third-season cast.) What happened when Desmond turned the "system termination" key to cause the blinding white light and noise? Who - or what - were the men hired by Penny Widmore in the last scene looking for? Desmond? The island? Do Penny and her father have something to do with the Dharma Initiative? Are Eko and Charlie alive? What will happen to Sawyer, Kate and Jack? Why did the Others let Michael and Walt go - or did they? (Perrineau is not signed as a regular cast member next season). And why does it matter what one snowman said to another?

ABC's "Lost" has inspired legions of fans and chat boards with its intricate mythology. Each Friday during the second season, we updated you on our latest observations. Look for "Lost" Watch to return in the fall.

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An Explosive "Lost" Finale

By Sarah Hall

As the second season of Lost concluded in a brain-bending two-hour finale Wednesday, viewers found answers to some of their questions while others were left unresolved.

(Warning: Obviously, the following article will reference plot points of the Lost season finale. Read no further if you don't want to know.)

Among the major mysteries explained: how Oceanic Flight 815 came to crash on the island; what exactly pushing the button does; and the story behind that guy, Desmond.

Still unclear: why 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42? Who are the Others and what are they doing? Whatever happened to that polar bear? And the monster? Also, how does Vincent the Labrador keep his well-fed figure?

The episode commenced with the revelation that the sailboat that appeared on the horizon at the close of the penultimate episode belonged to former hatch-dweller Desmond, who is found drunkenly holed up below deck after realizing that two and a half weeks of sailing had brought him back to the island.

The finale's main theme centered around Desmond's backstory, which begins upon his release from military prison after his dishonorable discharge from Her Majesty's Armed Forces. As he leaves jail, he encounters the father of his true love, Penelope Widmore, who attempts to pay him off to stay away from his daughter. (Interestingly, Papa Widmore is a central character in the Lost spinoff book, The Bad Twin.)

Instead, Desmond elects to compete in Widmore's boat race around the world in order to regain his honor. He sets off in a sailboat donated to him by none other than the ill-fated Libby, whom he happens to encounter in a coffee shop. Just before he leaves for the race, Penny tracks him down to tell him that she'll wait for him, no matter what.

Of course, he winds up marooned on the island, where he is drafted into his button-pushing mission by the previous hatch inhabitant, Kelvin. After spending three years holed up together in the hatch, Kelvin reveals an important clue to the island--a crawl space in The Swan station that contained a system termination switch operated via a special Dharma key. "This is the only other way out, partner," a boozed-up Kelvin tells Desmond. "The fail safe. Turn the key and this all goes away."

Kelvin also (finally) explains "the incident" referenced in the Dharma Initiative orientation video and why the button must be pushed. "The incident? There was a leak, so now the charge builds up and every time we push the button, it discharges it before it gets too big," Kelvin says.

After finding Kelvin plotting an escape using his sailboat, Desmond kills him, then keeps pushing the button as a one-man team until Locke, Jack and crew burst into his hatch and take over. The last time viewers saw Desmond, many episodes ago, he was fleeing the hatch, apparently making his way to his sailboat and from there, on to the outside world.

Unfortunately for him, his escape plan failed, putting him right back where he started. "There's no outside world, there's no escape," Desmond cries, as he is dragged ashore by Jack, Sawyer and Sayid.

Upon his unwilling return to the island, Desmond is recruited by the newly disillusioned Locke to help stop button-pushing convert Eko from pushing said button. After he and Eko watched the orientation video in The Pearl observation hatch, Locke decided pushing the button was unnecessary and became convinced he was merely a puppet in a larger experiment.

Eko, on the other hand, became convinced of the life-or-death necessity of entering the numbers (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42) every 108 minutes. He and Locke come to blows over the button and he locks Locke out of the hatch. But Locke manages to trick him into leaving his post, then locks him out so he and Desmond can watch the clock count down to zero.

In desperation, Eko convinces Charlie to help him find the extra sticks of dynamite used to blow open the hatch at the conclusion of the first season, and uses it to try and explode his way into the control room to enter the numbers. The resulting explosion leaves both Charlie and Eko stunned, but fails to give them access to the button.

Meanwhile, Desmond has realized that the button actually does need to pushed, as he makes the key connection that it was his failure to do so that caused the crash of Oceanic Flight 815 some two months earlier.

