By Jeff Jensen
Jeff Jensen, an EW senior writer, has been despondent since the cancellation of ''Twin Peaks''''The Lie'' aspired to answer a question: Can Lost's new season 5 version of fragmented, time-toggling storytelling effectively sell an old fashioned Lost yarn built around a single character wrestling with a certain aspect of his or her past? The test subject for this experiment was Hurley. The emotional issue the show saddled him with was his profound guilt over lying about the Left Behinders still on the Island... wherever/whenever it may be. Could he make peace with the cover-up at the expense of compromising his values? Or would he trust his gut and come clean, even at the expense of inviting catastrophic consequences for himself and his friends?
I've had the opportunity the watch ''The Lie'' a couple of times, and I've come around to really digging it and feeling hopeful that New Lost could still generate the emotional resonance of Old Lost. But I must confess, upon first viewing, I had trouble feeling it or buying into it, and I wonder if you did, too. My problem was with the lie itself, or at least the rationale for it. Jack's over-emphasis on needing to protect those left on the Island made no sense to Hurley — and it didn't make much sense to me, either. We saw the Island vanish. That fact alone afforded their friends safety from Charles Widmore. But Jack persisted, and Hurley folded, which also didn't make much sense to me; I never saw Hurley as the kind of guy to give up on his friends or his moral compass. He took out his frustration on Sayid, whom he thought had an abiding interest in honesty, integrity, and living with a clean conscience: ''You know what, dude? I'm going to remember this. And someday you're going to need my help, and I'm telling you right now: you're not getting it.''
And on this contrived threat, Lost hung a whole episode about Hurley eating his words as he tried to dodge the cops and revive tranquilized Sayid. But Hurley's arc never failed to amuse. His encounter with Ana-Lucia's ghost worked for me (''Stay away from the cops,'' she scolded, one of many tips she offered to help him through his surreal journey), and kudos to Michelle Rodriguez for having a sense of humor about her place in Lost lore — and her rap sheet. I liked how that moment was embellished with Cheap Trick's ''Dream Police'' and I laughed hard at Hurley's hideously kitschy ''I (HEART) My Shih Tzu'' T-shirt. (I wish I could vamp for several hundred words about the secret meaning of Shih Tzus to Lost, but alas, Shih Tzus totally fall within my decoder's blind spot. Sorry.)
While the lion-faced Lotto dude searched for sanctuary and peace of mind, Ben's quest to get the Oceanic 6 (and Locke's dead body) back to the Island drove an intriguing subplot that eventually dovetailed with Hurley's arc. We learned that Ben has off-Island helpers — a secret society of normal-folk Others, blue collar tradesman who by day cut meat and lay carpet and by night protect our quantum infrastructure. (Or subvert it, if you're inclined to think them bad guys.) I got a Carl Sandberg vibe off Jill the Butcher — the poet's ''Chicago'' paints the Windy City as if it were a pitiless, sentient entity (see: The Island) and Ben certainly can be seen in lines like ''They tell me you are wicked',' and ''They tell me you are crooked'' and ''They tell me you are brutal'' — but that probably doesn't have anything do with anything. We learned that Locke is the lynchpin in Ben's scheme. Unless he gets him back to the Island, ''everything we're about to do won't matter at all.'' Might Locke be born again once his corpse returns to the Lame-Leg Revival Island? That's the vibe I got when Jack anxiously asked ''He's dead, isn't he?'' and Ben didn't reply at all. If the castaways' departure has made a big mess of the timeline — if it has created a fraudulent timeline that is quickly becoming as untenable as the Oceanic 6's conspiracy — then maybe Locke's death is one of the anomalies that will get course corrected once the castaways return.
We also learned that Ben is league with — be still my heart — the mysterious Ms. Hawking, whose secret domicile is Man of Faith on top (crosses and candles) and Man of Science on the bottom, i.e., a computer/cartography lab, where she slinks around in a druid's hoody working on...something. My guess: trying to ascertain where and when the Island will materialize in the next soonest/closest locale in time-space. She told Ben he had 70 hours until the rapture — er, I mean, until something happens, perhaps the arrival of that ''event window'' that was crunched by her computer. ''God helps us all'' catastrophe will ensue if they fail in their mission, Ms. Hawking told Ben, who also had to be reminded that his wants and desires matter little in the grand scheme which they service. Foreshadowing of friction? And do you think Ms. Hawking is Faraday's mother? And: Remember when Sun told Kate that she was only going to be in Los Angeles for three days? That puts her in the same vicinity as all the other members of the Oceanic 6 during Ms. Hawking's 70 hour window of opportunity. Coincidence? Plot convenience?
