Thursday, March 29, 2007

Lost Watch: Who the Hell are Niki and Paulo?

The writers of “Lost” made one of the signature moves that angers their loyal fans again and again: the week after one of the show’s best episode airs, ending on a cliffhanger that blows the collective minds of anybody with even a passing interest in the show…they follow it with an episode that has nothing to do with what happened the previous week, that features characters uninvolved with whatever storyline is heating up, and ends up sending fans running to vent their frustrations at the watercooler or on their blogs.

Clearly, the show’s creators are doing this on purpose, and enjoying making us squirm a bit.

So I'm with you, "Lost" loyalists: like you, I want to know what’s going to happen with Locke’s dad, what Jack and Juliet will do now that they're stuck on the island, if Sayid and Kate will be allowed to go home, and what Ben's next creepy manipulation will be. But we’ll get to that eventually.

Last night we got Niki and Paulo.

Since the beginning of season three, these two attractive yet annoying characters have been showing up with increased frequency. I get that there are more survivors from the crash than we have time to follow, so it’s fine once in awhile to feature survivors who are not among our main crew that we've grown to love over three seasons. And I’ve always liked the idea that any of these bit players would be jealous about the adventures only the main characters are involved in. It’s a nice, self aware bit that proves the writers are paying attention to TV history- these are the nameless crew members of “Star Trek” if those hapless “red shirts” were pissed about being sidelined.

Fans have been complaining about Niki and Paulo since they first appeared, so last night’s episode was a nice way of acknowledging their complaints while making a big wink wink joke out of them. They even brought back Boone and Shannon, two of the most hated characters in the show’s history (who were also the first two main characters to be killed off) to top off the trick of trying to integrate the two new characters into the fabric of the show’s first three seasons.

Sawyer and Hurley’s ping pong game is interrupted when a panicked Niki falls down in front of them, gasping for air. She “dies” right in front of their eyes, and when they look for Paulo, they find him dead as well. Hurley decides to lead an investigation, and the episode suddenly becomes “CSI: Mystery Island.” As Charlie, Jin, and Sun join the investigation, the show flashes back to reveal Niki and Paulo’s backstories.

Turns out Niki is an actress who was a bit player on a TV show in which she is killed off (more self awareness.) The show she appears on is a cheesy romp about stripper detectives, complete with a badass boss played by Lando himself, BILLY DEE WILLIAMS (who, in a twist on the show within the show, reveals himself to be the villain- in a possible plant for a twist down the line on “Lost?”)

Niki is sleeping with the show’s older producer, and Paulo is his chef. The poor old fellow doesn’t realize that he is a mark, and Niki and Paulo poison him- in order to steal millions of dollars in diamonds. The rest of the episode follows Niki and Paulo trying to find the diamonds on the island after the plane crash, leading to a confrontation in which Niki throws a poisonous spider at Paulo- one which paralyzes him for eight hours. Soon we hear a subtle background sound that implies the big bad smoke monster is approaching, and Niki is bit by the spiders as well.

Our main castaways finally figure out that the couple poisoned eachother over the diamonds, and selfish ol’ Sawyer learns a lesson about greed, pouring the diamonds out into their graves. As they bury the hapless side characters, Niki’s eyes flash open-but it’s too late, and the couple is buried alive.

Overall, the episode was a silly diversion from the main story. I liked the self aware jokiness, and I liked that it had an old school, “Twilight Zone” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” tone, complete with a darkly comic moral about greed that led to the characters being buried alive and the slightly cheesy/retro score that ended the episode. It was an hour of television that was all about television, which acknowledged the kind of TV that inspired “Lost.” It didn’t move the mystery on the island forward and revealed little new information, but I did kind of dig the clever/ silly ways that the two new characters crossed paths with all the major characters from the show. When Paulo spies Ben and Juliet planning how they will get Jack to perform surgery on him, it’s can only be a joke about expository dialogue when Ben says “I will exploit what he is emotionally attached to and get him to help me.” Just a funny and self aware episode, even if it was treading water. And it had Lando in it.