Locke remains unconvinced and smashes the computer used to enter the numbers, forcing Desmond to take the only step left--using the special Dharma key to activate the system termination switch. A blinding explosion and deafening sound follow, as the hatch and Desmond are presumably blown to smithereens. Charlie staggers back onto the beach (where he shares a smooch with Claire), but Locke and Eko remain unaccounted for...at least until next season.

Meanwhile, despite being sniffed out as a turncoat by Sayid, Michael manages to succeed in his plan to turn Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Hurley over to the Others in exchange for Walt. The Other calling himself Henry Gale reunites Michael and Walt and turns over the motor boat to Michael, telling him to follow the compass bearing at 325 in order to find rescue.

"Who are you people?" Michael asks. (An excellent question.)

"We're the good guys, Michael," Henry replies. (Not a satisfactory response.)

As the traitorous Michael motors off with Walt, Kate, Jack and Sawyer are left gagged and bound by the Others, while Hurley is freed and ordered to return to camp and let the rest of the plane crash survivors know they are not welcome to come sniffing around.

In a final scene guaranteed to leave Lost fans with something to ponder while waiting for the show's return this fall, two Portuguese-speaking men working out of a snow-bound research station notice a huge electromagnetic abnormality and pick up the phone to make an emergency call to...Penny, Desmond's true love.

"Miss Widmore," one of the men says. "I think we've found him."

Boom. Roll credits. See you in September.

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"Dickens, Challah and That Mysterious Island

By Kate Aurthur

On last night's "Lost," which closed the island mystery's second season on ABC, a crucial plot development hinged on a copy of the Charles Dickens novel "Our Mutual Friend." (Readers who do not wish to know the particulars of the finale should stop here.)

In a flashback Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick), the character "Lost" viewers know as the man who lived down the hatch, tells a prison guard that he carries around "Our Mutual Friend" because he means for it to be the last book he reads before dying. Later, on the island, when Desmond thinks that death is near, he finds a letter inside the book from the love of his life, Penny. Her letter inspires him to go on an apparent suicide mission to save the island and, the episode implied, possibly the world.

During a visit to New York City last week, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, the executive producers who run "Lost," said they got the idea of the deathbed reading of "Our Mutual Friend" from an interview with the writer John Irving in which he said he was saving it for last. But besides paying tribute to Mr. Irving, they were eager to refer to Dickens for their own narrative purposes.

"He was writing chapter by chapter for newspapers," Mr. Cuse said. "We often think: 'How much did Dickens know when he was writing his stories? How much of it was planned out, and how much was flying by the seat of his pants because he had to get another chapter in?' " He paused, then said with a laugh, "We can respect what he went through."

More remarkable than the size of "Lost's" audience, which averages 15.3 million viewers, is its devotion. The show has inspired endless Internet chatter and solicits participation by viewers, who play its popular multiplatorm game, the Lost Experience. When Mr. Cuse and Mr. Lindelof began the writing process for this year's closing episode, they knew that a large number of fervent fans were bitterly disappointed in the Season 1 finale. The big twist in that episode was the kidnapping of 10-year-old Walt (Malcolm David Kelley) by the island's sinister inhabitants, known as the Others, who lived there before the plane crash that began the show. The writers had worked hard to keep Walt's abduction a secret from Internet spoiler sites, nicknaming the scene "the bagel" so as not to let its contents casually slip. (This year's shocker was dubbed "the challah.")

That genuinely surprising turn did not end the Season 1 finale however. Instead, in its final moments, the mystical Locke (Terry O'Quinn) and the practical Jack (Matthew Fox) stared down into a mysterious hatch Locke had found earlier in the season and had been trying to open. But fans were annoyed: what could possibly be down the hatch that would be worth a four-month wait?

When that finale was broadcast, Mr. Lindelof was in Hawaii about to be married. "We felt everybody was satisfied and psyched," he said. "It never occurred to us that the backlash was going to begin."

Mr. Cuse said: "There started to be Internet chatter. We take that feedback to heart. By the time August rolled around, the spin on it was everybody's frustrated that we didn't go into the hatch."

The Season 2 premiere tried to remedy that frustration immediately. In the hatch was Desmond, who had been stranded on the island three years earlier. There were also plentiful provisions, retro furniture and, most important, a button that needed to be pushed every 108 minutes to dispel a powerful electromagnetic charge that could lead to catastrophic consequences.

