By Jeff Jensen
Jeff Jensen, an EW senior writer, has been despondent since the cancellation of ''Twin Peaks''''THE TEASE!'' + ''LOST MADE EASY!'' = LOST UNTANGLED
ABC is trying to do its part to ease Lost viewers' confusion with a new weekly web series called Lost Untangled. I'm not sure how clarifying these things truly are, but they're pretty darn entertaining. Beginning this week, we're going to embed these videos in this column. This installment offers a recap of what happened last week and a peek at tonight's episode. My hunch is that this may have been unintentional: The scene in question — the payoff of the Is Sun Gonna Gun Down Ben? cliffhanger — originally may have been the climactic moment of ''The Little Prince,'' but they decided to cut it and move it into the new episode for some reason. If you can handle being spoiled just a little bit, I think you'll find this pretty darn fun.
THE LOST LIST!
Special ''Lost in Time'' edition
In all the time I've spent publicly obsessing over Lost, I don't think I've seen the hardcore fans quite this activated by the show. (''Activated'' = talking, speculating, theorizing.) At the same time, I've never seen them so baffled, either. (''Baffled'' = ''I don't understand what the hell is going on!'') I don't think this is bad, per se. On the contrary, I think for many viewers, confusion is fueling their more-intense-than-ever interest. But for many others, confusion produces unwanted anxiety. The cause of this exciting/frustrating confusion is the time-travel story line, a sci-fi conceit that's proven to be accessible to the masses (Back To The Future, The Terminator, Peggy Sue Got Married) even though it comes with a high risk of failure (see: the too-many alternate realities/shoddy narrative logic of Heroes). This week's list focuses on five key questions pertaining to LTTA (Lost Time Travel Anxiety) and my suggestions for how to roll with them, with a minimum of nutty theories.
1. WHAT OR WHO IS DOING THE TIME TRAVELLING — THE ISLAND OR THE CASTAWAYS?
Lost certainly isn't conforming to what we expect the usual time travel story to look like. The fact that the show is defying our expectation is one reason for LTTA. The castaways should be Marty McFlys and the Island should be Doc Brown's time-traveling DeLorean. Right? Wrong. If that scenario were true for Lost, then everyone who was on the Island when Ben turned the frozen donkey — i.e., Richard Alpert and the Others — should be time traveling, too. So, too, should the actual physical environs of the Island as it existed when it vanished. What makes the most sense — based on everything we've seen so far — is that only the castaways are quantum leaping. Of course, this conclusion rips open a new can of wormy questions. Why only the castaways? What makes them so special? Those are questions that nag at me — but I feel like the story is going to answer them.
THE LOST LIST! (cont.)
2. WHERE DID THE ISLAND GO?
The vanishing Island mystery is the biggest source of my own kind of LTTA. I find myself wanting to come up with a single time-travel theory that explains everything — the quantum-leaping castaways, Ben's wormhole trip to the Sahara Desert, and the Island's disappearance. But what makes the most sense is that there are separate (but interlocking) explanations for each of those puzzles. Personally, I still like my theory that either Ben's crank on the frozen donkey wheel or the Oceanic 6's departure from the Island represented an event that shouldn't have happened. That event made a mess of the Island's timeline, and until the timeline is fixed, the Island has taken itself/has been taken ''offline.'' However, I am also intrigued by the idea that the Island moved into a hidden dimension of space. Sci-fi crazy talk? Not at all: According to super string theory, there are 10 dimensions of space, including eight that are hidden in the fabric of reality. As a result of turning the donkey wheel, the Island slipped into one of those dimensions. Crazy? Not according to Brian Greene, author of The Elegant Universe.
3. WHAT TIME (PERIOD) IS IT?
A chief source of LTTA for many fans is how the show makes them do some of the work of figuring out what year the castaways land in after each time flash. My advice? Don't work so hard. I don't think the show wants us to. I think Lost merely wants us to identify with the castaways' fear and confusion over their predicament. In other words, keep track of their emotional experience, not the history lesson. So far, all of their reactions have been unified by a common theme: Can the past be changed in such a way that alters everything that follows? Season 5, it seems to me, is simply an elaborate rumination on that question, and as such is a fanciful elaboration of classic Lost themes: redemption, salvation, transformation, escape, acceptance. Tonight, the theme switches to something very visceral: simple survival.
That said, I think we should mentally bookmark at least two of the stops that the Left Behinders have made so far in their time-travel jaunts: 1. The ''Jughead'' adventure, in which the castaways met Richard Alpert and a young Charles Widmore, and in which Faraday advised the Others to bury a hydrogen bomb; 2. The ''Ajira Airlines'' intrigue, in which the Left Behinders discovered that another group of people — maybe the returned Oceanic 6, maybe a new group of castaways? — were using their old beach camp.
4. WHAT YEAR SHOULD IT BE ON THE ISLAND, AND WHAT YEAR IS IT OFF THE ISLAND?
A relatively easy pair of questions to answer, but we find ourselves re-asking them as we struggle to stay afloat in the deluge of new chronological twists and turns. The Left Behinders vanished in January 2005. That was the same month and date that the Oceanic 6 left the Island. Since then, more than three years have passed for the Oceanic 6 — but only a couple days (maybe more, maybe less) have elapsed for the Left Behinders, in terms of time spent time traveling.
5. THE NOODLE COOKER: NOW THAT WE KNOW THAT DANIELLE ROUSSEAU ENCOUNTERED JIN IN THE PAST, DID SHE KNOW WHO JIN WAS WHEN SHE FOUND THE CASTAWAYS AFTER THEY CRASHED ON THE ISLAND?
