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.