Doc Jensen recaps the year's first eight shows. Plus: his take on ''Meet Kevin Johnson,'' and a new time-travel theory
B-LISTER The Doc has a couple quibbles with the episode reintroducing Michael
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By Jeff Jensen Jeff Jensen
Jeff Jensen, an EW senior writer, has been despondent since the cancellation of ''Twin Peaks''Week two of Lost's unintended and unwanted spring break. How are you dealing with the withdrawal? Have you got the shakes? Are you so desperate for a hit of cult-pop geekery that you're bingeing on old episodes of Twin Peaks? (You could do worse — but if you're looking for something more current, try Battlestar Galactica, whose new season begins April 4. Totally fraktacular.)
As for me, I feel like Lost has never left — mostly because I just got back from there. As some of you know from reading Adam B. Vary's nifty recap of ''Meet Kevin Johnson,'' I was recently in Hawaii visiting the set of Lost, and in the coming weeks I'll be sharing what I saw. For now, I'll tease you with a word:
That's right. Not a typo.
A Doc Jensen no prize if you can figure it out in advance of Lost's next episode, ''The Shape of Things To Come,'' airing April 24. In the meantime, I promise you weekly Doc Jensen columns from now until the end of the season, beginning with:
THE LOST MIDSEASON REPORT CARD
Grading the first eight episodes of Lost's fourth season.
4.01 ''The Beginning of the End''
Flash-forward Hurley! Ghost Charlie! Oceanic 6! Christian rocking in Jacob's hizzy!
4.02 ''Confirmed Dead''
The best introduction of new characters ever. Miles Straume's ghostbusting scene, the revelation of a Hydra polar bear in Tunisia, and the discovery of Oceanic 815 wreckage at the bottom of the ocean rank among Lost's greatest WTF?! Moments.
4.03 ''The Economist''
Sayid is born again — Jason Bourne'd, that is — as an off-Island assassin for Ben in the flash-forward future. Not since Martha Stewart got out of jail has there been more watercooler discussion about a bracelet.
The flash-forward Kate stuff was nifty and the Aaron reveal was buzzworthy. The Island stuff laid an egg for me, but the Miles/Ben/Locke triangle, culminating with the grenade-in-the-mouth bit, was explosive.
4.05 ''The Constant''
Lost lets its geek flag fly — and opens its heart — with Desmond's narratively trippy, deeply romantic time-travel episode. Best Lost episode ever? Debate.
4.06 ''The Other Woman''
Juliet's third flashback episode. The only true dud of the season, although coming after ''The Constant'' did it no favors.
4.07 ''Ji Yeon''
The Jin/Sun flashback/flash-forward was loved by some, resented by others for its twisty-or-gimmicky trickery. It worked for me.
4.08 ''Meet Kevin Johnson''
I'm giving this one a solid, sturdy B. Since I didn't recap (again, big thanks to Doc Vary for his excellent scholarship; he served you well, folks), I owe you a more detailed explanation....
''MEET KEVIN JOHNSON'' AGAIN
Three quibbles; three geek-outs
I missed Lost's trademark time-jumping.
Once Sayid pinned Michael against a turbine in the engine room and made him spill his backstory, Michael's flashback took over the hour, without the usual back-and-forthing between past and present. The straightforward presentation was decently suited for accomplishing the primary mission of the episode: answering the question ''What happened to Michael?'' Still, it was too conventional for me. I've grown to love Lost's time-toggling; it demands that you lean forward into the show, and in doing so, facilitates a deeper, more immersive experience and embellishes the sophistication of the storytelling. ''Meet Kevin Johnson'' had a lot of meat, but not a lot of flavor. I want both from Lost.
Michael's post-Island timeline bugged me.
Michael's mother said he showed up in New York two months after the disappearance of Oceanic 815. That means Michael and Walt were back in New York in late November. Now, the freighter has been offshore since mid-December. I guess it's plausible that in a scant three weeks, Michael could have squeezed in all the hard living suggested by his episode — boating to New York; establishing a new identity; deciding to kill himself; failing to do so; recuperating; hanging with Mr. Friendly; flying to Fiji; playing mole for Ben — but it seems like a stretch to me. That said, I liked Michael's backstory, and recognize that compression is sometimes a necessary storytelling fudge, much in the same way that Jack Bauer only needs five minutes to get from Santa Monica to downtown L.A., which I can tell you is frakking impossible.
