Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Midside: S5E02 The Lie

Nominations for the lie:
-LOST having a pre-decided ending.
-Jack being the main character.
-Ben’s “We’re the good guys, Michael.”
-Jin being dead.
-Barack Obama’s presidency.

Political commentary aside, this episode blew the last episode out of the water. It’s almost unbelievable to me that Kitsis and Horowitz wrote a better episode than Lindelof and Cuse. But part of the reason for this episode being better is the intentions behind writing. This episode was more of a story. The last episode was more of a setup for stories such as this one. Still, some things confused me. Well, of course they did, this is LOST.

The first two episodes were clearly written to go together, which makes me wonder why they didn’t just write a two hour episode. Couldn’t they have made this “Hurley” episode two hours long? Instead, we had an “exposition” episode without any real focus (except maybe time travel) and a character based episode. Then, at the end of the latter, they seemingly inserted a line to make the episodes symmetrical. By all means, it shouldn’t have worked. But you know what? It did work. And that’s why I love LOST. None of this stuff should be working, but it is. And here’s why…


In my last column (about Because You Left) that I posted a few hours ago, I wrote that I considered the “flashes” to be the group of survivors on the island who were traveling through time. Apparently there is information that contradicts this claim. Mainly, LOSTpedia labels this episode as Hurley-centric. While the site is not the end all and be all LOST knowledge (in fact, I have major problems with a lot of its content because it’s more what people believe and want to be true than what actually is true), there is some kernel of truth to the show being a “Hurley episode.”

The main piece of evidence is that the episode was written by Kitsis and Horowitz, the writers who always write Hurley episodes. Thus, it would make sense that Lindelof and Cuse were trying to establish a similar tone and style to past Hurley episodes by assigning those writers to the story. Why would they want to establish that similarity if they didn’t intend for the episode to be about Hurley in the eyes of the viewer?

Likewise, the story mainly focused on Hurley’s problem with the lie, a condition that we are lead to believe to be unique within the Oceanic Six. The episode opened with a scene following Penny’s rescue of the group in which they discussed whether they wanted to lie or not. We then immediately cut to Hurley dealing with the consequences of agreeing to the lie. How could this episode not be about Hurley? Furthermore, the majority of the “present” (flashforwards) focused on Hurley. But that fact is where my problem with labeling the episode as Hurley-centric exists.

Though Hurley was the main focus of a lot of the scenes, the “present” still had scenes with just other characters. That storytelling technique is unprecedented for a flashforward or a flashback. How could the episode be Hurley’s when his scenes aren’t even his? Not to mention the fact that the “flashes” aren’t technically occurring off the island. The smart response, and I’m sure some of you are thinking of it, would be that it’s Hurley centric, not Hurley only. True, I can’t deny that fact, but then how far does an episode get pushed before it’s no longer character centric? Of course, you could always argue that an episode is centered on any one character, as long as they are the main character. This claim, while I personally have no problem with it, presents a major problem for some contingents of LOST fans. If every episode features a new main character, and the number of centric episodes per character has leveled out, it’s no longer possible to say there is one “main character” of LOST, not Jack, not Locke, not Kate, not Ben, not even Sawyer.

And if you didn’t realize it (although I’m sure you did, bit I’ll say it for emphasis), the first centric episode of Season Four and Season Five belonged to Hurley. Considering that Lindelof and Cuse have continually called him the heart of the show, that fact is not very surprising, but coupled with it, it’s pretty revealing. Maybe Hurley is the center of LOST. Or maybe not, because if anyone is, it’s Desmond.


Count me on Hurley’s side on this moral quandary for one simple reason: the lie caused an extremely large number of people to deny an extremely large portion of information. On the surface level, the O6 denied the existence of their friends and the actual island entirely. On the next level, they denied the unique events they experienced. On yet another level, every person with knowledge of the island is now denying the existence of the island and the actual events of the plane crash. This idea raises an interesting question: who is morally responsible for revealing the truth surrounding the island?

