"Get" Lost Entry #2: Sept. 2, 2005 (RMG)

Dear Damon,
        I had expected to get at least a few episodes into season 2, maybe even halfway thru that (still not started as of this writing) season before sending another contest entry.  Even the DVDs haven't come out yet, but I just had such a flash of insight that I saw no reason to hold back.  I now think I've solved the entire outline of Lost.  While previously I'd convinced myself of the "means", now I also have at least the type of motive and at least some of the "opportunity", if I may continue with the mystery-story analysis.  It now appears that Lost, while using the methods of The Truman Show, is an adaptation in theme of Watchmen, with a large element of the movie version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and a little pinch of Illuminatus!.  You just leave out the costumed adventurers and substitute sort-of-normal (and yet "special") people.
        I'd like to credit the person in one of the online forums (more likely The Fuselage this time than alt.tv.lost) who, in the vein of Jules Verne, suggested that the Losties (one of alt.tv.lost's terms for the ostensible "survivors") were being manipulated to some great project for mankind -- maybe something ecologic, maybe geopolitical -- but I don't remember who that was.  Mostly, the solution came to me after I'd discussed the "Hugo's curse" rerun episode with John.

My analysis proceeds on two levels.  First I have to get into your mind, then into the mind of your protagonist (whom we may or may not have been shown yet).  I know you were a big fan of Watchmen.  For all I know, so may be most of your co-creators and staff; it's one of the seminal works of our time.  (As I pointed out to your father, it even got a parodic reference in a Pinky & The Brain cartoon.)  Until now, however, all I'd caught "of" Watchmen in Lost was the gimmick of having a comic book within the story, like that within Watchmen, which allusion I'd considered merely a toss-off wink to Alan Moore and the fans.  But I knew that you were aware that several scripts for movie adaptations of Watchmen had been floating around, and that you hoped that at least one of the better ones (or hell, at least one regardless) would be produced.
        It must've been frustrating that Watchmen hadn't made it to the screen, and you certainly didn't have the rights to it.  But what if you could adapt it in theme?  It's widely acknowledged that at least most of the costumed adventurer characters in it were lifted from another source and renamed.  And when I described to John the McGuffin of Watchmen that I believe Lost to be using (see below), he told me it was the same as an old Outer Limits episode, which my friend Andrew says was from a short story called The Martian Shop.  And you didn't need the characters to be costumed adventurers anyway; let someone else mine that theme for TV.  (What are you, some kind of...comedian?)  So now let's investigate your protagonist(s), modeled on Dr. Veight.

