TIME FOR A MOVIE? In Some Like It Hoth, Hurley and Miles end up in 1977 — the year of Star Wars. Coincidence?
By Jeff Jensen
''SOME LIKE IT HOTH''
Last week I dared to hope for all-time greatness — and my wish came true. So should I be bracing for a letdown, even a small one, from tonight's Lost outing? Or should I just chill and let Lost be what Lost will be? Option 2 sounds more mature...but where's the fun in that? Bring on the outrageously unrealistic expectations! Bring fire to my dead, cold heart! Make me feel alive!
Tonight's flashback spotlight falls on Miles Straume, the hot-headed hustler capable of talking to the dead. Will we learn the origin of his powers? Will we learn why his parents gave him a name that sounds like ''maelstrom,'' a Nordic term for ''whirlpool?'' Will we learn why he's such a Mr. Snarky Cranky Pants? Recall earlier this season how Daniel Faraday wondered if his freaky freighter friend had been to the Island before; might Miles be Pierre Chang's infant child all grown up? If so, did Young Master Sixth Sense spend any time in Room 23, à la Walt? FUN FACT FROM THE WORLD OF CONSPIRACY THEORY LORE! Time-traveling Miles is currently parked in 1977 — the same year that the Senate conducted an investigation into a secret CIA project called MKULTRA, which conducted research into brainwashing, mind-control, and even psychic powers. Heavy drugs were involved. And allegedly kids were used as test subjects. Very Room 23, if you ask me.
A couple months ago, when I visited the set of Lost, I had the opportunity to interview the actor who plays Miles, Ken Leung, a thoughtful, soft-spoken dude who digs the show's deep, spiritual themes and sci-fi/supernatural twists. Leung told me his early days working on the show were challenging due to the lack of info about his character. ''I was kind of just lost for a while,'' says the actor. ''It's a unique show in the sense that part of the point is that you're not equipped with the answers. So, you kind of have to learn to do without that, do without the answers that maybe you are accustomed to. So, that was hard. Not a bad kind of hard, but it took some figuring out. And now, I've just sort of accepted it in a way that I hadn't before, so it's more fun in that sense.'' To hear more from our man Miles, press play on the video below.
Anyone with a Star Wars theory of Lost — and there are more of you than I can shake a light saber at — will have a vested interest in tonight's proceedings. ''Some Like It Hoth'' is indeed the title — Hoth, as in the ice planet in The Empire Strikes Back. I could spend the next few hundred words theorizing about the significance of the title — including a riff on why Dharma was devoted to cultivating real-life Jedis — but I don't think they'd be as succinct or clever as those of reader Todd Birmingham, who makes his home ''just outside Ann Arbor,'' the location of the Dharma Initiative's stateside HQ. He writes:
''A reference to contemporary pop-culture seems out of sorts for an episode title, until one reviews the plot synopsis and the year the action takes place. First, the plot: 'Miles and Hurley are instructed to deliver a package to a high ranking Dharma official.' Second, the year: 1977, which is the year Star Wars was released. Okay, here's what we're thinking.
1. Hurley and Miles must travel to Ann Arbor to deliver the package. Is it possible they make a slight diversion to catch Star Wars while it's still playing in theaters? Also, given Miles' character, isn't it reasonable to infer that he would scream to the audience 'Darth is Luke's father!' three years before anyone would know that? (Imagine someone from the future telling you how Lost ends. Good? Bad? Very meta.) We could also see Miles grabbing up as many packaged Star Wars action figures, too, cashing in on their future value.
2. The parallels between Star Wars and Lost. Miles and Hurley are like C-3PO and R2-D2: They're delivering plans to their leaders. Will they get caught? Who's their Obi-Wan?
3. Like Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back, the Island may be the hidden rebel base of our heroes. This season may end with the discovery of the Island by whatever represents the Empire. Will Sawyer get Kate out on his version of the Millennium Falcon?''
