TV Club

Season 6: Wait a Minute, Have I Been Watching Survivor?

Dear Seth and Chad,

A couple of important reveals in last night’s episode, “Lighthouse”: We learn that Claire is wild enough to kill and terrorize the Others, but tame enough to remember all of her Oceanic 815 comrades, and to sterilize and stitch Jin’s bear-trap wound. We learn in what is supposed to be the episode’s shocker that Smokey Locke is her friend. We’re also fed additional details about how long Jacob has been watching and manipulating the passengers of Oceanic 815. And, finally, the show’s creators appear to be sculpting the rough outlines of a showdown between Jacob and his allies (Hurley and Jack so far) and Team Smokey Locke, who has enlisted the feral Claire and Sawyer (and possibly Jack’s dad, Christian Shephard).

With all of these budding alliances, brazen lies (Jin tells Claire her baby is with the Others, not with Kate), and the exotic background, is Lost turning into Survivor—only instead of getting voted off the island, somebody kills you?

I’ve never watched an episode of Survivor, but I’ll bet its producers do a better job of getting their audience to connect with the characters than the creators of Lost do. At this point of the show, does anybody really care about the fate of Jack or Sawyer or Kate or Jin? It’s been several seasons since I last fantasized about Kate, and once Smokey Locke broke Ben’s will—turning him into a little whiner—I stopped rooting against him. It’s enough to make you wish that a hydrogen bomb would detonate and vaporize the whole island.

Or ask the producers to hire a new production designer. The lighthouse that Jacob directs Hurley and Jack to commandeer appears to be made from the same cheap, lightweight Hollywood plaster as the Temple—what’s it called, hydrocal?—that when painted and weathered can look like … fake stone.

And yet as extraneous as the lighthouse and its magical mirror-vision may be to the plot that we’ve been choking down for almost six seasons now, I find the pairing of the lighthouse with the seaside-cave (revealed last week) somewhat promising. The show has now dumped more symbols on us than you’d find in a bound volume of CliffsNotes—wells and wheels and mirrors and monsters and a humongous statue and Big Numbers and the ocean and skeletons and tribal wars and a cosmic compass and a cosmic pendulum and father-vs.-son (and -daughter) and the big sky and ships and blinding lights and tunnels and underworlds and Hurley’s Camaro. All the components for a finish of mythic proportions are here—we just need to find out whether the Lost boys are up to assembling it. I hope they are. But are they?

For the first time this season, I was more intrigued about what was going on back in the alternative Los Angeles timescape than by anything evolving back on the island. Jack seems to be coming unstuck in time like Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five. He looks at his appendix scar like it’s a stranger and asks his mother when he had that surgery—something a kid would not forget. Chad, I’m sure there were more examples of Jack’s confusion. Does he recognize Dogen from the island? (Also, did I spot a “Welcome All Candidates” sign outside the recital hall?)

Only a Lost apologist would call the episode anything but a holding pattern. My fellow Lost fan-skeptic John Podhoretz e-mailed me last night to compare the series to Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, which made extraordinary promises of more and more and more but instead of delivering just kept on running. I’ve got a bad feeling that like The X-Files and The Prisoner—two other ambitious and inventive science fiction series—Lost will never make it to the finish line.

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