“Get” Lost entry #10 — Jan. 16, 2008 by RMG

Having finally given up hope of the writers' strike's ever being settled, you decided to open these envelopes. Little had either of us realized during my brief adventure with Joe Peterson / David Levy that he represented the future of television: improvised “real people” situations stretching out the premises of The Candid Camera Television Show ® bits to series length. Since your deal with Buena Vista allowed them to do anything they wanted with Lost, it has resumed as such a program using footage of persons who answered ads to do various jobs on the sites already used to shoot and otherwise produce the show. They told person A he'd be asked to meet with person B and vice versa, and each arrived on site thinking the other person is interviewing hir for the job, and each wondered what to make of the props and equipment they found there. You didn't realize any of that until the first such episode aired, and it and its ilk on the other networks were such hits that you now know there's no going back. The hidden camera scenes in the room where Kevin Blank used to work got particularly interesting when the new “star” realized the equipment could be used to produce the most stunning porn from news footage. The family that moved back into the fortune teller's house also turned out to be interesting; according to what can be gleaned from the Internet, fans apparently took those as flashback scenes and fit them near-seamlessly into the existing plot.

Therefore you decided to adjudicate this contest based on what would have been. With so much time on your hands, you might as well do it personally. Even call a writer's meeting to decide some details we'd guessed that you hadn't settled on previously. Strangely enough, however, some of the participants (such as Chad and Jerry, who hadn't even been playing previously) sent in more entries once the new format began. But let's cast our attention back to the interval before season 4 began airing....

As previously, even without further review, just thinking about the material caused me to realize my entry #9 should not be the last word before the new episodes started airing. To sum up my latest thinking, it's that Lost is even faker than I'd thought before, if that's possible. This is a recurring pattern.

First, I've revised my thinking about Dave. After leaning for a while in favor of his being real, when I figured out what episode "Dave" was about, I decided Hugo's Dave was imaginary. Many thought that episode functioned to disclaim the theory that Lost was taking place solely in some character's head, but even Libby's speech to Hugo about the Tailies' experience didn't accomplish that. I think now that the episode's purpose was to disclaim (albeit not completely fairly) the reality of any portrayal in Lost which could reasonably be interpreted as being spun by a single character. Any such portrayal might be untrue.

The con artists have many techniques. They act out many things so that, as Said told Benry, they'll remember every detail without hesitation and in agreement with cooperating swindlers at the scene. But things that can't be proven otherwise they'll make up from whole cloth too. Nobody can prove Hugo didn't really believe in Dave. However, Hugo did act out scenes with the imaginary Dave. If we had security camera coverage as in the movie of Fight Club, we'd've probably seen Hugo hitting himself with coconuts and smuggling a slipper. Therefore Hugo had to either be careful there were no security cameras there, or prepared to add to his ostensible mental problem a bit of Munchausen's Syndrome.

From Libby's POV in Santa Rosa there was no Dave visible. The Polaroid Hugo's doctor presented was clearly taken at another time, maybe for convenience or because the one he took at that time didn't come out good enough. It's OK, the doctor is also Hugo's acting coach, just as Christian is Jack's. Asking Hugo to list what he liked about himself was just a bit of character development exercise for him.

"Dave" helps you justify other scenes which contain untrue details: Claire's "recovered memory" as told to Libby, Shannon's solo visions and auditions of Wet Walt (as opposed to Walt's actual appearance later in front of her & Said), and probably some of Desmond's "flashes". If you're "allowed" to show us Dave, you're allowed to show us things taking place in the imagination of those other characters too. These are not implanted memories, Magnetic Resonance Imagining, but lies these characters either told or were prepared to tell. This may be new ground for visual portrayal in mystery stories: peering inside a character's mind to see lies s/he would have told if necessary.

This thinking then tipped the scales for my thinking about Sawyer. I'd resisted the thought of an ostensible grifter's having come in as anything but a mark in "Lost". A con man playing the part of a con? Too obvious. The most I'd suspected, as expressed in entry 9, was that he might have caught on. You even rubbed our noses in “Sawyer as mark” when Benry ostensibly fooled him about the cardiac implant. So I fell victim to another character double reverse.