Wow, Tim! All of this — just from checking your local listings! Fun possibilities. Being a Star Wars fan myself, I'll be looking to see if and how Lost syncs up with George Lucas' fantasy world. But I'll be sifting through the episode for a separate parallel suggested by the title, too. For as it happens, ''Hoth'' also links to a much older mythological world — one that puts a name on the cataclysmic destination that the Lost saga seems to be heading toward. More in a minute. But first!
''DEAD IS DEAD'' AGAIN
Last Thursday, I gave you more than 3,000 words about ''Dead Is Dead,'' the marvelously murky 12th episode of Lost's soon-to-be-over fifth season. I haven't been able to stop thinking about it, and so today, I have 2,300 more words to share. If you'd like a refresher, press play on ABC's entertaining Lost Untangled series. I was particularly amused by the ''elephant in the room.''
THE HOLLY HUNTER TO BEN'S NICOLAS CAGE WAS...ETHAN?
In my recap last week, I failed to discuss Boy Ethan playing sidekick to Young-Adult Ben during his fateful Raising Arizona raid on Rousseau's tent. Interesting how Ethan's whole life has been intertwined with Lost's motherhood/pregnancy themes. And in thinking through that idea, I remembered ''Not In Portland,'' which introduced Juliet's back story and showed how Richard Alpert and Adult Ethan were tasked with recruiting her to the Island. There was an odd, still-unexplained moment when Juliet passed Ethan in her sister's apartment hallway. She had not yet met the man she would ultimately help bring into the world. (I love that twist.) Was Ethan messing with Juliet's sister — giving her cancer or facilitating her pregnancy — in order to help manipulate Juliet to the Island? Not a new question, but one worth revisiting, as Ethan's significance is much bigger than we may have thought.
The more pressing question regarding Ethan posed by ''Dead Is Dead:'' Since Ben's abduction of Alex predated the Purge and the end of Dharma, at what point did Master Goodspeed leave his parents, Horace and Amy, and begin to live with the Others? Over at darkufo.blogspot.com, a bright, clear-eyed Lost blogger named Erika has put forth the idea that Ben had been returned to the Dharma Initiative prior to this event, and that he and Ethan were sneaking out at night to play with the Others. Why can't I come up with inspired common sense like that?! (Note to Erika: You got robbed. Get your justice. And keep writing!)
Here's my kooky Doc Jenseny theory: By season's end, Dharma and the Hostiles will war once more, then negotiate a new truce that will be preserved by...hostages. Infant hostages. Baby Ethan will be given over to the Others, who in exchange will give them...someone. Yes, I know: Where the hell did that come from?! To which I say: ''No: 'Hel.''' To which you say, ''?!?!?!?!'' and to which I say, ''By the end of this column, I promise, I'll explain.''
SMOKEY'S SELECTIVE JUDGMENT
Why the Island is a Bad God — and how Ben may still be in control
True story. I was sitting in Easter service, listening to the pastor preach about resurrection and redemption, when I had this epiphany: How come Smokey didn't judge Ben for the Purge? We only saw images of Ben's relationship with Alex flicker in Smokey's psychic soot — as if making a tragic mess of his daughter's life was the worst thing Ben has ever done. Ha! He killed his father! He participated in the mass murder of 40 people! He sent Goodwin to his death and tried to end John Locke's life at least twice!
Smokey's selective auditing of Ben's past is enough to make me lose faith in any theory that says the Monster is an instrument of divine justice. If it is, then the Island gods must be crazy — and unfair. Or just evil. Indeed, a few weeks ago, I cited Terry O'Quinn's quote to the Los Angeles Times about his suspicion that the show's chief villain might be the Island itself. Perhaps Lost is a dark, Lovecraftian variation on the Book of Job or the Biblical story of Jonah. The message in the metaphor: God may exist — but is he/she/it truly good? FUN FACT, ESPECIALLY IF YOU'RE AN ATHEIST! Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials fantasy series — a veritable Anti-Narnia, inspired by Paradise Lost and the author's profound suspicion of religion — also features polar bears, compasses, hot air balloons, sinister science experiments, and in a chapter entitled ''The Lost Boy,'' ghost kids.