This intrigue will be further deepened tonight, as I can report that she and Jin will share a pretty unforgettable adventure together. A similar mystery surrounds Richard Alpert. We now know the ageless Other encountered Locke and company during the 1950s era of the Island. But did he possess those memories when he was trying to convince Locke to kill his dad and usurp Ben's leadership during season 3?
Perhaps this question was addressed/answered last season in ''The Constant.'' In that classic episode, Desmond's consciousness traveled back in time to when he was in the military. Then he sought out Daniel Faraday for help in solving his time displacement dilemma. That means Daniel should have come to the Island with the memory of meeting Desmond, right? Nope. The episode seemed to establish that Faraday did not possess that memory until Desmond went back in time. This principle was affirmed anew in the season premiere, when Faraday used Island Past Desmond to send a message to off-Island Future Desmond, who had no recollection of that bizarre encounter until about three years after he was rescued by Penny.
The precedent of the Faraday/Desmond moments would seem to suggest that the answer to the Rousseau/Jin question is simply, ''No.'' Adult Rousseau did not yet have a memory of meeting Jin when she encountered the castaways in season 1. That said, Faraday did tell Desmond that he was miraculously unique, that ''the rules'' didn't apply to him. Does that mean that the Desmond/Faraday precedents actually can't be applied to other characters? Time will tell.
GET TO THE (ZERO) POINT!
A theory that could explain almost everything
Last season, in the episode ''Meet Kevin Johnson,'' Lost cited a book that may help explain many of our time travel questions. In Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, the hero becomes ''unstuck in time'' and begins experiencing past, present, and future all at once. Perhaps Lost is dramatizing a similar conceit: The Left Behinders have become ''unstuck'' and are now experiencing the Island's past, present, and future in an everlasting state of now. Bookmark this idea.
In the world of science, there is a theoretical concept called zero point energy/zero point field, which could help explain much of what we're seeing on Lost. Zero point energy is a hypothetical source of possibly limitless energy. It is linked to ''The Casmir Effect'' and ''negative energy,'' terms name checked by Pierre Chang in his Orchid orientation videos. They are also key ingredients in the wormhole theory of time travel.
Men of Science aren't the only ones interested in zero point energy. There's a whole bunch of Men of Faith — fringe thinkers, mostly — who believe that zero point energy is like magic. It can be mentally directed to make stuff happen (a.k.a. mind over matter), or even grant a kind of omniscience that could allow a person to experience past, present, and future all at once. Lynne McTaggart, a leading proponent of zero point thinking (she even wrote a book about it called The Field, which her own website describes as ''a cult best-seller''), contends that people can wield this energy to cure their maladies. Think: the season 2 episode ''S.O.S.'', in which the lovable Bernard and Rose went to see an Australian faith healer. Said healer, if you recall, lived near Ayres Rock (also known as Uluru), which the Aborigines considered a gateway to an otherworldly realm called the Dreaming, and which bunches of New Age types believe is a kind of nexus for zero point-esque quantum/mystic energy. (I don't make this stuff up! It's all researchable at Wikipedia — so it must be true!)
Maybe you think this zero point stuff is silly. Maybe you think I'm nuts for even trying to apply it to Lost. If so, you're probably going to think I'm totally off my rocker for suggesting the following:
Remember the scene in this season's second episode in which Neil (a.k.a. Frogurt) died?
Now, I am convinced that this scene is actually a coded message pointing toward zero point theory. The scene begins with Miles Straume hauling in a dead boar. Then, Neil starts yelling at Sawyer for calling him Frogurt, emphatically reminding us that his name is Neil. Now, earlier in the episode, Neil carried on about the utter pointlessness of their survival struggle. Why work so hard to build a new camp or start a fire if the time flashes will basically take it all away? His cynical consternation reaches a crescendo in his death scene, when Neil rants about their inability to produce simple, conventional energy (''We have no fire!'') before getting killed by a flaming arrow of irony.
Dead boar. Niels Bohr. Not a bore.
''Neil'' + ''dead boar'' + ''pointlessness'' = Niels Bohr, a dead physicist and one of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics, which points to the existence of this hypothetical zero point energy. (And because I love the idea of this pun, please, let me jackhammer it into your brain: ''pointlessness'' = ''zero point.'') Bohr worked closely with Werner Heisenberg, whose fabled ''uncertainty principle'' is often used to prop up mind-over-matter pseudoscience with some kind of legit science. And really, isn't Frogurt's flaming-arrow death a complex metaphor for what has happened ever since Ben turned the frozen donkey wheel? ''Frogurt'' = ''frozen yogurt.'' If you apply heat to frozen yogurt, it melts. Similarly, when Ben turned the frozen donkey wheel, energy was unleashed, and the castaways' fixed perspective sense of time began to melt into an unstable flow of relativistic fluidity.
I will now receive your flaming arrows of incredulity at JeffJensenEW@aol.com.
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Speaking of brain-hurting crazy talk, may I recommend to you the new episode of Totally Lost, the new web series hosted by yours truly and my friend and colleague Dan Snierson. We left you on a cliffhanger last week, as our show was essentially hijacked by Pig-E, the ratings-goosing tiny toy swine mascot that management forced upon us. I tried to bolt, but before Dan could do so, Pig-E used his psychic powers to make Dan's nose bleed. No, I'm not making that up. THIS REALLY HAPPENED. What happens next? Well, we made a show about it. Look for it to post later today — or watch it right now, if ''later in the day'' has already happened. How very Slaughterhouse-Five.
More tomorrow in the TV Watch recap. See ya! —Doc J