So I'll accept this wander away from the main plot without complaint. But with all that said- I do want to know what’s going to happen with Locke’s dad, what Jack and Juliet will do now that they're stuck on the island, if Sayid and Kate will be allowed to go home, and what Ben's next creepy manipulation will be.
So let's get on with it, shall we?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Lost Watch: Locke Box

Episode Title: The Man from Tallahassee Air Date: March 21, 2007

“Lost” is officially back on track, and it’s thrilling to actually be excited with the show instead of pissed off about it on a Thursday morning.

As always, spoilers are ahead.

Last night’s episode finally revealed why John Locke was in a wheelchair for four years before he crash landed onto mystery island…and more importantly why he’s so angry and scared of leaving while the rest of the castaways are desperately trying to find a way home.

His father, the con artist who convinced him to donate his kidney, is in town, about to marry a rich woman. When the woman’s son comes to Locke looking to see if he vouches for him, Locke goes after his father and tells him to leave. After the kid ends up dead, Locke goes to his apartment to confront him- and gets pushed out of an eight story window, paralyzing him. Clearly, Locke’s life totally sucked before he got to the island.

While Kate and Sayid attempt to rescue Jack (who doesn’t want to be saved,) Locke has other plans. He finds high ranking “Other” Ben, incapacitated after Jack performed surgery on him, and holds him at gunpoint, wanting to know where the submarine that the dead Russian Other spoke of is docked.

Ben quickly figures out that Locke plans on blowing up the sub, which would effectively cut the islanders off from the outside world. Ben pleads with Locke to leave the sub alone, telling him it is the only connection that his people have with the outside now that the “anomaly” (the Hatch explosion from the end of season 2 caused by Locke) has cut off their radio contact. Ben tells him he doesn’t have to blow up the sub, that he knows Locke has committed to the island fully and doesn’t need to fear that the sub exists. He tells him about a “magic box” on the island in which whatever you dream, whatever you want, comes out of it, and that Ben will show it to him if he doesn’t blow up the sub.

Locke is steadfast in his convictions, telling Ben he feels the Others have “cheated” by their actions on the island, not really committing to it by living in houses with air conditioning, fully stocked fridges, and keeping their connection to the outside world intact.

That’s right, crazy John Locke, the man who is in love with the island, is back in a big way. His obsession with the Hatch in Season 2 was clearly just a short term fling. But what he and the island have- that’s forever.

After Locke finds the sub, he peeks down the entrance in a shot eerily reminiscent of the last shot from Season 1, when he finally got the hatch open. Then he blows it up, even after finding out why Jack’s been so friendly with the Others- Ben was about to let him go home on the sub. Poor Jack is stuck after his one ticket home is sunk.

This is the third hatch that Locke has blown to pieces, if you want to count the sub as a hatch. His erratic, stubborn, angry, and sometimes stupid behavior is becoming the show’s true wild card, throwing everything out of whack.

When Locke is captured by the Others, Ben tells him he wants to show him something- something that came out of the “magic box.” He wants to show him “The Man from Tallahassee,” who Ben asked one of his henchmen to fetch earlier. Locke is shocked to find his con artist father bound and gagged in a closet.

Boom. Cut to black.

It was a wild ride that was also a welcome reminder that the show’s mysteries go deeper than just figuring out who the Others are- the island’s story is so much bigger than that. The last two seasons have focused so much on The Others that it’s nice to remember that the Island has so much more to reveal than just whether The Others are Dharma or not.

It's also nice to see another episode where Locke is his intense, weird, unpredictable self again. He was so whiny in Season 2, confined to the hatch and punching in numbers for the whole year. It's good to see the old badass yet kinda stupid Locke of season one making trouble for his friends again. Somebody needs to talk this guy through some of his decision making- every time he's decided to do something, it's panned out pretty badly. But are all his choices leading to something the island is trying to reveal? Or is the island itself playing him like everyone else seems to? That would make Locke even sadder- the guy's so gullible, a mass of land can con him.