The list of characters who know something about the island and crash is long: Penny, Desmond, Charles Widmore, Mrs. Hawking etc. Does knowledge of a situation require that you reveal everything you know about that situation? I don’t think so. It seems ridiculous that if other people are lying about a situation and you know it that you are morally responsible to go out of your way to prove they are lying. The importance phrase I used here is “go out of your way.” The important distinction may be that your moral responsibility is to act in accordance with the truth as long as it is relevant to your wants and desires. Thus, Penny isn’t acting immorally because she was never interviewed or connected with the rescue (that we know of). If she were interviewed and lied, that would be an immoral decision. However, the idea of “acting in accordance with the truth” raises an interesting question, especially when considered in relevance to the key question of the show (that I will keep touching on because I don’t believe it will be revealed until the series finale): Is Charles Widmore good or evil?

Charles Widmore faked the plane crash. He put a mock up of flight 815 on the ocean floor and filled it with bodies that didn’t belong to the passengers. Wasn’t he then acting immorally? He had knowledge of the plane crash and lied about what actually happened. He was not acting in accordance in reality. This point is where I have to ask what acting in accordance with reality is. What I mean is: Widmore may believe that the best way for him to act in accordance with reality is to protect his interests in the island by limiting the knowledge other people have of it. Thus, lying about the plane crash would be a moral decision in that sense. Of course, just because a decision is moral, it isn’t necessarily right. If his decision, for instance, leads to a World War or genocide (::cough::Ben::cough::), then it was the wrong decision. This morality/correctness dichotomy is how we can be moral (good) people and make bad (wrong) choices.

So, if lying could be moral for Widmore, couldn’t it also be moral for the O6? Yes, most certainly it could, but I don’t think it was. It was moral for Jack. He believed it was the right decision to make. However, he then impressed his decision on the others, making it an immoral decision for them. The person who this immorality has had the biggest effect on is Hurley. He has literally been imprisoned by the lie twice, first jail and now actual prison. The reason he seemed insane to begin with is we appear that way when we act outside our desires. Hurley wanted to protect his friends. He realized his lying did exactly the opposite. Likewise, Sun, Sayid, and Kate are all trying to deal with what they realize to be negative effects of their lying. Kate wants to be happy with Aaron, but her scenes with him are coated with guilt. Sun knows that lying is a disservice to her husband and is working with Widmore to alleviate that guilt. Sayid is trying so hard to alleviate his own guilt, he became an assassin for a man he despises, piling an immoral decision on top of an immoral decision.

This convoluted idea of the morality of the lie, of course, comes from the decision to leave the island. It could be argued that the decision to leave the island was wrong (but certainly not immoral, they wanted to leave it) and thus that decision is why their lives suck off the island. I’m not yet ready to make that declaration. There are far too many confounding factors surrounding the escape. Sure, leaving the island caused their friends to be unstuck in time, but not really. Ben caused their friends to be unstuck in time by turning the donkey wheel. Do they even have to go back? Yes, they will go back, but Ben is the one that says it’s needed, but them doing so doesn’t mean it’s a requirement. Ben always has a hidden agenda. What is it this time? Why does he want the O6 to go back?

Moving outside of this philosophical mumbo jumbo: How will the 06 get back to the island?


The twist of Hurley being arrested creates an interesting possibility in the story that defies our expectations. The end of There’s No Place Like Home created the idea that the O6 would reform (like a superhero team) and return to the island with Ben. Now, Ben always has something up his sleeve, so it’s always possible for him to somehow break Hurley out of jail (or pay his bond), but I see two other options, one that is much more possible. Of course, we’re also talking about LOST, so the Cloverfield monster could appear and destroy the city, freeing Hurley, and we’d buy it.

1. Desmond uses his time travel powers to free Hurley from jail or stop him from being arrested. It’s only a matter of time before Desmond starts to utilize his powers to change the world. The plot has been thrown in our face Flashes Before Your Eyes. Also consider the entire Charlie dies plot line. A large horde of people are annoyed Charlie could have survived The Looking Glass station. Did you ever think that the possibility of Charlie surviving was intentional? Desmond could change time. He did change time. He saved Charlie over and over again. Maybe the “universe” wasn’t trying to kill Charlie, but rather Desmond was flashing to a series of coincidences where Charlie died and convinced himself Charlie had to do because Mrs. Hawking told him he couldn’t change time. Then, in the end of the arc, Charlie didn’t die because he had to, but because he wanted to, symbolized by his closing of the door.