Suppose you had a Big Idea for the world: something you're convinced the world really, really needs, or at least would benefit enormously from, but that people are too stupid, venal, uncooperative, etc. to implement.  It doesn't really matter what the Big Idea or its Big Object is.  For Dr. Veight it was world peace.  For your protagonist (which could be an individual or a very small group of people) it could be vegetarianism, promoting John Dillinger as humanity's savior, Scientology, TM, SETI, the world's best bubble bath formula...or [yawn] world peace.  (I mentioned SETI because there may have been similar hocus-pocus in Contact.)  Maybe it's an evil cause, as in the League movie.  At this point it doesn't matter.  Maybe I'll know more after the first 3 episodes of season 2.  For now I can just treat it as an undifferentiated McGuffin.
        Like Veight, your protagonist(s) had no hope of convincing the world directly.  Maybe, very unlike Veight, the protagonist even has a bad reputation, such that if the world got wind of your effort, they'd run in the opposite direction (I'm thinking of one candidate, Mr. Paik, here -- see below.).  So like Veight, s/he/they planned to fool the world into complying.  But suppose that for the scheme you had in mind, you were worse off than Veight.  You hadn't the science fiction resources to use (at least nothing as powerful as a psychic shock wave), and although you had money, it wasn't nearly enough.  Plus, you needed people skills that you as an individual or small group did not possess enough of.
        So instead of trying to fool the world directly, you plot to use leverage.  You will first fool a group of people who collectively will be larger and more resourceful than what you started with.  Then that group will fool the rest of the world.  So you need:
My last entry dealt with the details of the "stage" and "show".  Like the Gentlemen in the movie version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, the targets have to be manipulated without finding out they're being manipulated.  But in Lost it's even harder -- they can't be allowed even to find out they'd been selected or deliberately brought together, let alone help with that process.  Hell, they weren't even allowed to know where the "stage" was!  As you've read (unless you're reading these out of order), I've already solved those problems.  (In a phrase: magic tricks.  Well, that and plants/shills.)  As you know, I think the "stage" (Craphole) is near Fernando Poo, off or even on the west coast of Africa.
        Down the Hatch, in the Shaft, I expect the Losties to be presented with phony evidence of something.  I'll be disappointed if it's the apparent body of a dead humanoid alien, as in Watchmen.  C'mon, you have enough overt references.  I caught the similarity in wording & irony of the slogan in Oceanic's "commercials" -- "taking you places you never imagined" -- to "Veight gives you bodies beyond your wildest imagination!"  And I my have missed many other allusions and there may be many more to come.  (Maybe the "FATE" on Charlie's finger decorations referred to Veight.)  Plus, we see the form of Lost, with all its strategically placed flashbacks, as modeled on that of Watchmen, with its background material.  So I'm hoping to see something original in the Shaft.  But if it does turn out to be a "dead spaceman", I'll understand.
        Members of your "audience" should satisfy (and preferably demonstrate) as many of these desiderata as possible:
And if they don't have all those characteristics to start with, maybe some can be brought out.  Anyway, you search the world for a complementary group of such people, and start narrowing down the list.  It can easily be seen how characters in Lost satisfy the desiderata:
Jack has no particular off-Craphole utility, but is useful in helping to bond the Losties.  Sun seems pretty expendable off-Craphole so far, despite her ability to keep secrets, and has similar utility to Jack on Craphole.  Michael and Walt I suspect to be a joke about race tokenism (except that you might've planned to get more use out of Rose), or maybe another next-generation thing.
        So how were these people to be assembled?  If you've ever had to get a gathering for a party, you've experienced the coordination problem.  You can't satisfy everyone's desiderata as to when & where, so you prioritize.  You give top priority to those persons who are hardest to get and most important to the enterprise, and work everything else around them.  You may even have to be flexible at first as to which ocean to "crash a plane over", which is immaterial because your targets will be brought unconscious to Craphole anyway.  I suspect Hugo to have had top priority.
        You monitor the big lotteries.  This one had an especially big top prize payout.  The winner got plenty of publicity and was easy to locate.  I would've been satisfied to have the "curse" on him be coincidental, but Allie convinced me it's more likely a bunch of "accidents" were arranged around him; it wouldn't take much to poison Grampa, torch the house, etc.  You learn that Hugo had been either a patient or a worker at a nuthouse called Santa Rosa, and go snooping around there.  (I forgot which other character had a connection to the place; maybe Kate.  Maybe you'd already roped her and she was your spy there.)  You learn that Lenny (Number Muttering Guy) had been Hugo's friend, and you "turn" Lenny.  That's a bit risky, relying on a crazy man.  But if you don't get Hugo, you can work similarly on some other lottery winner somewhere.  (Maybe you even have several lined up!)  You get Lenny to tell Hugo a story about The Numbers.  (In reality, there'd been nothing special about them.  They were literally the ravings of a lunatic!)  The story gets Hugo to Australia, where he encounters another agent of yours who feeds him a line about a radio transmission.  The story is conveniently second-hand and is delivered in an ingenious way by someone who claims there's no such thing as a curse, while giving him even more reason to believe in it and pursue The Box.  Meanwhile you've engaged in dirty tricks to build Hugos' wealth even further.
        Lost cleverly presented Hugo's getting to Oceanic flight 815 as an extreme long shot, as if his inclusion in the chosen ones could not have been deliberate.  In reality, Your Protagonist (the Island Powers in Allie's terminology) would've moved Heaven & Earth to get him aboard.  Had he been delayed, the flight would've been delayed somehow.  The plane may have left without some others, but I think Hugo was #1.  The Island Powers engraved The Numbers on the Hatch, thinking Hugo's curiosity would add to the motivation of the group in opening it.  Instead he reacted perversely to the sight of The Numbers, but fortunately the Island Powers already had Locke blowing the Hatch.
        Once you have Priority Person #1 lined up, you steer as many other candidates as possible onto the same flight.  Kate (I don't know how you get her to Australia) is taken as captive, probably by a phony marshal.  Jin would be very easy to get if you're Sun's father, Mr. Paik.  The type of interview we saw Mr. Paik give Jin was a screening, not for the ostensible job, but for the characteristics listed above.  The McGuffin is the real job.  Jin underwent further training and tests for several months at Mr. Paik's behest.  This is why I suspect Mr. Paik to have been a mastermind or conspirator in the McGuffin.  Perhaps the beating Jin apparently administered (and others) was staged by someone whose job was to impersonate a functionary and take a beating.
        As you know from my entry #1, I believe Locke to have been more or less openly recruited.  However, "more or less" covers a lot of ground on a need-to-know basis.  I doubt he knows the McGuffin, but only that there is one.  His demonstrated gullibility for romantic endeavors could still be exploited by the McGuffin.  I can't rule out something like John's idea (see partial dissent, July '05) in that Locke could be a double agent, but John's idea that he never was knowingly on the side of the Island Powers is incompatible with my view.
        Somehow you get Jack's father to Australia.  Sawyer gets to Australia on a tip.  You scoured Australia for a pregnant lady like Claire.  You probably use Boone to get to Shannon.  And who knows how many fish will escape your net?  (And you probably get other target, and maybe non-target, fish in your net that Lost simply hasn't shown.)