So this weeks list of questions include: how did Locke’s dad get to the island (did he really appear in a magic box or is Ben lying?) Will Locke try to kill him, or maybe have a father son bonding session where they hunt boars together? Is Locke’s dad the same con artist who ruined Sawyer’s parents’ lives and turned him into who he is? What’s going to happen to Jack now that he’s stuck on the island? Will he be accused of abandoning his friends? Why was he playing football with them- just because he struck a deal with them doesn't mean they are all best friends, does it? Are the Others and castaways going to be spending more time together instead of being seperated from now on? What will happen to Kate and Sayid now that they are prisoners of The Others? And what the hell is the so called MAGIC BOXanyway?

Just a few weeks after many fans thought they could free up an hour in your schedule on Wendesday nights, “Lost” gets addictive and exciting again.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Lost Watch: Saving a Sinking Ship

After months of teases and subplots that have gone nowhere, declining ratings, and bloggers and critics mercilessly slamming season 3 of “Lost,” is the show finally turning a corner and turning back into the exciting show that America couldn’t turn away from a mere two years ago? Last night’s episode, while flawed, was a step in the right direction.

Spoilers are ahead, so don’t read this if the episode is waiting for you unwatched on your TIVO.

When I heard the focus of this episode’s flashbacks was going to be Claire, who may be the most boring character on the show, I wasn’t thrilled. But to my surprise, for the first time in what feels like months, the writers actually revealed some new information through the flashbacks- after a gothed out Claire with dark hair (very hot by the way) gets into a car accident that puts her mother into a coma, her absentee father shows up to Australia to help- and it turns out to be Jack’s dad.

On the island, Claire gets an idea to try and catch one of the birds flying by- because she sees that they are “tagged” and will eventually be studied by scientists. Claire decides she wants to catch one and put a note in it that could lead to the rescue of the islanders. Conflict arises when Desmond tells Charlie not to help her- because he has another vision in which Charlie dies by slipping on a rock as he tries to catch a bird for Claire. The whole mess leads to Desmond explaining his creepy psychic powers to Claire- who, to her credit, accepts them and tells Charlie she will help him get through it.

More interestingly, Kate, Locke, Sayid, and the scary French lady continue their search for Jack, with the eye patched Russian Other in tow as a prisoner. When they approach a giant perimeter of huge metal pylons, the group doesn’t know how to proceed- until Locke pushes the prisoner between them to see what happens. In one of the more bizarre and cool scenes of the year, the Russian is killed by weird sonic wave, foaming from the mouth, bleeding from his ears- and smiling the whole time. Creepy and cool, just like “Lost” should be.

The murder also leads Kate and Sayid to question Locke’s decision to use the Russian as a guinea pig. Locke shrugs it off, but is unable to explain why he has a bunch of C4 explosives in his bag. Clearly, our man Locke is looking for a little revenge after head Other Ben humiliated him last season.

Finally, team badass team decides to chop down a tree and use it to climb over one of the pylons. When they get into Other territory, they find the creepy little on-island suburb that was revealed in the stunning opening episode of season 3- and discover a smiling Jack (which might be a first for the series) playing football with the Others.


So has Jack been brainwashed? Is he trying to trick The Others so he can escape? Or, as they continue to claim, has Jack discovered that The Others are "not the bad guys?" And what will Claire and Jack's newly revealed brother/ sister relationship mean to the show? Overall, the episode revealed enough info to whet the appetites of an audience that has grown impatient with the show, but more importantly promised greatness to come on next week’s Locke-centric episode. It looks like “Lost” is back, right when many fans were ready to write it off for good.

Theories and Conjectures:
*JACK HAS BEEN BRAINWASHED: The Others claim that they're "not the bad guys," but after killing, kidnapping, and generally terrorizing the crash survivors, I think they can be pretty easily categorized as "villains." After seeing the zobmie-like behavior of the kidnapped survivors when they were "watching" Jack in the animal cage a few weeks back, and seeing the kid in the creepy "Clockwork Orange" like theatre, there is clearly some kind of mind control going on- and we'll find out more next week.