Much more likely, however, is the following: Desmond can’t change everything about time, but he can change some things. Charlie was going to die, but Desmond changed how he would die, and that how changed the course of the island. Charlie’s death (rather than an arrow to the neck) allowed the O6 to get off the island and Ben to move the island. Thus, there are some facts Desmond can’t change, but he can change a lot by influencing events (kind of a metaphor for life, isn’t it?). I’m not sure what that all had to do with Hurley in jail, but I’m glad I said it.

2. Widmore pays Hurley’s bond, into his custody. I see this outcome as more likely because I don’t see any other reason Hurley would return to the island. He clearly will never go anywhere near Ben for the rest of the series (which is a smart decision). Likewise, Sayid is the one who told Hurley to stay away from Ben, so I find it hard to believe he would follow Ben back to the island (maybe out of guilt). To add another interesting fact to the foray, Sun has forged a tentative working relationship with Widmore and clearly blames Ben for Jin’s death. Why would she follow Ben back to the island and not Widmore? Finally, who just found herself re-connected with Sun? Kate. And there are pretty slim odds those lawyers with the paternity tests weren’t sent by Widmore. Although, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were sent by Ben. Regardless, I see 5 of the O6 returning to the island with Widmore and the sixth (Jack) returning with Ben.


Awesome possible series finale scene alert:
Ben kills Jack and says, “Thank you, Jack.”

My friend Dan came up with that idea and I think it’s brilliant. It’s the perfect tragic ending to the Jack character. Imagine if he’s standing across from his father and Widmore (who are friends and allies), realizing he’s betrayed them his whole life, tears rolling down his face, and Ben shoots him in the back. I would be heartbroken at that demise and I hate the guy. Hell, it would make me feel sympathy for the character because he would recognize the error of his ways and then realize he’s going to pay for them.

This idea is, of course, born from our belief that the “twist” is that Widmore is the good guy. This belief is tough for us because it’s so obvious to us that Ben is the bad guy. Of course, in many conversations and throughout the internet we see people continually asserting that Ben is the good guy. However, it is important to note that he has been yet to be shown as the good guy. That belief is an assumption created by Lindelof and Cuse in a brilliant set up. Through lines such as “We’re the good guys, Michael,” not fully revealing anything about Widmore, making Widmore mistreat Desmond (which maybe he knew Desmond had to get to the island, so he mistreated him on purpose and sent him on the solo boat race), not revealing much about Widmore, and playing on the cultural assumption that businessmen are evil, Lindelof and Cuse have made us believe Widmore is evil and Ben is good, or it will turn out that way anyway.

But, what if, in the end, they never go through with that twist, making the twist the lack of an expected twist, or, as I will refer to it from this point on: the Non-Twist Twist.

And if you disagree with that. Well then:

Shut up, you’re wrong.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Midside: S5E01 Because You Left

Sometimes, when you’re gone for a really long time, it’s hard to know where to start again. This column will surely reflect that condition as did the first episode of the fifth season of LOST. First off, I’ve taken way too long to write it. The episode aired on Wednesday, and I’m now typing it fast and furious (like Michelle Rodriguez). Granted, I watched it again on Saturday night (and I’m really glad I did), but that explanation is no excuse. Second, everything is going to change, Hurley. No longer will host the wonders of my words. Instead, I have been promoted (relegated?) to my blog at What happened to I’m not sure. Maybe it started traveling through time like a record that skips (huh?).

Let me make my first bold claim of the season: I’ve figured out the time travel. Will I tell you my explanation right now? Are you kidding me? Telling you would be the worst rhetorical move ever. My idea (which I consider “confirmed”) will be explicated at the end of the column, that way you’ll read all the other crap I spew. The only question now is how I’ll format this piece of opining (take that Bill O’Reilly!) now that the “flashes” aren’t limited to one character. Take a back seat, character development. Now it’s time for plot!

Screw it, I’ll format it anyway I want, which probably means these things will become a whole lot more stream of consciousness (they weren’t before?). Onward on our first journey of the season into The Midside.