When talking about the construction of "Lost," Mr. Lindelof and Mr. Cuse often refer to the Harry Potter books. They want each season, like each book in J.K. Rowling's series, to pose questions and answer them while at the same time maintaining a larger mystery that holds the audience. "This season's story was about the hatch," Mr. Cuse said. "We were very conscious of trying to make the end of the season more satisfying than last year. We wanted to answer a lot of questions."

Last night's episode solved two significant "Lost" puzzles, which turned out to be related. What would happen when the button wasn't pushed? (There was a huge explosion, and if Desmond had not activated a backup system, Mr. Cuse said, "It might have led to, ultimately, sucking everything on earth into itself.") And what crashed the castaways' plane? (It was a casualty of the only other instance when the button was not pushed on time.)

Because they don't know how long the show will run, Mr. Lindelof and Mr. Cuse have to pace its revelations. "If you answer too many questions, the audience doesn't have anything to care about on the show anymore," Mr. Cuse said. "We had to end the show with a powerful mystery that suggested what the show was going to be about next year and would leave the audience curious about where we're going."

Ratings suffered as the season progressed. In response to complaints from both viewers and the show's creators, next season ABC will run the show in two uninterrupted segments, without reruns that stop its flow. But its biggest problem was the return of Fox's "American Idol" in January at the same time on Wednesday nights. Before then, original episodes of "Lost" delivered 21.5 million viewers; after, they brought in 16.5 million (and repeats fared poorly all season).

As for next season, the scene that Mr. Lindelof and Mr. Cuse called "the challah" offered a preview. In the final minutes of last night's episode, the action on the island has ended, but in a coda that took place in unfamiliar settings, Penny, Desmond's wealthy, long-lost girlfriend, was told, "I think we found it." The implication viewers were left with was that the explosion on the island finally made it visible, at least temporarily, to someone desperately looking for it.

Will a rescue effort be a part of Season 3? Mr. Lindelof and Mr. Cuse would not say but allowed that if this season was about the hatch, next season will be about the Others, as led by the oblique Henry Gale (played by Michael Emerson, who will join the regular cast). Mr. Cuse listed what viewers will learn about the Others by this time next year: "Who are these people? How many of them are there? What is their history? What are they trying to accomplish?"

Beyond serving as a teaser, the finale's last minutes were incredibly important to the larger story, Mr. Lindelof said, particularly since this was the first time in 49 hours of the show that "Lost" went off the island in the present, rather than in a flashback. "It's time to actually blow up several theories of the show," he said. "People who believe that they're in purgatory or that they're subjects of an experiment are going to start reassessing those theories based on the fact that we are literally showing you the outside world."

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The secret to 'Lost'? Don't think too hard

Friday, May 26, 2006


Say it with me one last time this season, "Lost" fans: They don't know where they're going with this, there is no master plan, nothing will ever be explained satisfactorily.

There. Feel better? Because once you recite that mantra and go into the Zen-like state of not wanting or needing answers, this is one of the most purely entertaining TV shows ever made, exemplified by Wednesday night's baffling yet riveting two-hour season finale. Major spoilers ahead, so if you're saving it for the holiday weekend, stop reading.

Producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse clearly learned a lesson from the uproar over last year's finale. I don't know that the season two finale revealed much more than last year's -- mainly we learned that pushing the button in the hatch really did prevent a disaster, and that Desmond's failure to do it once caused Oceanic 815 to crash -- but it created the illusion of revelation, and that's enough for most of the fanbase.

Thanks to clever use of the Internet and viral marketing, the producers have made "Lost" into the first TV show in history where the show itself is almost beside the point, there mainly to provide random cryptic clues (a black-light map of the island) and bizarre coincidences (Sayid's torture trainer worked with Desmond in the hatch!) that the fans can then spend thousands of hours debating and analyzing on various sister Web sites. (I wasted 20 minutes this morning applying for a job as an Art Therapist/Psychologist in Iceland on HansoCareers.com.) I expect that, when this particular shell game ends in a few years, Lindelof and Cuse will have to reveal that they have no idea what it all meant, but why spoil the fun now?

For the sake of those who still want to believe this is all leading somewhere that will make sense, a few speculative thoughts:

A quick Google search looking for figures of myth with four toes mostly turned up stories about dragons; could the foot of that crumbled statue have been a salute to Homer Simpson? Fred Flintstone?