*THE OTHERS ARE DHARMA: The Russian Other was just toying with team badass when he told them he was a member of Dharma and the Others weren't- and told them about "the purge" in which the Others wiped out Dharma scientists. It's all a fucked up psychological experiment by Dharma- whatever Dharma is.

*CHARLIE IS NOT GOING TO DIE...BUT CLAIRE JUST MIGHT: Charlie won't die. He's one of the most popular characters on the show, and the fact that he's been told he will die just proves he won't- the writers wouldn't give out the info that he might die if they actually intended to kill him. It's just meant to build tension. My money is on Claire biting the dust- she is a boring character, and Charlie as a single dad raising her baby would be kind of interesting- in a generic Hollywood comedy sorta way (Charlie, Hurley, and Sawyer could star in a remake of "Three Men and a Baby.") But the new relevation that Claire is related to Jack suddenly makes her a bit more interesting, which leads to...

*JACK AND CLAIRE'S NEWLY REVEALED REALTION TO EACHOTHER IS GOING TO PAY OFF: I'm not sure how, but most of the little connections between the main characters last year turned out to be nothing more than coincidences. I don't have much to go on, but I feel like the writers revealed the big connection between Jack and Claire for a reason- especially now that Jack has become a Zombie-Other.

*THE LOCKE EPISODE NEXT WEEK WILL ROCK FOR MANY REASONS, NONE OF WHICH INCLUDE THE FLASHBACKS: This week's reveal notwithstanding, the flashbacks have become really tedious. I know next week's Locke episode is going to reveal how he ended up in a wheelchair- and to be frank, I don't care at this point. But I do care that Locke's behavior has become increasingly bizarre, and I want to know why. I miss the crazy/ weird/ slightly creepy Locke of season one, and I'm glad to see he's back. And I can't wait to see him confront manipulative lead Other Ben.

*"HEROES" AND "LOST" FANS ARE GOING TO BELIEVE TALK OF "THE LIST" MEANS THE SHOWS ARE CONNECTED: This is a silly theory based upon the fact that the show shares a few writers, creative consultants, and producers. The shows are on two different networks, have a very similar demographic but not the exact same audience down to each viewer, and...a crossover between the shows would be horribly stupid and lame.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Lost Watch: Lost Forever?

It's been a long time since I've discussed "Lost." In fact, my previous post on the show was back in the middle of the six episode "mini season." There were three more episodes before a long break, and then the show returned, with ads promising that this season would deliver like no other show.

So far, this promise has not been kept.

The latest episode, "Enter 77" was a mild improvement after two episodes that can only be described as utter trash. To recap- Sayid and Locke join Kate on her quest to save Jack from the Others. In last week's episode, they recruit the crazy loner Rousseau for their mission. On their way, they find another Hatch station, where a Russian man with an eye patch is apparently living alone. The man tells them that he is "the last living member of the Dharma Initiative" and that the station he lives in, "The Flame," is meant to communicate with the outside world- though his sattelite is inoperable. He also tells them that The Others (or as he calls them, "The Hostiles,") killed the rest of the Dharma Scientists during a "purge," and that he was left alone because he agreed to stay at The Flame and not encroach upon any other part of the island. Sayid and Kate can tell the Russian lying and realize he is one of The Others and call him out on it- leading to a struggle in which he is tied up as a prisoner. Sayid discovers a hidden doorway to the basement of the building, and Locke is left to guard the Russian while Kate and Sayid explore the basement- where Sayid finds a map of the island that shows them the location of the other hatches. As they head back up, they are attacked by and then subdue a female Other who was hiding from them- and who was on the docks when Kate, Jack, and Sawyer were kidnapped at the end of Season 2.

While Kate and Sayid explore the basement, Locke becomes distracted by the Russian's computer chess game and wins a match against the computer- which triggers a message from the creepy Dharma guy we saw a lot of last season. Before Locke can follow the instructions on the computer, the Russian, who has escaped his bindings, takes Locke hostage.

