Perhaps you were involved with Fox TV's evaluation of something very similar to what we have here: an audience participation show whose whole premise was betting on what was going to happen — the short-lived Banzai! So [fakest sounding Japanese accent] approach of season 4 lead to discussion, discussion lead to search for truth, search for truth lead to observation, observation lead to [gong]...

“Get” Lost entry #11 by RMG

Jan. 27, 2008

A Deeply Placed Trap, and Sayid Makes it into the Cons' Column

Sometimes there are brilliant moves in a chess game at grandmaster level that were never played. The moves show up only in the analysis in lines that weren't taken. A player will set a trap that the equally brilliant opponent doesn't fall into, but the existence of that trap shows why the moves to set it and the moves to avoid it were both so good. The trap may have been several moves deep into a line of analysis. In the process of ruling Sayid out as among the few and dwindling naifs who as on-Poo characters don't know there's a con going on, I've found a trap you laid pretty darn deep.

I tried, and failed, to convince John, Gene (Grady), Alley, and her friend Robin that we were watching an on-island magic show in 1:21 (“The Greater Good”) — coffin escape, pretend drugging, bullet catch. Locke was winking so hard I was afraid Mr. O'Quinn would get a sore right eye, and I still couldn't convince them. But the off-island flashbacks reminded me of one great difficulty I'd been having: how to get Sayid's college buddy to blow his brains out. As the scene began to unfold, I turned to John & Alley and said in that sing-song way people use when “calling” something on screen, “Fight Club”, when we saw the explosives in the back of the truck. But the scene then continued to recall that movie as Sayid's college buddy wielded the pistol, and just as in Fight Club the camera turned away just before his implied “brain surgery”. I thought, this is no coincidence, especially considering how you liked that movie.

Just taking the brain splatter for now as having been some kind of pretend, it becomes very hard to see how Sayid could not be in on his ticket to Poo, and at the same time it becomes much easier to understand how he could be “fooled” by the electronic and human hocus-pocus once there. Events become much more pleasant for Sawyer and Benry if Mr. “I am a torturer” Jarra never touched a drop of that “stuff” all along, including his lessons in Iraq. Just another opportunity for Sawyer to simulate a wound, and Sayid's “You would remember” line to Benry takes on all the more poignance if they both know it's all fake. Even without the Big Honkin' Electromagnet, Sayid can make up anything he wants about defective compasses, and the whole affair with Shannon was for show. Plus, you get a lot more assurance Rousseau will be “found” if you arrange it that way.

With Sayid knocked out, my remaining naive witnesses are Michael, Jin, and Juliet.

So far so good. But then I thought, why stop there at resemblances? Could Sayid's college buddy have been imaginary? Could a pattern in Lost point to more like that? One recurrent motif of which this was an exemplar is “two people seated in (usually) the front of a vehicle, one turns out to be `defective'”:

description of scene

other occupant, ostensible defect

provenance of story

Toomeys' road wreck in Australia

Sam, dead

told by Martha

Claire's road wreck in Australia

Mom, dead

putative aftermath shown in Claire FB

Sarah's road wreck in USA

Boone-Shannon father, dead

told in hospital

with Cooper-Seward by guard house in front

Locke, unhappy

shown in Locke FB

crashed airliner cockpit

copilot, dead


with Sawyer and bag of loot in front of Cassidy's

conspicuously absent

shown in Sawyer FB

with Boone in nose of Beechcraft

body, decayed


with Sayid in truck full of explosives

college mate, turned gun on self

shown up to gun shot in Sayid FB

with Bernard in tree

body, dead

shown, Tail catch-up

with Desmond in bunk beds

conspicuously absent


road wreck on overpass in USA, Jack's vicinity


told in hospital

with Kate fleeing hospital in car

Tom, gets shot dead

shown before & after in Kate FB

The Locke one's a stretch & squeeze, but otherwise there does seem to be a pattern. Could some of the people shown, like Dave, be imaginary? How about people shown in other scenes? I've already inferred the Sawyer under-the-bed and Claire recovered-memory flashbacks to be imagined or distorted presentations. Could some of these people be not lying or prepared to lie, but really nuts, furthering the similarity to Fight Club? If Sawyer really believed his made-up childhood, convinced himself he was James Ford, that'd improve his parallelism (already noted) to Rorschach from Watchmen, except that Sawyer would have outdone Rorschach in that Kovacs at least did have a childhood whose facts could be confirmed. Sawyer's Mr. Chicken Salad and New Earhole, if he wasn't in the car, maybe he wasn't in the diner either, or anywhere in reality. And Sawyer could've really believed he was killing the Original Sawyer. Twice.

But I didn't stop at Sawyer. Much about Jack could be explained if Christian were an imagined character he projected, or to put it another way, the two of them are one. Then there'd be just one doctor with the drinking problem, one showing up (presumably late) for A.A., jealous of his alter ego for his ex-wife — really jealous, not acting for the Hoax. And losing his license. And all the rest about Jack & Christian, combined, with scenes having been distorted to suit. Jack's heartbroken to find Christian's coffin empty because he hates being brought back to reality.

