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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Commercial Interruption: Smokey and the One-Armed Bandit

Sometimes there's just too much television for one yadda yadda yadda -- let's talk "Lost" already!

Adam: Rousseau, nous vous avons à peine connu. And so ends the backstory of Danielle Rousseau, aka the crazy French chick. She came, she saw a giant black smoke monster, she conquered the rest of her group when they went crazy and needed shooting. As you rightly surmised, Thomas, Danielle and her story were fatalities of last year's writers strike (it's been a year already!), but it was nice getting at least a glimpse of her past, no matter how brief.

Plus we got a look at Smokey's lair, which appears to be that elusive Temple we've heard so much about. Must be why Ben sent Alex there last season -- it's got a huge "Beware of Smoke Monster" sign in the front yard, and must therefore be the safest place on the island. Unless, of course, you're a band of French interlopers ... then you get your arm ripped off, or you go crazy after you crawl into Smokey's cave. (Maybe they didn't go nuts, they just got converted into Otherdom? Quick, check how many toes those corpses had!)

But all in all, another preposterously entertaining episode, with many standout moments. What did you think?

Thomas: I had previously thought Smokey was some kind of magical island eraser making sure whatever "course corrections" needed to be made -- Keamy's mercenary team getting swallowed up in the blackness, for example -- took place in one fell swoop. (By the way, what's the best way to describe the noise Smokey makes? For something so lithe and snake-like, why in moments of pause, does it sound like my neighbor revving up his hedge trimmer?) But now, I'm really baffled about the Mystery Hole -- one John Locke almost got pulled into way back when.

So instead of time flu or some type of radiation exposure, the "sickness" turned out to be some Smokey-inflicted island madness. Interesting. We're also to believe that ol' Smokes actually inhabited the bodies of the loopy Frenchmen. When the Lone Armed Ranger is talking from the hole, that's Smokey luring the others for some zombified goodness, correct? Again, verrrrrry interesting. And finally, how soon until Dr. Richard Kimble shows up on the island looking for his nemesis. (OK, bad "Fugitive" reference.)

I think what grabbed me most from a nose-bleedingly good episode was the Locke-Christian Shephard discussion. Being a good Catholic school boy as a youngin', I instantly thought of the Stations of the Cross during their little heart-to-heart in the donkey wheel well. Not only is the sacrificial element of Locke's journey very Messiah-like, but after damaging his legs, Ghost Dad Shep refused to give Jesus Bentham the help he requested.

I seem to recall the Man from Nazareth (you know, instead of Tallahassee) questioning why he had to endure such pain, and such a god-awful weighty cross, by his lonesome. But he took the lashings. Wore the crown of thorns. Had those nails jammed into his hands and feet. It was his ... wait for it ... destiny! And, TA DA! He rose from the dead in all his white robed glory days later, just as we expect John Locke -- with fresh dome wax -- to do upon his coffin arriving at Cantor-Rainier (that's a reincarnation anagram on that A-Team van Ben is driving around) island when the O-6 make their triumphant return.

Ooh, and lest I forget, after that scene, Eloise Hawking's church is the next location we see. And if I'm not mistaken, that's a statue of Jesus in the foreground. I know I promised myself I wouldn't delve too deeply into random "connections" this season, but this was one chain that presented itself immediately to me.

And really, what is up with Ghost Dad? Is he the island spokesperson for Jacob? Should we read something into the fact that he arrived on mystery island in a coffin and is now roaming cabins with Claire and giving pep talks in underground wells? Locke's coming in a coffin, too. Coincidence? I think not!

Adam: Smokey's sound always kinda reminded me of a drawbridge being raised, or something else old and mechanical and composing of several rusty gears. I bet it's what the inside of Rush Limbaugh's head sounds like. (Zing!) Your theory about course-correction is interesting. Perhaps the Frenchies stated purpose of searching for the radio tower would've caused too much disruption, and that's why they needed to be taken out. Of course, Danielle ended up finding the tower and ending its repetition of The Numbers without any interference (I assume, of course, because we'll probably never see that.) The reason for other victims of Smokey's wrath -- 815's captain and Mr. Eko, for example -- would also need to be explained.

And poor Charlotte, huh? I never thought she was the greatest character, but her death scene was very effective. Especially the absolute fear in her eyes when she remembered that moment from her youth -- she grew up, it turns out, on the island as a child of Dharma -- when a man told her she should leave the island and never come back, or she would die. That man? None other than Daniel Faraday, time traveler. Now here's the question: We know that Danny ends up mingling with the Dharmites -- we saw that in the season premiere -- but if Locke has flipped the switch on the time shifts, how is that possible?

Thomas: How did Old Hag Rousseau not recognize Jin in 2004? That's the year of the Oceanic Six crash, right? Man, I get so confused by "actual" time for the show. After watching the rerun of last week's episode, I thought the funniest line was Juliet's, "That happened two months ago" in reference to Claire giving birth to Aaron. Two freakin' months. Hilarious. But honestly, if Jin was there at the time of Smokey's rage and Rousseau turning the gun on her soul mate, wouldn't you think she'd have remembered the stray, buff Korean who appears and disappears in the jungle? (Also, Jin's English has gotten too good ... c'mon, man! Not even Rosetta Stone works that fast!)

I'm completely baffled by all the time manipulation. I honestly think it's an arbitrary device that won't harbor any greater meaning, at least in terms of the shifts, the spacing of those shifts, why certain time periods were picked, etc. I think it's simply a convenient plot device to tie up some loose ends, as we saw with Rousseau's arrival. Two quick interactions and then ... bring on the migraines!

Frankly, I was worried it would become a lazy means of storytelling. And while I also appreciate the level of genius needed to provide those quick snapshots post-writer's strike, I think it's a little too convenient to keep jumping in and out with no rhyme or reason. That'll probably stop now with the Locke wheel turn, and I've thought all along that with three years passing (three, right?) for the Oceanic Six in L.A., they'll come back to find out that like, only five minutes has passed since that first flash sent the island in invisible mode.

Finally, did we know anything about Rousseau's baby daddy before? How is Ben involved in Alex's birth? Will any of this matter anymore seeing as how they're all dead now?

Also, I have a crush on Mrs. Hawking. She's kinda foxy.

Adam: The intermittency of the time shifts haven't bothered me as much because, hey, it's a TV show, and there's a need for dramatic effect. If the flashes occurred every five minutes like clockwork, that might quickly get tiresome. Yes, it's convenient that the Sawyer and crew get zapped to the future (or past or whatever) when they're out in the middle of the ocean and people are shooting at them. But it was also awesome last night when Locke was halfway down a well, dangling on a rope, held onto by Sawyer, and post-flash there's no well, and Sawyer's tugging at a rope coming out of the ground. (I guess whatever they're holding onto when the sky lights up, they take with them?)

I like your theory of differing passages of time -- that the three years lived by the O6 will only seem like days or maybe weeks to the people on the island. I keep going back to the metaphor of the record on the turntable. It's already been used to describe the skips in time. But what if the island is at the center of the record, which spins more slowly, and the rest of the world is on the outer rim, meaning they take longer to make the same revolution.

And of course Old Rousseau didn't remember Jin. She was cuckoo-pants. But I do remember her talking about Alex's father before, in fact I think it was in the Season One episode where she captures Sayid. She kept mumbling about Alex and her husband, and when Sayid asked if Alex was her husband, she said no, it was Robert. Am I remembering that incorrectly? It's possible -- I've also got this strange memory of a half-dead Korean man showing up in my kindergarten class one day, then disappearing after nap time.

-- Adam Reinhard, and Thomas Rozwadowski,

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