Write this down (or copy and paste it [could someone take the parentheses keys away from me already?]):

This episode was much better on a second viewing. And when I say much better, I mean much better. I mean much much better. The first time through, I was appalled. I couldn’t believe Lindelof and Cuse had written such a turd. I almost turned into the Angry Video Game Nerd, spouting nonsensical vulgar statements that were too absurd to be gross. In fact, I’m pretty sure the large group of people I had over to my place were waiting for me to throw something at the TV. The atmosphere in my apartment hadn’t been that awkward since the Patriots lost Super Bowl XLII to go 18-1.

Do you want to know how bad we all thought this episode was? Of course you do, you’re reading this column. The guy in the group who likes Fringe (legitimately not in the “let’s get high and watch Fringe because it’s so ridiculous” sense) complained about how much the episode sucked. Think about that turn of events for a second. Fringe, the show featuring a Matthew-Fox-impersonating Joshua Jackson, a dull-as-everything Anna Torv, and a story that makes no sense at all (killer butterflies that turn out to be imaginary self inflicted wounds?) was considered to be better that LOST by someone for the briefest of seconds.

For the record, I would never say Fringe was better than LOST. I don’t even think it was better than Transformers, which Kurtzman and Orci also wrote.

What was so bad about this episode? The first episode was filled with “catch up” material. Rather than the story being written around the characters and the plot, it was written around the audience and broadcast schedule of the show. For instance:

-Faraday’s “It would take hours to explain it to a quantum physicist” and subsequent five minute explanation of “time is like a skipping record.” Maybe a corrupted mp3 would have been a better metaphor now-a-days? And, oh yeah, there are rules. Apparently, Sawyer can’t bang on the Swan door, but Faraday can.

-The incessant need to paste in clips of the season four finale during unnecessary expository dialogue. This editing technique began in the motel scene with Ben and Jack after the Addict Beard ™ had been shaved. I guess I should have figured the end of the beard would signal a downturn in the show. For instance, when Ben told Jack he had to go back for his friends he left behind, there was a cut to Sawyer and Juliet. Why? I can ask no other questions. Well, this episode wasn’t directed by Jack Bender, so I can actually ask one more question: Why wouldn’t you let the main director of LOST direct the season premiere? Unless Matthew Fox and Michael Emerson’s performances in that scene were that bad (which I seriously doubt because Emerson should have about eight Emmys by now), there was no reason for those edits.

-Rose and Bernard randomly running out of the jungle. What was that? I felt like Lindelof and Cuse were like, “Hey, we should re-introduce Rose and Bernard.” “Have them come out of the jungle.” “Yes, done.”

-Sawyer’s ridiculously stupid “I jumped off for her…I mean them because I always slip on my words and accidentally say what I’m feeling” line.

Hold on, I feel a flash coming on…

(A bright white light fills the room, allowing us to see only the bare outlines of those characters in the scene. Slowly, it dissipates; revealing the same characters standing in the same positions, but the appearance of the setting has changed.)

Man, those flashes through time must be a bitch to block. I wonder how easy it is to control the light on an outside side to change the perception of time of day? I sense a DVD special feature!

More importantly, post our flash, where are we, excuse me, when are we now? We’re back at the beginning of the column. You know how you can tell? I’m rambling inanely about things that are only tangential to LOST. But let’s get on with it and talk about the episode from the perspective of the second time I watch it. Nothing changed (time is a street [wait, I thought it was a skipping record] and you can’t create a new one), but I saw it from a different perspective.

-If you watch the Season Four DVD special feature on the people from the freighter, you’ll know that the entire reason Faraday was created was to explain the time travel to the audience. Lindelof and Cuse knew some complex stuff would be coming up and thought it was a good idea to create a character to explain it all to the audience. I applaud their audience awareness. Writers ignore their audiences for the sake of bullshit that makes no sense far too often. Instead, the writers of LOST have found a way to explain their unique story telling technique. However, the problem it presents is a subjugation of the character to the exposition.

To be fair to Lindelof and Cuse, I wonder if the first half of this episode is a necessity of the medium of television, especially when considering shows that air for half a season. Because television shows air week to week, it can be easy to forget what happened the week before, let alone two weeks ago. Heck, for years television writers have been worrying about what us viewers forgot over the commercial break. Haven’t you ever noticed how the last line of a scene before a break is “She slapped you?” and the first line of the scene following the break is “I can’t believe she slapped you.”? The only purpose the second line is to remind you what happened before the break. And I’ve always had a problem with it. It’s very choppy and redundant writing. The response of my critique, of course, is what I’ve already noted.