One of the two Portugese chess players in the research station who may have located the island looked an awful lot like Matthew Fox with a prosthetic nose.

If Desmond is kaput, that's now three characters (Boone and Ana-Lucia were the others) who died at the end of their first flashback episode. And if Locke and especially Mr. Eko were killed in that explosion/electromagnetic pulse/whatever, I'm going to be very angry.

Jack and Kate shared a smile right before The Others put the hoods back over their heads. Might there have been a plan within the plan, or were they discovering a shared love of bondage?

Sending Michael and Walt away from the island forever solves the problem of how to hide Malcolm David Kelley's inevitable growth spurt within the show's compressed timeline, plus it makes room in the cast for Michael Emerson, who finally had his Keyser Soze moment when "Henry Gale" walked onto the dock.

In terms of crafting a coherent narrative, Lindelof and Cuse are miles out of their depth. In terms of creating riveting individual moments (Locke snatching Eko's Jesus stick right before the blast doors fall, Desmond sacrificing himself to save the world) or haunting images (the statue's foot, the pile of discarded pneumatic tubes), they are amazing.

"Lost" is a show that seems like it wants you to think deeply, but it's really best enjoyed if you turn your brain off and admire it scene by scene.

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'Lost' in theory

By JAY CRIDLIN, Times Staff Writer

As the last episode of the season fades away, fans of the hit show are already immersed in a sea of speculation.

Whew. After Wednesday's whirlwind season finale of Lost, it seems silly to complain about a seasonlong streak of dawdling plot lines and reruns.

The stuff Lost fans learned from Wednesday's two-hour show could fill a stack of composition notebooks (which inevitably would wind up in a pneumatic tube leading . . . nowhere). The season-ender struck a chord with Lost's detail-obsessed fans, who wasted no time speculating about what it means for the ultimate plot.

So from the message boards at ABC.com, USAToday.com and other Web sites comes this list of . . .

Eight cockamamie theories about Lost.

  1. The Losties are inside an "impenetrable arctic bubble" that simulates a tropical environment. Evidence: The polar bears, the snow station at the end of the episode, Desmond's joke about the snowman and his comment that they're inside a "snow globe."

  2. Charlie is a ghost. Evidence: His eerily calm demeanor upon leaving the "blown-up" hatch; his statement that it's "hard to say" if he's feeling okay.

  3. One of the Russian observers at the end of the show was played by Matthew Fox, leading to the possibility of an "Island Jack" and a "Parallel Universe Jack." Evidence: The Russian really does look like Matthew Fox in screen grabs from the episode and in a closeup ABC posted on its media site.

  4. The Others are practicing time travel. Evidence: People from the Losties' past keep showing up on the island; the Hanso Foundation's stated goal is to prolong human life.

  5. The island is invisible, a theory that came up last season based on the Philadelphia Experiment, a supposed project (and eventual sci-fi movie) in which military scientists tried to bend light with electromagnetism, thus rendering objects invisible. In the movie The Philadelphia Experiment, the project goes terribly wrong - just like on the island.

  6. The story is tied to Homer's Odyssey. Evidence: A woman named Penelope (nicknamed Penny Widmore maybe?) remains faithful to a love lost at sea; while he is gone, the mythological Penelope fends off exactly 108 suitors (and Lost fans know that 108 is a recurring number).

  7. The island is really the lost island of Atlantis. Evidence: The ancient-looking statue; the notion that no one else knows where the island is.

  8. The Losties are controlled by Monty Python. Evidence: A giant foot statue stomping the island. (We assume this theory, posted on TV.com, is a joke.)
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Networks aim to keep shows alive on web

This summer will have more than just Deadwood

The concept of the "summer hiatus" has been gradually approaching extinction ever since Survivor became CBS's biggest hit in the summer of 2000. The networks increasingly offer a whole slate of new programming between May and September, rather than hope to wring a few more ratings points out of reruns that may have already aired two or three times during the regular fall season.

HBO will air the third season of Deadwood; NBC will bring back Last Comic Standing; CBS is threatening an "all-star" edition of Big Brother. In short, we should have no shortage of viewing options even once the premium shows take their summer break.

However, for those of us who may regard summer programming as the fall season's redheaded step-sibling, some of our favourite fall shows will still entertain us until fall 2006

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