Maybe we don't need to be cosmic about it. My current take on Smokey is that the Monster is an electric prod used by the Island's secret masters to keep the herd of its people in line, lest they make a mess of said secret masters' master plans. Sometimes, that prod can kill. (See: Mr. Eko.) But the example of Ben shows us it can be set to stun, too. Remember when we all thought Smokey was attracted to fear the way sharks are drawn to blood? I think there's mounting evidence to suggest that what Smokey is really drawn to is guilt. I don't think the Monster's interest is in judgment or redemption. What it wants is control. That's why Mr. Eko had to die: He could not be manipulated. Smokey smoked out his great guilt, but when Eko basically said, 'Dude, I haven't done nothing wrong, I only did what I needed to survive,' Smokey threw up its hands like a director pissed at an uncooperative actor, said ''I can't work with this fool,'' and fired him. And by ''fired,'' I mean ''brutally pummeled him into jungle pudding.'' But Ben didn't rationalize his sin, and by submitting to Smokey's critique, he is now more useful than ever to the Monster's masters...
Unless Ben suckered Smokey. Surely it must be possible that Ben knows exactly what Smokey is, knows exactly how Smokey operates, knows exactly whom Smokey serves. Did the Monster really crack Ben — or did Ben only show Smokey exactly what Ben wanted Smokey to see? Many of you have been speculating — smartly, I think — that Ben was correct when he insisted to Sun that John Locke 2.0 isn't the resurrected version of Locke 1.0, but rather something terrifyingly inhuman. If that means Locke is actually (knowingly or unknowingly) an incarnation of Smokey (à la Yemi and Alex), or is a separate though similarly controlled Island avatar, we must consider — follow me on this, because my phrasing is about to give you a headache — we must consider that everything Ben did in ''Dead Is Dead'' was done to manipulate whatever it is that Ben suspects John Locke 2.0 might be. Blabbering about wanting to be judged, swiping the photo of himself and Alex from his old office, finally confessing to John that he was wracked with guilt for causing his daughter's death — all that could have been a big show, designed to manufacture the appearance of a guilty conscience and therefore give Locke/Smokey/the Island reason to believe that he could be manipulated. But did it work? We'll see.
I change my mind every week about Ben. Good guy or bad? In control or out of control? Player or played? Struggling to survive or trying to engineer his own destruction? That's the beauty of Ben: You just don't know. So many possibilities, all of them fascinating to me.
''YOUR ORDERS WERE TO EXTERMINATE THAT WOMAN.''
The ''Ultimate Solution'' (wink, wink) hypothesis of the Purge
An interesting word choice by Charles Widmore. ''Exterminate'' is the word you use when you want to rid your attic of mice. And yes, it's the language of genocidal tyrants, too. It appears Chuck — paranoid of anyone who might usurp his power; over-protective of the Island to a psychotic degree; and/or just evil — had a zero-tolerance policy toward outsiders during his tenure on the Island. (See also: Widmore's anger with Richard Alpert for letting Young Ben live — that is, until the ageless enigma told Charles that it was Jacob's will. But I like the suggestion many others have made that Richard may have been bluffing Widmore, too.)
Last year, Ben claimed he did not order the Purge — that it had been a choice made by the Others' leadership at the time. Presumably, he was referring to Widmore. Yet destiny is a fickle bitch on This Island Ironic, and so after finally liberating his own private Narnia of the pesky Dharma infestation, Widmore himself got usurped. ''Dead Is Dead'' didn't reveal Ben's power-grabbing trick (remember that Widmore said Linus ''fooled'' him), but here's a hypothesis: What if the Purge didn't really happen? Call it Ben's ''ultimate solution'' to getting rid of corrupt Chuck. How I see it: Widmore ordered the Purge; Ben faked the catastrophe with knock-out gas; and when all of Dharma awoke, Richard interpreted their faux resurrection as an Island miracle and proof that Widmore wasn't acting in accordance with its wishes. In the aftermath, Widmore was exiled, and Ben negotiated a permanent peace with Dharma that led to the Others moving into Dharmaville. Which would explain how THAT happened.