Only one of the passengers on Raft 2, Walt, was one I'd definitely identified as a con, leaving Jin, Michael, and Sawyer as probable marks. I didn't like those odds, and after Walt was "kidnapped", leaving only marks, the situation became very shaky indeed. 3 pigeons left to fend for themselves? So now I finger Sawyer as a figurative “shark” alongside the literal ones, and everything simplifies. As with Lost's other examples of bullshit marksmanship — shooting a walkie-talkie out of Kate's hand comes to mind — Mr. Friendly's shooting a gun out of Sawyer's hand can best be explained as acting & rigging. So with the shot to his shoulder on the raft; why would they take such a chance on killing him if he was a valuable mark? Jack gave Sawyer the gun he threatened Tom with; wouldn't Jack have loaded it with blanks to make sure Sawyer was no threat? But that all goes away if Sawyer was in on it and Jack knew it. Everything becomes easier and surer: making sure the flare gun gets fired from the raft, getting the pistol to Ana Lucia, having a second shooter kill the bear, getting the Halliburton case to Kate. Easy now to swallow Sawyer's being induced to “kill” two Original Sawyers without becoming suspicious, if he was part of the plot to begin with. Easy to explain his running into Christian twice, and easy to figure how Cooper-Seward could “fool” Sawyer and get him to “believe” he was strangling him.

In Sawyer's case we did get the equivalent of Fight Club's security camera footage, in the ostensible flashback wherein the shot of the boy under the bed alternated with one of Mr. Holloway under the bed. The adult under the bed is the real thing; the boy is what he's imagining; and Lost turns out to have a closer relationship to Crossing Jordan than I'd previously thought. Sawyer was “re”-enacting a scene from “his” childhood that'd never been enacted to begin with, for, like other characters, he has an artificially constructed past. If Jordan and “Jawdan” taught us anything, it's that just because you can stage something as a re-enactment doesn't mean the supposed original ever took place. There is no “Original Sawyer”, and not even the James Ford Sawyer is real in that sense. “James Ford the child” is as phony as Hugo's Dave. I'm sure that Charlie's dreamy childhood Christmas scene stands in a similar position to reality. I haven't decided yet about other childhood scenes we've gotten.

When Jack remarked to Sawyer that he'd have to teach him how to remove a bullet from his own shoulder bare handed (with the non-dominant hand, yet), he was seriously talking magician to magician about sleights of hand. After faking that one, all Sawyer had to do was act progressively sicker, and he got to be carried across the island on a litter — even better than eyeglasses & haircuts! “Why did you kill me?” Sawyer was joking with Kate. “You taste like strawberries” is also funnier if he knew about Kate's breakfast with Benry. If Sawyer & Kate have a long acquaintance, it would explain Sawyer's birthday wish from years earlier. If Sawyer's appetite for reading is similarly faked, it would explain Benry's having tripped him up with the quote from Of Mice and Men after Sawyer had made reference to it to him. It was Benry kidding around and ribbing a co-performer again, knowing that Sawyer's remark to him had been scripted. Maybe all of Sawyer's wisecracks had been fed to Sawyer.

Apparently what Sawyer was selected for was his high tolerance for pain, to allow him to be tortured. Maybe he's a masochist; of course I wondered about that even when I had him pegged as a mark. Captain Carnage from Watchmen? But if he's not, then maybe he just pantomimed electric shocks from the apparatus in the bear cage and the guard's stun gun.

I don't know what, if any, of Sawyer's on-island behavior is left as sincere. If it turns out the romantic Sawyer-Kate-Jack triangle had been planned, but then real feelings developed in their place, we can forgive you that hoary old plot device. But one big piece of plot changes with Sawyer as phony: The Marshal lives. Sawyer would know better than to press a gun, with whatever load, against The Marshal's chest. That means he just went into the tent and fired the gun away from anyone. Jack then chewed Sawyer out, administered the paralysis drug, and buried The Marshal rather than burning him in the fuselage, “because I had to bury him”, as Jack told Kate. And it's the Coffin Escape again, and substitute a tissue donor's body that apparently was very stinky when they had to dig it up again for the wallet. Mr. Friendly Tom that Sawyer “shot” lives too. Reviving The Marshal puts him in first place as candidate for Kate's real lover, the likeliest guy she'd be referring to in the flashforward as missing her.

Even more importantly, eliminating Sawyer as a mark has me down to very few pure hoaxees: Juliet, Jin, Said, and Michael. And a further piece of evidence would eliminate marks en masse: What if the water on both sides of the line of march to the radio tower actually meant they were just going back & forth to kill time and have the experience of fatigue they'd get from hiking such a distance? It would provide an alternate explanation to doubles for characters' appearing to cover ground too fast: the island, or their area of operation, is small, and they just pretend it's bigger. That eliminates as potential marks all the Losties played by extras, leaving the aforementioned Jin and Said (left behind to fight the Others), Juliet (diverted by Hugo to fight the Others) and Michael (no longer in island scenes) being directly fooled by witnessing the events on Craphole.