Ben's arc intersected with Hurley's arc in the final act of the episode. Having learned from Jack that Hurley was hiding out at his parents' house, Ben headed over to Casa de Reyes to woo him back to the Island. Hurley greeted him by throwing a greasy pizza pocket at him. Missed. Splat in the wall. LOL. Hurley wasn't buying what Ben was selling — happily ever after in the land of No More Lying, i.e. the Island — and bolted out to the cops that were hunting him for the murder of those three mystery goons from Sayid's safehouse and the loony bin. Hurley didn't kill those cats, of course, but he let the cops think he did. In other words, Mr. ''I don't believe in lying'' found reason to do just that to save his hide. The ''Checkmate, Mr. Linus'' smirk that crawled across Hurley's grizzled cheeks was kinda creepy, and I couldn't tell if the dude had just executed a brilliant maneuver or made a horrible mistake. At the very least, he's set up another episode's worth of story. I'm boning up on Prison Break so I can spot the coy homages
Speaking of weird showdowns, what did you make of that Sun-Kate scene? First, Sun asks if Kate would do anything to protect Aaron. Kate snapped: What kind of person do you think I am? (Uh...how about the kind of person who'd blow up her abusive dad?) Then Sun reminded her that she admired Kate's ability to make tough choices — like, say, the time she indirectly caused Jin's death so that the Oceanic 6 might live. Then she asked Kate about Jack. Sun's sincerity was a moving target, and the scene further suggested she has slipped over to the dark side.
Meanwhile, back on the Island, Lost slowed down the rocky horror time warp shuffle so the characters — and the audience — could collect their wits. Sawyer got a shirt, swiped from doom-and-gloom background player Neil Frogurt. (More on him in a minute.) Now all James needs is a new pair of shoes. We got some new time travel rules from Juliet; She told us that the castaways get to keep the stuff they have whenever the quantum swoosh hits, hence the presence of the zodiac. (More on the significance of this in next week's Doc Jensen column.) And something bad's happening to Charlotte. In the premiere, she started bleeding out of her nose — a sign of deadly time travel sickness. (Quick: Someone get her a Constant, stat!) In ''The Lie,'' she complained to Faraday about headaches, which is another symptom of TTS, and she also stated that she had forgotten her mother's maiden name, which to my knowledge is NOT symptom of TTS. Faraday tried to keep the truth from her — yet another example of the episode's fixation with deception, justifiable, and otherwise. Here's my theory. Somehow, time is being altered, and Charlotte is being erased from existence. Yes, Faraday did say the past can't be changed — but what we've seen on the show suggests that fate is both fixed and flexible, willing to renegotiate certain details of its predetermined plan. (Example: History will kill Charlie, there's no stopping that, but it's open to any number of scenarios to do it.) It could be that some people's whole lives could count as a negotiable detail. Sorry, Charlotte: The cosmos just isn't that into you. But she's a pretty girl, and so I hope I'm wrong.
The other major event that occurred on the Island was the flaming arrow attack by hidden enemies and the ambush on Sawyer and Juliet by Army-clad grunts, including one guy who spoke with an English accent. I had a whole awesome theory about the attackers and the identity of the Brit...and then I saw next week's episode, ''Jughead,'' which is all kinds of awesome, and learned that my theory was correct. Since it would be a lie to pretend to be guessing, I'm just going to stand down on this for now. I guess Hurley's honesty bug is contagious.
Like ''Because You Left,'' ''The Lie'' was alive with winky self-awareness, and it provided for some of the episode's best moments. Hurley's attempt at explaining his Island experience to his mother was hysterical (on button pushing: ''Actually, I was kinda confused by that part...''), while this classic exchange spoke for millions:
HURLEY: Everything is going to make sense, I promise!
HURLEY'S MOM: It better!
And this one:
HURLEY'S MOM: I don't understand you, but I believe you.
Which nicely summarizes my feelings about this 1-2 punch to start the season. Not sure I understand it all — but I believe the producers do, so I'm trust and roll with it.
And then there was the flaming arrow death of Neil Frogurt. For nearly three years, ''Neil Frogurt'' has existed mostly as a running joke within the online Lost fan culture; producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof first mentioned this ''redshirt'' castaway back in one of their podcasts in 2006. (''Redshirt:'' a reference to the red-shirted officers that lurked in the background of old Star Trek episodes.) Frogurt got some love last year in one of the short mobisodes/episodes created to tub-thump Season 4; it revealed that the prickly Frogurt hated Hurley because he too was rather sweet on Libby. Frogurt, then, reps a certain kind of Lost fan, the kind of Lost fan who's probably enjoying Season 5's dive into sci-fi and mythology — and he died hard last night, shot down in a blaze of ingloriousness by enemies hidden in the jungle. You say: ''Self-indulgent!'' I say: Only if you're a cranky, party-pooping Hostile. It was one more nod to the fact that now, more than ever, Lost is being written for those who've stuck with it, who've kept constant with it. You know: folks like you.
And now it's your turn. What did you make of the1-2 punch of episodes 1 and 2? Is the time travel working for you? And who do you think those flaming arrows were flung by?