“Get” Lost 15


March 11, 2012


This entry was going to be very different once I got motivated enough to write it, and I didn't have much motivation. It was going to be that I got a stroke that left me deaf and blind for the last 15 minutes of Lost in 2010, and then I would've accounted for the story based on what I thought that last scene was going to be. And then I would've written a grumbling but serious coda to bring this series to a close.

But now, even though all my friends and acquaintances think I'm nuts, this case is open again, baby!

What produced this change is that a month ago, spurred by an apparently unrelated mention in a newsgroup, I read A.C. Doyle's short story, “The Lost Special”. How could I previously have neglected to do what should be required reading of anyone trying to solve fiction mysteries, i.e. Arthur Conan Doyle's whole output of them? I went on to listen to the 1943 and 1947 radio adaptations of that story for Suspense and Escape, respectively. The 1932 Universal movie serial is apparently a rarity I might never get a chance to see. Next, Googling for historic antecedents, I read of the 1892 event that probably inspired Doyle, the loss of a Furness locomotive in a mine cave-in. I'm sure I followed the same track as you did in researching this. It may even have preceded Mr. Burk's connection to the project, if one day you were doing a fuzzy search on your name and came up with Lindal, the location of the rail cave-in. Alternatively, if “Lost” had already occurred to you as a suitable title for a fictionalized version of Survivor, you might have searched for the intersection of that and A.C. Doyle, which would have the additional benefit of putting investigators in the audience onto the false trail produced by The Lost World. But I think likeliest you had the general plot in mind and found these suitable clues to give.

Although I was already convinced that elements not only of the original but also both of those radio adaptations had been re-adapted as Lost, when I saw read details of the real event, I knew this had to be your mystery's basis. The engine number, 115, would by itself have been merely suggestive, it being 5 × 23, corresponding to 815's 8 + 15 = 23. You might've not used 115 for the flight number because it would've been too easy for viewers to research. However, it was the date of the cave-in at Lindal that clinched it: Sept. 22. These correspondences would not have been inserted in Lost from the very beginning had they not been the most important references in the entire story. The collapse at Lindal, with no loss of life and only one injury, would be of no significance to mystery writers had it not been for its providing the basis for “The Lost Special”, therefore it and its adaptations must be what you were pointing to all along.

What this background material provides the Lost solver is the element that's been most vexingly absent without it: motive. The basic story is that some people who have a gigantic amount of resources and their reputations at stake conspired to cause the disappearance of someone who would have exposed them. Every adaptation of “The Lost Special” I know of has added its own elements to the story, and Lost is no exception. Although it may arouse suspicion if someone disappears along with his or her conveyance, it becomes less suspicious if that person is one of many traveling together. To put investigators even further off the track, if the target is one of several who ostensibly survive such a disaster, and you have substituted a double for that target (and of necessity for the other supposed survivors), what is left for any sleuth in their world to pursue?

Another bit these connections clear up was Kate's season 5 remark to her child that if Mr. Choo-Choo goes in that tunnel, he's never coming out. It made no sense in the context of Billion Dollar Limited, which the boy was watching (and which I got from your Pop's collection), and seemed to refer only to the season 6 scene wherein Jacob flushed the Anti-Jacob down the track-like creek into the Tunnel of Light, which also made no sense in the context of what Kate should've known. But if both refer to “The Lost Special”, then the dialog makes sense, as does the other scene metaphorically, especially the rush of black smoke that the tunnel burps out after swallowing the Anti-Jacob, corresponding to the description in the original fiction after the mine shaft swallowed the train. The impostor Kate in the scene with the boy obviously knows what's going on, and the reason she doesn't want her DNA tested is that it might be compared to the original Kate's or her family's.

Another element lifted from the original fiction was the description of M. Caratal's apparent bodyguard, a Spanish-named big husky guy with a reputation that would fit Hugo's as a “warrior”. Of Caratal himself all that I saw applicable was a remark making him out to be a “cripple”; I don't think that's enough to identify Locke as the person who needed to be shut up. Doyle's story made clear that anyone who might have traveled with Caratal could have had knowledge of or from his documents, so they're all fair game for that role on Lost.

From the title you got an episode name, “Special”, in season 1. From the adaptation for Suspense came the meeting on the golf course, a submarine dock, and the location in Portugese Guinea which was only implicit on Lost. From the adaptation for Escape came the whole idea of having to “go back” with persons who would simulate the original situation in an effort to solve the case. From what I've read of it, the movie serial provides a connection to a gold shipment, hence more justification for referencing that Superman cartoon on Lost, and possibly the scene in which the person in the car next to Kate was shot thru the windshield. From Doyle fandom comes Dean Moriarty, it being speculated widely that Mr. Moore in “The Lost Special” was a Moriarty; Benry, like the supposed Moore, told of a supposed ailing wife. From the true story of Engine 115 came the fact that the collapse followed by a short while a watchman's having gone over the ground and pronounced it safe, which would correspond to Hugo's making it over the rope bridge in season 1 before Charlie collapses it — quite a parody when you consider the weight of a locomotive compared to that of a person. Finally, the appearance of “The Lost Special” along with “The Man With the Watches” in a Doyle collection might've inspired the business about Jin and the watches, making it plausible that the whole Watchmen theme on Lost was secondary to that reference.

Benry as the Moriarty of the piece and Jeremy Bentham as the man who knew too much are attractive in the light of the Propaganda 2 allusions in season 5. Benry finally got his Roberto Calvi, his M. Caratal, when he strangled him after asking the right question — or did he? The whole “go back” plot, as on Escape, would have to depend on the perpetrators' not being sure they'd gotten “the man we thought he was” the previous time.

And of course everything's funnier when you know what it refers to, such as, “You can always go...downtown.” Which means I'm going to have to go back and review all 6 seasons now, maybe even try to find a pirated video of the Universal serial. It's a talkie, but it might still have a big “$” on the bag of loot. And I'm sure there are other adaptations of this evergreen story for all media.

My friends say it would've been an idiotic business decision as well as a bad artistic one, but I think you're going to wrap up the plot in the style of its antecedents. I hope the delay isn't 8 years as in the original fiction, let alone 18 as on Suspense. A Big Mouth, who may well be a character we never saw on Lost, maybe under threat of death or maybe out of sheer greed, will come out with the story. All you'll need of the original cast will be their clips from the serial, maybe even some ostensible out takes, i.e. the Season of Zombies you've spoken of, re-animating your characters. The Big Mouth will be the Lord of the Files you've spoken of. If you don't wrap up Lost in some semblance of this way, you'll never get credit for a story that made sense, because nobody's ever going to believe me. Or if you're not sure about that,...you can shut me up for $6.4 million.


Yours Truly,

Robert