The cliffhanger wasn't cliffhangerish enough.
To be fair, the climactic beat — the apparent killings of Karl and Rousseau and Alex's skin-saving betrayal of Ben — was forced to shoulder an unintended dramatic burden: sending us into an unexpected five-week interruption between episodes with a momentum-sustaining bang. (ABC originally planned to air ''Meet Kevin Johnson'' with the remaining five set to air beginning in late April, but then decided against it. Bad move.) Still, I'm not sure Alex, Karl, and (to a lesser extent) the French Lady have the heft to carry the final BONG! moment of any Lost episode. I also didn't bite on the mystery of Karl's unseen assailants. I think Lost wants us to be debating if those are Others lurking in the bushes or freighter mercenaries. But I never read it as an open question; I'm just assuming it is the freighter creeps. Regardless, it didn't work. But now let's talk about some stuff that did...
The Oceanic 815 cover-up is just plain creepy.
According to Mr. Friendly, Charles Widmore planted the Oceanic 815 wreckage in the Sunda Trench to fool the world into thinking that all the passengers are dead. He even went so far as to dig up a cemetery in Thailand to get himself a couple hundred corpses! Like I said: creepy. I also think it's a lie. I totally think Widmore is a bad guy, but I think Ben is hiding the true nature of the billionaire Brit's ambition. I'm betting that the man behind the Oceanic 815 cover-up is, in fact, Ben himself, and that he had Mr. Friendly and some other Others running wreckage-planting missions over a long period of time using the Dharma sub and surplus Dharma Initiative corpses from The Purge.
Michael's suicide immunity has far-reaching implications.
In the tease he gave us for this episode, executive producer Damon Lindelof told us ''Meet Kevin Johnson'' would explain why flash-forward Grizzly Jack couldn't jump from the bridge in last year's season finale. As promised, the episode supplied an answer, though we had to puzzle it out for ourselves. According to Mr. Friendly (whose appearance would rank No. 4 on my Cool Bits list if I went that far), the reason why Michael couldn't kill himself is that the Island wouldn't let him; apparently, Twilight Zone isle has influence beyond itself, too. Similarly, we can surmise that the Island refused to allow Jack to jump by calling him away from the edge with a car crash that required his heroic intervention. Of course, this raises the question ''Why?'' The most likely answer is suggested by the theorizing of Lost fans like J. Wood of powells.com, who for quite some time has advocated the idea that the Island is a place where past, present, and future happen all at once. A slightly different articulation of the same idea would be this: The Island is a place where the future has already happened. Hence, Jack and Michael can't kill themselves because they are needed to fulfill their roles in the Island's future drama — parts that, in a sense, have already been played out. Have I just totally confused you? Then let me clarify with my next cool bit...
The mystery of Walt became 76 percent more intriguing.
I assumed we would learn Michael and his son returned to the Island together. Wrong! And I'm glad I'm wrong, because it makes the whole business of Tall Island Walt even more provocative. If you recall, we saw in last year's finale how an adolescent Walt beckoned left-for-dead Locke out of the Dharma mass grave. Was he a ghost? Was he corporeal? How did he get so big? Here's my prediction: Ultimately, some or all of the Oceanic 6 will try returning to the Island in the flash-forward future, and they're going to bring Walt with them. But when they pass through the electromagnetic anomaly, they're going to arrive at a point in the Island's past, perhaps even prior to the crash of Oceanic 815. Yes, folks, I am suggesting that here in the Island present, while Jack and the castaways are clashing with the freighter folk, flash-forward Jack and company are also on the Island, too. They could be hiding; after all, they can't interact with their past selves, as that could screw up the timeline or create some kind of time-space catastrophe (although Walt would be exempt, as his past self is no longer on the Island). Then again, maybe Island magic precludes them from interacting with their castaway lives. Perhaps they share a separate, parallel existence with their old Island selves. Could this explain The Whispers? Could these voices belong to the flash-forward characters returned to the Island, watching and commenting on past drama? If my theory is correct, then here's my prediction for the season finale: In the last scene, exactly one minute after the Oceanic 6 departs from the Island, the flash-forward Oceanic 6, released from the restrictions of Island magic, will step out of the jungle and greet the remaining castaways. I'll leave it to Hurley to make the inevitable quip:
''Man, I thought they would never leave.''
As for me, I gotta scram. I'll be back next week. In the meantime, you can hit me at JeffJensenEW@aol.com.