You'll notice I called this conjecture ''a hypothesis.'' That's my way of saying that I'm just wondering aloud. Still, I'm interested in hearing what you make of it. JeffJensenEW@aol.com is where you can submit your affirmations and denunciations.
''I'M SORRY — ARE YOU REFERRING TO THE MAN I MURDERED TO MOTIVATE JACK TO COME TO THE ISLAND?''
Ben's buggy eyes went boingy when Sun dropped Christian Shephard's name after showing him the picture of Jack, Kate, and Hurley in the '77 Dharma photo. It reminded me of the theory I mentioned a couple weeks back — that Ben might be responsible for Christian's death. I reiterate because I love making your eyes roll.
By the way: Okay, Ben may not remember Jack, Kate, and Hurley. But wouldn't he have remembered Sawyer, Juliet, Jin, and Miles? After all, they spent three years in the same commune together...
YOU NEED A PAIR OF ''HEL-SHOES'' WHEN YOU GO WALKING IN THE UNDERWORLD
Reader Svetlana Evans picked up on something in ''Dead Is Dead'' that intrigued me, too. ''What is the significance of the big deal they made of John Locke taking off the shoes to row the [outrigger] between islands, and taking such care when putting them back on, especially on camera, while he was talking to Ben. Filler action or pertinent to storyline?''
I vote ''pertinent.'' Remember, those shoes belonged to Christian Shephard. Jack put them on Corpse Locke's feet so John could play the role of Corpse Christian's proxy aboard Ajira 316. I got the vibe that Lost was trying to remind the audience about the shoes without looking like it was trying to remind us about the shoes. Perhaps it's one more clue that John is as undead as Christian — that is, if it isn't proof of my ''Ben murdered Christian like he murdered Locke'' theory.
And perhaps the shoe thing is an arrow pointing elsewhere — someplace old and cold. And horny! Let me explain. To date, Lost has been partial to Egyptian mythology, famous for its robust ideas about the afterlife. Part of the Egyptian tradition includes loading burial chambers with things (food, furniture, various household goods) that the dead can utilize. Those hieroglyphics on Ben's secret door and in the bowels of the Temple? Archeologists say they were akin to spells or charms that allowed the dead to activate their stuff. See? You can take it with you!
But there's another mythology that had a similar yet more oddly focused tradition. Meet the Vikings, those rough-and-tumble mead-swilling, horn-hatted (i.e., ''horny'') Scandinavian pagans partial to Norse gods of Odin and Thor. Viking tradition called for corpses to be dressed in their finest threads and their feet to be shod with ''Hel-Shoes.'' After all, souls need a good pair of footwear for the journey to hell — or ''Hel'' as the Norse called it, named after the goddess who served as its warden. Hel had some very interesting father issues, just like many characters on Lost. And Hel has something in common with dearly departed Alex: As it happens, Hel's dad is Loki, the great villain of Norse mythology — the god of lies. Which finally brings me to the week's big discovery:
''LUKE...THERE IS...ANOTHER...SKYWALK — ER, I MEAN HOTH...''
Introducing the Norse Code Theory of Lost
When I asked the Lost Super-Computer (i.e., Wikipedia) to crunch the word ''Hoth,'' it came back with the fact that ''Hoth'' also refers to a figure from Norse mythology sometimes known as ''Hod,'' ''Hoor,'' or ''Hotherus.'' Investigating Norse mythology brought me to the concept of ''Hel-Shoes,'' as well as some other intriguing possibilities for Lost.