Another consequence of turning everyone at the confrontation before the radio tower into a play actor would be the elimination of that whole scene as revealing any real divisions (“WMCA vs. WABC”) among the characters. Benry would've been able to talk openly with Jack, and it would mean no real decision was made by Jack at that time, and whatever mistake Jack lamented later, it wasn't in that scene. I'm not ready to reinterpret things from what I said in entry #9 so radically yet, even though it leaves the possibility that Naomi's getting a knife in the back was real, because of course she'd know everything was an act, even if she was there to disrupt or divert it. But neither am I ready to accept ocean-on-their-left/ocean-on-their-right as a production error or choice for convenience or economy.

Yet even if I don't eliminate the marks en masse, projecting my trend of inferences is seeming to lead inexorably to ruling them out piecemeal. For example, Sawyer's tolerance of torture by Said becomes easier if Said was faking it. So I've got to believe that maintaining the same standards of skepticism won't move all of the remaining pigeons into the class of co-conspirators. There has to be at least asymmetric information among the characters; they're allowed to be trying to con each other, just not all to sincerely collaborate on conning...nobody! It's too much if they all even think (even allowing for a backstab or sting) they're just rehearsing a story for the world to later “discover”; somebody had to have been believed to be “audience” on the scene and not a player.

When I recently picked up The Wilby Conspiracy by Peter Driscoll, I'd no idea it'd connect to Lost by anything but the vague idea of conspiracy. So I was amazed to find within its pages so many connections that I figure Lost must be deliberately alluding to at least some of them. Wilby progressively unfolds layers of intrigue, until you learn near the end, “Everything that's happened to me has been part of a big filthy con trick”, quoting the chief character, who wasn't even introduced in the opening chapter, “Island”. This was a specialist, like Jack, who similarly was temporarily trapped by a collapse underground with company, and who similarly turned out to be just the type needed to solve a certain technical problem (like Benry's surgery) while he was trapped at a location away from home. Other plot elements in common were stolen diamonds' being dropped into a hole in the ground after its custodians couldn't trust each other, a gun-shot man's being hauled into an aircraft in Africa to make an escape, and use of explosives destructively underground in the vicinity of a live human. (It would be stretching a point too far to include the elements of having a sack put on one's head or scenes in a jewelry shop with a jeweler.) The third person voice of the author was unreliable, leading the reader away from a “con trick” interpretation with the lie, “The bottle was just a heavy cosh that happened to be brittle” and the misleading (opening with a weasel word) “Apparently that had been the whole idea: he was meant to recuperate.” Once the trick was revealed, the reader was expected to go back and infer how it was done — that the mine cave-in had been engineered, that Rina had been in on the conspiracy (though apparently forgiven by the end) — rather than having every detail spelled out, but we were told along the way the details of certain deceptions after the fact.

Since my entry #8 identifying the relevant fakery, I hadn't considered consequences of Claire's pregnancy having been fake. One of them is that this discovery knocks out a major time limit. It's possible for as much as years to have passed between Claire's having produced her positive pregnancy test and her having “delivered” a baby on Craphole, if a time delay scam is part of what was intended. If headlines like “Airline Passengers Experience Suspended Animation” or “Time Shortcut Discovered in Pacific” were intended, then Claire's ostensible pregnancy provides the “proof” of a Rip Van Winkle or time travel experience. On the other hand, if such temporal displacement is not part of the scam, then the time limit is still in effect, Claire's phony pregnancy having to follow the same trajectory as a real one.

If months or years indeed passed, then Jack's remark about the Red Sox and the World Series and his reaction to the news of same via Benry become all the more hilarious. Given the time constraint imposed by Juliet's passage from not-exactly-Portland, if this is the tack taken, the “slippage” in time would have had to take place on Oceanic 815 before its “crash”.

How would the hoaxers deal with the possibility, however remote, of Turniphead's DNA's being compared to Claire's? If her pregnancy isn't crucial to “proof” of anything, such as the time travel scenario posited above, perhaps no precaution will be taken. However, the conspirators have a pattern of destroying evidence. Even Yemi's church was burned; whether that entire scene was imagined (in which case the “witnesses” just say it was burned down) or staged, no sense letting anyone check out the story too easily, huh? In this case the options seem to be having Claire “die” or disappear, and having Aaron “die” or disappear.

Although I believe “Claire Littleton” to have been an assumed name and identity, with no real biologic relationship to her comatose “mother” or her “father” Christian, their presence as supposed blood relations to Aaron would make the disappearance of Claire insufficient to cover. Therefore it would be much easier to get rid of Aaron. Hell, he was already “kidnapped” once — twice if you count Charlie's “water rescue” of him. Plus, “they” “kidnapped” Walt and the Tailie children. Turniphead might as well have a handle attached!