The difficulty for us dedicated fans is that we don’t need to be reminded at the beginning of a new season. We remember the last season. We watched the rec(r)ap special. We watched the last season more than one. Heck, we watched the last season last week. I’m not even joking. Most of my LOST friends either watched Season Four on the internet or borrowed my DVDs. One of my friends even watched the third part of “There’s No Place Like Home” during the rec(r)ap special. So, when we watch the first half of this episode that’s intended to be a heavily expository explanation of the past and the future of the show, it strikes us as jarring and outside the typical narrative.

I can hold out hope that one day the need for such a writing style on television will become unnecessary, but I doubt it ever will. The need to treat the audience like idiots comes from sources that are too deep, too important, and too irrelevant in regards to this column.

-The way the “flashes” have been continued is pretty novel. Since the survivors on the island will be traveling through time, every scene with them is now that episode’s “flashes.” How come I don’t consider the old “flashforwards” to still be the flashes? Since half of the scenes are “unstuck” in time and the other half are “stuck” in time, I consider those scenes that are “stuck” in time to be the “present.” Otherwise, we would be forced to admit there is no present. (Although, it would also be correct to note that the viewer is now “unstuck” in time and thus any time we’re watching is the present. Also, I would argue the original present of the show is still in play.)

Also, in regards to the “flashes,” if there are rules and no one can break those rules except Desmond, than I once again return to the notion that he is the most important character of the show. This story is about time travel. I believe that it has been since day one. Desmond’s story has been about time travel since “Flashes Before Your Eyes.” I don’t see a way how this can all end without him saving the day. At the very least, we need to hear him yell “Penny!” a few more times.

Desmond’s importance brings us back to what I believe to be the key question of the series: Is Charles Widmore evil? Still, I can’t answer that question with a yes. He might own Dharma. So what? He might want to own the island. So what? Isn’t existence about man conquering the world and achieving all he can from the means he garners from it? If Ben is truly trying to “hide” or “protect” the island from Widmore, isn’t Ben the evil one for limiting human production and capabilities? The only possible hinge in this theory is the history of the “hostiles” and the ancient civilization on the island. Are the hostiles the Native Americans of the LOST island, and this entire show is a retelling of the colonization of America? Widmore is British, after all. Go, I hope not. That would suck.

-As for the Sawyer line, I still can’t reconcile that piece of crap. Even Mystery Girl X, who isn’t a writer and doesn’t analyze the episodes on the same level I do, hates it. Seriously, Sawyer is a con man who is always in control of what he says. Are we supposed to believe he is so emotionally distraught at Kate dying on the freighter (he believes she did) that he would lose control of his words? Maybe, but if they wanted to go that route, they should have written a little more beforehand to make it apparent. Otherwise, the line just comes off as a piece of crap.


Now it’s time for my big reveal, the explanation as to what’s going on with the time travel:

The “flashes” are a pendulum. Wait, I know it sounds ridiculous, but hear me out. First, they went back to the past to when Yemi’s plane crash. Then, they went back to the future to after the freighter exploded. Then they went back to the past to when Desmond was pushing the button in the Swan. Then, using our knowledge of the next episode, they went further back in the past to a time when the Dharma Initiative was in control. I would expect the next shift to either be further into the past or into the future. Likewise, as the season progresses, as I would expect the “flashes” to get further into the past and further into the future. I don’t expect this explanation to be a binding rule (we’ve already seen them go back to Yemi’s plane crashing and then when Desmond was in the Swan), but I do expect it to generally guide the plot. I’ll discuss this idea more (and why I believe it to be confirmed) when I write about episode two tomorrow.


Well, at least the close to this column can remain the same. Wait, you’re upset about my explanation the time travel? Maybe you feel a little ripped off? Well, where else did you read an explanation like that it? Even if you read it on some message board somewhere (which we all know message boards are for people who couldn’t be cool in high school to be e-cool now), they obviously don’t have the wit, grace, or intelligence that I do. Besides, maybe you’re supposed to feel ripped off. Maybe the writing of this column mirrors the writing of this episode. I built up unattainable expectations and in no way delivered on them.