It all seemed to work so well. Instead of doubles, two figures as one, we have one figure as two as a theme of Lost. Even better, we have the theme of insanity. All those cute allusions:

and they also fit the psychotherapeutic model for Lost that's been popular since early on, the interactions of Ms. BeA Clue and especially Benry with characters echoing those of Hugo's therapist with Hugo metaphorically.

And it's a trap. A cleverly laid defense in depth you had prepared against those who were good at picking up clues and of a mind to integrate them into themes and solutions. The psycho-and-its-therapy and imaginary-persons-taken-too-far pitfalls were there to delay and distract us from what's really going on.

John and Alley pointed out that unlike in Fight Club, to fulfill the imaginary persons premise for Christian, Mr. Chicken Salad and New Earhole, Kate's Tom, and a few others I thought of, would require too many potential witnesses and too many records to have been not seeing and recording what we saw and heard. Like for instance Christian's hospital hearing regarding the patient's death. Not only would it make the whole show so untrustworthy as to make this an exercise in futility, but it would go against the whole premise of the hoaxers establishing a record extending into the past and accumulating witnesses. Plus, how could I argue against Christian's having a separate existence at all after I'd sleuthed out those visual clues about him and Jack facing away from each other that said this is no hallucination even in scenes that otherwise seemed the most likely to be hallucinatory?

So I fall back on the previous rule (Lost is like the card game Eleusis; the players have to discover the rules) that a scene is unreliable if it's a flashback that can't or won't be contradicted by other witnesses, but otherwise they're reliable. On that basis Kelvin might not have actually been on the scene with Desmond, but only in Iraq. And suuuure, Sawyer's a fox, as we'll see below; at least for the most part, even when we are shown The Man Who Wasn't There, it's on the model of Crossing Jordan rather than that of Fight Club.

Finally, a McGuffin I Can Commit To

Two full seasons have passed since I determined that the object of the characters is a hoax, and I've had no more than a scattering of shots at what that hoax could be. One facet that'd obviously taken shape was Desmond as prophet, but I couldn't tell whether that was just an end in itself, an adjunct to a larger hoax, or just something one con artist, “helping himself” as Boone told Locke, was doing with the help of allies to exploit a situation left by other con artists.

Now I'm piggybacking onto a theory raised recently at The Fuselage that we're seeing The Coming Of The Messiah. Only the difference is that those theorists think that's “really occurring” in Lost, while I identify it as the hoax that's being perpetrated. More manipulable and powerful than the Watchmen-Martian Shop-Architects of Fear tradition of uniting the world against a fake enemy, this one can be shaped to usurp major religions and provide a positive message. There is no need for me to recount here all the ways the story fits or alludes to Biblical and other traditions of saviordom, because they were mostly not seen by me independently and I'm not the greatest scholar of them. But I'm tickled to think that, per our discussion of the things I liked so much about Smallville, you wound up surpassing them in even this close detail.

Desmond's role remains, of course; any decent messiah needs a prophet. But a big problem arises: whose prophet is he? We see at least two candidates in this election season: Claire's baby and Sun's baby-to-come. Backup? Messiah and anti-messiah? Two saviors in, one savior out of a Thunderdome to come? Could the two Dr. Manhattans (Jin & Desmond) have presaged two Christs? And that's just if no more hats get thrown into the ring; first of a pack to climb out of the steel cage?

I've already gone over how Claire's “pregnancy” and “delivery” were rigged. I think it was Hildy at The Fuselage who posed an alternative to Turniphead's disappearance, given that such disappearance would now be catastrophic to The Hoax: that Claire had her eggs banked and will have a surrogate-delivered baby of the right age (several having been born) who can be switched with Aaron before any DNA testing takes place. Maybe the switch already took place by either the Rousseau or the Charlie caper. But what to make of Sun's? In light of the technical problems that have been raised by some commenting on my having her sonogram rigged remotely to fool Juliet, it becomes more attractive to think that her pregnancy was real and unplanned. Or at least, not planned by any major group effort that needed assured success and would therefore rig it like Claire's; Sun might have deliberately taken a shot on her own. Or others around her (fertility doc, Harvard man, Mr. Paik, Jin) with relatively small investment but seeing an opportunity to glom onto the big hoax might have taken theirs. Maybe Benry was to have been the messiah, and maybe he's still in the running against these young whipper-snappers. And there's always “special” Walt.

There are also vague suggestions of coulda-woulda-shoulda messiahs. At least several Losties' esteem of pregnancy or children has been highlighted for us. Finding out the dead patient had been pregnant seemed to be Jack's deciding factor in testifying as to Christian's impairment. (One possibility I'm considering there is that Christian was supplying a pregnant stiff to fool Juliet. They're not savages? I wouldn't put it past 'em. And maybe that was too much for Jack.) Ana Lucia's “Jason...I was pregnant. [Kapow!]”, if it were to be taken as truth, suggests that she could've mothered the savior, and that she'd hoped to glom onto the hoax cheaply. Sawyer seemed to be a sucker for a kid...except that I consider “The deal's off” a candidate for “distorted flashback”, and that he really did go thru with the con but felt guilty about it. But that's only if he and Jess weren't just doing the usual Lost thing of arranging a phony past, which I consider more likely.