Kate and Sayid emerge from the basement to find a standoff- the Russian promises to kill Locke if they do not release the woman they have taken prisoner. The two others then shout at eachother in Russian- and the Russian shoots the female Other, then tries to take his own life- before Sayid knocks the gun out of his hand and subdues him.

Rousseau, who conveniently leaves for the whole episode ("I have survived this long on the island by avoiding this type of confrontation,") comes back and demands to know why Sayid will not kill the Russian. Which is where this episode’s edition of "repetitive flashback weekly" comes in. Sayid's flashback is to a time when he was living in France as a chef, when he is kidnapped by a man who claims Sayid tortured his wife when he was in the Iraqi Republican guard. The man beats Sayid severely, but he will not admit that he "interrogated" her. Finally, the woman comes to Sayid and he admits that he did torture her, and he apologizes deeply. He forgives her and releases him, saying she does not want to become a monster who would torture or kill, despite her justified anger. And the woman’s words explain why Sayid can't kill their prisoner.

Or whatever.

Oh yeah, and Locke exits The Flame last, saying played another chess game- and admitting he entered "77" into the keyboard when the creepy Dharma guy instructed him to do so if "the hostiles" had encroached upon the building. And then The Flame blows up. So much for that hatch, and so much for “communicating with the outside world.” This is the second Hatch that Locke has caused the destruction of after displaying some questionable decision making.

And that is what brings us directly to what is currently wrong with "Lost." After three weeks of episodes that took us completely off the main storyline, right as things are getting interesting (something the Lost writers did a lot in Season 2, which frustrated me to no end,) we finally get back to our heroes trying to figure out what is going on with The Others. But at the same time, we still get flashbacks that regurgitate plot points and character development we already understand. I don't need another episode about how Sayid is haunted by his past as a torturer anymore than I need another episode about Hurley thinking he is cursed. And, at this point, I certainly don't care what Jack's tattoos mean (in an episode which will go down as the worst in the show’s history, despite the hilarious fact that the woman Jack was sleeping with was a former Power Ranger.) These are all things that I understood by the end of the first season, or that should have been answered then- and are not relevant at all at this point. The flashback structure, though very clever in the first year of "Lost," has really proven to be redundant at this point. The only flashback story I really enjoyed this season was about a new character. Juliette's episode was fascinating because it showed more of how she was recruited by Dharma- or maybe by The Others. But more on that later.

I love the main cast of "Lost," and the character development on the show has always been strong overall. But at this point, I don't need to have things I fully understand about these people hammered home to me again. I get who these people are, now lets get on with the show. And another thing- with all this character work that the show emphasizes, it's annoying how inconsistent the behavior of the main cast can be. I mean, Locke just stopped paying attention to a dangerous prisoner so he could play a game of video chess? I know he was obsessed with punching in the numbers in the first Hatch, but you'd think he'd learn. I just don't believe he'd let his guard down that overtly to play a game- even if he did believe it would unlock some secrets. I thought we had badass tracker John Locke back from Season 1, not fate obsessed loser John Locke from Season 2- but I guess we'll just have to keep hoping for that. But just wait a few weeks- we’re going to find out how he lost the use of his legs before he got to the island and was magically cured- another thing that could have been cool to learn two years ago but seems irrelevant at this point.

It's become very clear that there is a lot of stalling going on in the storytelling of "Lost," and it’s made the show kind of boring to watch. It's become less mysterious and more tedious as the third season has dragged on. I mean, a whole episode was devoted to Hurley getting a VW Bus to work- I already saw "Little Miss Sunshine," and I didn't like it then. But I have faith in the writers of the show- these people are clever, and I believe they have an idea of where they are going with this behemoth of a story, they are just having a bit of trouble getting there. But the recent news that the producers of "Lost" have talked to ABC about creating an endpoint for the show, deciding that it will go five or six seasons and then be finished, is great news. Now they don't have to string us along. Now they can decide when exactly things can happen, and not be afraid of hiding their cards for fear of blowing their load too early. Hopefully, it means they can get season 3 back on track, but it should at least mean that Season 4 will rock. I just don't want to wait too long for the show to compelling again.