But, I guarantee if you read it again, you’ll find it to be better than you remembered. And if you disagree with that then:

Shut up, you’re wrong.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Intitial LOST Thoughts S5E01 and S5E02

I'll write a more in depth column for each episode soon (most likely once I watch both again), but right now I wanted to get out some quick reactions.

-The first half of "Because You Left" as horrendous. It felt like an extension of the recap. The writing style raises an interesting question about TV writing. Is it a requirement of the genre to write "catch up" episodes?

-The island time displacement storyline adds a ridiculous amount of complexity to the show. The writers definitely better have their ducks in a row.

-The whole "can't change the past" thing is going to have to be explained a little more.

-Desmond's importance grew leaps and bounds. I'm beginning to wonder if it's not an accident he's the one purely good character on the show (besides maybe Hurley).

-John Locke was mainly MIA. His story is going to be interesting this season.

-I know why they aired the first two episodes tonight. The Lie was a million times the superior episode and felt like the actual season premiere.

-Mrs. Hawking's return was a nice surpise. Now things are starting to come full circle.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

"I want you to think what I think is valid because I think it."

This statement (the subject of this post which made to me by a family member of mine) i a perfect example of the consequences of the prevalence of relativism in our society. The statement has two major problems with it:

The first problem is that the validity of a statement (using the colloquial definition of valid "true," although this discussion probably applies to the philosophical definition of valid as well) is based upon the idea, not the speaker. I can think/believe an invalid statement. George W. Bush can think/believe an invalid statement. Barrack Obama can think/believe an invalid statement. The Pope can think/believe an invalid statement. The corollary of course is that anyone can also think/believe a valid statement. I can think/believe a valid statement. James Carville can think/believe a valid statement. Pat Buchanan can think/believe a valid statement. Adolf Hitler can think/believe a valid statement. The validity of the statement does not change if Bush thinks/believes it or Obama thinks/believes it. They don't add anything to the statement but the presentation of it (which can make it more appealing or persuasive, but not more valid). Saying a statement is valid because someone thinks/believes it reverses the notion of belief. Someone should think/believe something because it's valid, it shouldn't be valid because they think/believe it.

The second problem with this statement (in the subject) is that it is self-contradictory. The person who speaks it (we'll call them the commander) expects the person who hears it (we'll call them the commanded) to think what the commander thinks/believes is valid. However, the commanded obviously thinks/believes what the commander thinks/believes is invalid or the commander would not have made the statement. Should the commander not follow his own command? Should he not think/believe what the commanded is thinks/believes is valid because the commanded thinks/believes it? Yes, by the rules set up in the commander's statement, he must. Here is the contradiction. The commander wants the commanded to think/believe what the commander thinks/believes is valid because the commander thinks it, however the commander doesn't think/believe what the commanded thinks/believes is valid (because the commanded doesn't think/believe what the commander thinks/believes is valid). Logically, the statement then creates a cycle, where someone must concede what he thinks/believes is incorrect. The commander is assuming the commanded must be the one to make this concession.

The fact that this statement was made by a member of my family also raises an interesting ethical question: what are you obligated to think/believe/feel about the thoughts/beliefs/feelings of the members of your family? The colloquial notion is that you are obligated to think/believe as the statement that is the subject of this post says as an issue of respect/love. Essentially, members of your family are granted "immunity" due to their blood relation to you. I belive this "immunity" is unethical.

By asking a person to think/believe what you think/believe is valid because you think/believe it, you are asking them to change what they think/believe (as explained in the second critique above). What makes a person human is his ability to think/believe. By asking the commanded to think/believe differently than he does in order to "respect/love" the commander, the commander is asking the commanded to place his own humanity below the humanity of the commander. Requesting a person to relinquish his own humanity is unethical. Members of a family certainly shouldn't ask a person to relinquish his own humanity. Thus, this "immunity" for family members is unethical. It creates a cyclical relinquishing of humanity. Everyone must "respect" what everyone else think/believes even if it directly opposes what they think/believe (the most common example used colloquially is that parents that disapprove of homosexuality must "respect" the homosexuality of their child).

This discussion is extremely prevelant in society. Think of how often you are told it's wrong to think/believe what someone else thinks/believes is wrong.

And if you disagree with that, well then:
Shut up, you're wrong. (Get it yet?)