You see, for eons there were two sets of Norse gods that were at war with each other: the gods of Aesir and the gods of Vanir. There was an attempt at a truce, which involved an exchange of hostages as insurance. One of the hostages was an Aesiran god named Mirmir, who had the ability to see future events. For various reasons, the Vanir felt they had been tricked, so they cut off Mirmir's head and sent it back to Odin, who for a long time carried it around and asked it questions and stuff. Creepy. And it gets better! Eventually, Odin buried the head in a well under the Tree of Life and was able to continue asking it questions about the future — but he had to cut out his eye as a sacrifice. Anyway, the truce between the rival tribes eventually collapsed, there was a rumble, and when it was over...the bickering deities found a way to get along and merged pantheons into one big super-pantheon.
Gonzo. And I love it. Might we see the Dharma/Hostile feud proceed along parallel lines? Will there be a hostage swap to preserve the peace? Is disembodied Jacob something similar to beheaded Mirmir? Will Dr. Marvin Candle cut off his arm to glean the Island's secrets of the future in the same way Odin plucked out his eye? Will Dharma and the Others finally merge to form their own super-group?
But back to this Hoth guy. Hoth had a distinctive trait: He was blind. He also murdered his brother, a god by the name of Balder. One might be tempted to forge a Cain and Abel comparison, but Hoth had a good excuse: He was tricked by the god of lies, Loki, into shooting a ''missile'' (or spear) loaded with mistletoe, the only substance capable of killing Hoth's otherwise invulnerable sibling. Yet despite being deceived, Hoth was punished severely. Odin sired a monstrous son named Vali for the sole purpose of slaying the sightless, accidental god-killer. At Balder's funeral, Odin whispered something into his dead son's ear. No one really knows what Odin said, and from that day forth, anyone who dared to challenge Odin in a battle of wits had to answer the Sphinx-like riddle: ''What did Odin whisper in Balder's ear?'' Finally, Balder's death set in motion Ragnarok, or ''destiny of the gods,'' a series of events that culminated with a final battle between various sets of gods and monsters from various corners of Norse mythology. One of the major players in Ragnarok was the Norse equivalent of Cerberus, the hound of Hell. Named Garmr, this wolfish creature was unchained during the final battle for the world and allowed to slaughter with impunity. Ragnarok ended with the death of the world (everything gets submerged in water, à la the Flood) and the birth of the new world and the rebirth of fallen gods — including Balder. Indeed, while Odin's whisper was technically a mystery, most scholars believe that it was actually a single word: ''Resurrection.''
Might this wide swath of Norse mythology parallel or at least intersect with Lost mythology? Garmr? Smokey, of course. Missile? Jughead. Odin's Resurrection Riddle? That brings to mind the Rainier-Canton anagram (''resurrection'') from earlier this season, plus the ''What did one snowman say to the other snowman?'' riddle from season 2 and the ''What lies in the shadow of the statue?'' riddle of ''Dead Is Dead.'' (My answer: Mirmir's head!) Balder? The slain, reborn god, could be John Locke, because, after all, Locke is...bald. And he has been resurrected. Ragnarok? ''There's a war coming, John. And if you're not on it when that happens, the wrong side is going to win.'' —Charles Widmore.
Might all of this be something of a stretch? Maybe. And yet, I'm taken with the idea that Lost's fixation with Egyptian mythology this season has actually been an elaborate misdirection — a smoke screen, if you will — for the real mythic cosmology that inspires it. And anyway, remember that the money that built the Dharma Initiative came from one Alvar Hanso, a Danish guy who according to ''The Lost Experience'' had secret Dharma facilities located in Iceland — which may have been Lost's way of hinting that the roots of its whole mythology lie in Norse soil...
You're rolling your eyes again. I love it when it when you do that!
See you tomorrow at the recap. Until then, check out the new episode of TOTALLY LOST, appearing in this crazy space later today.
Head currently buried in the shadow of the statue,