So after all those complaints, there were a few cool things to be pulled out of "Enter 77." I was glad to see more Sayid, even if his flashbacks were repetitive. He has become the most underutilized member of the very large "Lost" ensemble, and it was nice to see him back- and know he'll be around to kick ass as the hunting party gets closer to the compound of The Others. Some of the information The Russian gave to Kate and Sayid was interesting, despite the fact that he was lying through a lot of it. Did he basically tell them that The Others are definitely not Dharma? The Creepy Dharma guy seemed to reiterate the fact when they talked about "The Hostiles" encroaching upon The Flame. But what about Juliette being recruited to work for the Project- was she being recruited by The Others instead? Or are they one and the same after all, and they just want the Oceanic Flight Survivors to think otherwise? If they are not Dharma, who are they and why are they living on the island? Once again, it was an episode that raised more questions without answering many- but at least they were intriguing questions.

So here we are, deep into Season 3. Kate, Sayid, Locke, and Rousseau are getting closer to the compound of the Others, where hopefully some real questions will be answered. It really is time for the writers get on with it, because they are testing the patience of a lot of their audience- ratings are down, fans are complaining vocally, and critics are questioning the direction of the show. It's time to get on with the storytelling, or they are going to lose their audience forever.

Sayid by Jeaux from "All My Heroes Have Day Jobs."

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Ann Coulter is a Cucking Funt

Ann Coulter, loud mouthed, attention seeking, horse faced bitch that she is, has gone too far even for Ann Coulter. In a recent speech she called Presidential hopeful John Edwards a “faggot.” Or to be exact, she said she was going to talk about Edwards but using the word mean she would have to go to rehab, referring to a recent incident from the set of “Grey’s Anatomy” in which Isaiah Washington used the ugly word to refer to an out of the closet co-star. Forget for a moment that Edwards is a happily married man with children. Forget that there has never been a whisper or rumor of any kind that Mr. Edwards is a homosexual, closeted or otherwise. Coulter herself has explained that she didn’t mean he was gay, she was only trying to imply that he is a “wussy” guy, not a man’s man (like the retarded cowboy we call the President.)

Okay. Now we should all feel better. She only used such a hateful word to say Edwards was not macho enough. So she was just insulting "girly men." Good to know, Ann.

It’s a hate word, pure and simple. I heard clips of a stuttering and shaken Coulter appearing on “Hannity and Colmes” in which she was sweating under the interrogation of Alan Colmes (which is like sweating under the interrogation of Mickey Mouse, but I digress,) and became defensive when he asked her what makes her use of the term “faggot” different than if she used a racial slur. Coulter’s brilliant defense was to ask Colmes why it always comes back to “the N-word.” A word he hadn’t even brought up specifically. But as Coulter will do, she tried to spin the issue away from her deplorable use of the “F-word” (well, the “other F-word,” I guess.) She asked Colmes why the conversation always comes back to the n-word. Even though she was the one who brought the conversation there.

"Faggot" is a term of hate that holds almost as much historical power as the n-word. It’s demeaning, degrading, and dehumanizing to an entire group of people. Ann Coulter used the term with malice that reflected in her soulless, hateful eyes. Coulter is an ignorant idiot, and she should be condemned from every level for her insensitive comments- which can be viewed on YouTube for all the world to see.

The worst part is the fact that people are responding to her- including myself- is that it gives her what she wants. She says shocking things to provoke people, to make them angry- and we all play right into it. When is the GOP going to drop this demon bitch for her incendiary form of discourse? Coulter is not attempting to intelligently debate politics- she is talking from the gutter, looking to ignite an angry reaction. There is no level the woman will not stoop to- as we’ve witnessed when she criticized 9/11 widows and implied that former President Clinton was gay- because he liked to sleep with women so much (which makes as little sense to me as it did to everyone else.)

We should all just stop paying attention to her altogether, stop giving her what she wants. In writing this blog entry, I'm guilty of playing right into the witch’s sick and immature games, just because I am responding.

But I won’t stoop to her level. Except to reiterate this point: Ann Coulter is a fucking cunt.