Passing Notes in Class

We know they're not all rowing this boat together, but my attempts to tell the teams without a program have been primitive. But now I see one of those clues that make me want to kick myself for not having realized before. For other reasons, I reviewed the scenes wherein Sawyer displayed the “letter to Mr. Sawyer”. Of course the USA bicentennial cancellation was meaningless with the envelope opened. But the letter that passed between Kate and Sawyer in “Confidence Man” was on 2 sheets of paper, while the letter that Sawyer passed to Cooper-Seward in “The Brig” was a single sheet. Obviously it wasn't the same letter.

But Kate and Cooper-Seward each read the letter out loud, didn't they? Sure...just as Jack watched To Kill A Mockingbird, Juliet edition — a Big Honkin' Clue that a communication said to have certain contents doesn't necessarily have those contents. (A more subtle one was Juliet's mislabeled music CD.) When you're under tight surveillance, you communicate secretly by pretending the contents are about something else. In this case, the fact that Kate and Cooper-Seward were able to “read aloud” the same story that could not have been on both letters is just a little additional proof that it's all rehearsed. (For all we know, and it would make for a great surprise, like Hugo turning out to be a thin guy wearing a fat suit, Sawyer could even be illiterate and have memorized all the contents of the stuff he's “read out loud” or “quoted”.) And Cooper-Seward ripped it up, obviously to keep it from being discovered.

And now all those times we've heard a character “read aloud” some written matter they got from another character, or received some labeled or otherwise identified written matter, and we've just assumed it was as alleged, all become suspect. Of course it's not limited to written matter — the microcassette might've had further contents that weren't played for us — but writing has the most potential. Was “Sawyer's red Interpol file” that passed from Richard Alpert to Locke, who then burned it, even entirely a fake version of that? Fakes within fakes? Was the “rescue note” that Charlie “read aloud” to Claire that she composed, and that he palmed rather than slipping onto the bird, just as he said it? Claire's diary, Rousseau's notes, messages in a bottle, and on and on...which of them were innocent (in the sense of just playing along with the hoax), and which of them were fake fakes (backstabbing)?

What was one of the first things Boone & Jack did following the “crash”? They collected all the pens Boone could find, in the guise of preparing for an emergency tracheotomy. Control the lines of communication. The pen gathering must've been the reason for Rose's “needing artificial respiration”, and also the reason for Boone's having “been a lifeguard”! We know temporarily mute Locke had a pen to write instructions to Charlie, and I'm guessing he got it from the Jack-Boone stash rather than that it slipped thru the net. (Still waiting to see or figure out the strategic value of brushes & combs.)

Passed notes can be used to communicate among conspirators, and they can be used to solicit help among the uncommitted. However, we were given an example by Jack's divulging Juliet's solicitation that the latter course is risky. I'd like to be able to figure out from the passing of notes and other clues who is already on whose side, but some guesswork is necessarily involved. Seems for now the major connections are:

  1. Jack, Locke, Boone, Benry, Richard Alpert (“WMCA” by my previous reckoning)

  2. Kate, Sawyer, Cooper-Seward (“WABC”)

  3. Desmond

Of Desmond's “help”, I don't think he can count on all of Charlie, Claire, and Hugo; some of them are stabbing him and/or each other in the back, but I don't know how it's shaking out. And of course prior history of working with each other means little or nothing in this regard. Under the warm exterior of most of these con artists is a cold, calculating persona. Further, Mr. Eko and probably Nathan were as far as I can see general “antis” trying to defeat the lot of them. And my prediction of Charlie as The Cobra still hangs out there, not because I'm any more convinced, but just because I don't have any good guess and it should count against me if I try to withdraw that early stab without good reason.

Misc.: Charlie's Non-Fate, Most Takes, Mouse Trap Parts

One additional reason I don't think I stated before for believing Charlie survived his “drowning” is that Lost does everything at least twice. The scene in the Looking Glass communications control room echoes the Hydra corridor scene. The “hero” gets knocked out, and the water is let out.

Now I'll guess which shot had the most takes thru season 3. (I'm trying to figure everything about Lost, and I'll take a default win in this category if nobody else is playing.) It's one of my favorite line deliveries, Benry's response to Sawyer's asking how he knows they didn't switch rabbits: “You don't.” It was “[cut] You don't. [cut]” So I think this one has a ton of takes, the one that aired having a delicious, somewhat breathy compromise between portent, dismissal, condescension, and jocularity. Mr. Bunny-wouldn't-react-to-me Emerson earns it, but whoever knew to keep that one is just fucking terrific.

If you want to be corny about it, toward the end of Lost you'll have a segment intercutting clips of parts of Mouse Trap in operation with corresponding physical bits in Lost. The Beechcraft's half gainer, Hugo's repositioning of the mini-bus, the flopdown of the perched front section of the airliner, maybe even the sky-high throw of the hatch cover have sort-of parallels. But unless Locke and his brother liked to augment it with firecrackers, I don't think the explosions fit in there!