So now you have your motley crew in the "theater".  Not exactly extraordinary gentlemen & ladies, no costumed adventurers, but they have their points.  But before and along with their getting the "show" they must be forged into a fellowship (Allie's word.  She says everything goes back to Tolkein.  I don't read Tolkein.)   That means if someone made an hour-long TV show out of it, they might be able to stretch it to a 5 year series, especially with all the little mysteries about the characters to be delved into via flashbacks.  For all I know at this point, while it's said season 2 will represent another 40 days & nights on Craphole, season 3 may pick up years later -- long enough for the baby & child to grow up.
        After being given "the show" (which reminds me a bit of the screening of When Atlantis Ruled The Earth to the abducted, drugged and disoriented Joe Malik in Illuminatus!), your targets may have to be screened for loyalty to each other and for how much they swallowed The Great Cause that the McGuffin convinced them of.  Best case: they all buy it, and will work together, yet in secret, for years toward your Big Idea that they'll think is their own idea.  Worst case: you get "hooted off the stage".  It may be that the bodies we were shown in season 1 as "those who came before us" were literally that -- previous failed attempts, abandoned to die (or, if Craphole was needed sooner, killed off quickly).  Or they may just be scenery, and this project has never been tried before (or at least not using Craphole).  Allie has suggested that the "Pirates" (the power boat people shown at the end of season 1) are from previous attempts; they may have gotten access to the props backstage and so became useless to the Island Powers.  I don't know.
        You may have intermediate cases in which somebody (Sayid seems a likely candidate as of now) will find out too much and have to be silenced by "accident".  Some may simply outlive their usefulness and become liabilities in some other way.  Anyway, the Fellowship that remains will somehow have to be "rescued" from Craphole without ever finding out where they were.  In keeping with the m.o. of Lost -- the principle that you never get too long or close a look at what the magician is manipulating -- whatever physical evidence they discover in the Hatch or elsewhere will soon be blown up or otherwise destroyed except for a few tokens.  You can't take the chance that the outside world will discover Craphole and its backstage secrets.  The Fellowship must become convinced they can't be associated with anything having to do with Oceanic flight 815, because the outside world (which had no idea anything funny had happened to that flight other than a bit of turbulence and delay) must not be moved to investigate.  Therefore the Losties must reintegrate to the world separately and keep their distance from each other, except in secret.  Some of them will require no persuading to take on new identities -- Kate for instance -- while others will resume their previous personae.  They will make up their own cover stories to explain their absence.  Hugo will be able to funnel money to the cause more or less openly, or at least with fewer people watching him than would be watching you throw around your own.  Even if you have more money than Hugo, it won't be as suspicious as it would be coming from you.

So how's this all going to end?  Here I'm afraid I really am facing a potentially moving target.  You, Damon et al., may not have decided as of this writing, and maybe will not for some time yet, which of a few possible variants to end the show with.  Do the Losties figure it all out?  If so, do they decide to play along anyway, in effect becoming part of the original conspiracy?  Is there the equivalent of a Rohrschach from Watchmen, such that the rest of them have to kill him?  (John's analysis would put Locke in roughly the role of Rohrschach as I figure it.  John never read Watchmen and says he has no desire to.  Allie's been meaning to for a long time.)  Might we simply be left to argue among ourselves at the conclusion of Lost as to which of the Losties were really taken in, and which were just playing along?
        Did you think I'd solve it this quickly, on just one season's material?  (And if you peeked before the end of Lost's run, now you have to kill me.)  Or is it now 2009, with the last 4 years of Lost having shown how wrong a fan, even one who has personal knowledge of you, can go?

Best Wishes,


P.S. Sept. 5, 2005:  It's like a jigsaw puzzle: the more pieces you put in, the easier it becomes to place the others.  I'd wavered previously over whether Kate was in on it at all; now I think she's deep, deep in, not just need-to-know. It'd previously seemed only suspicious that Kate claimed to have been conscious during the entire "crash", that she was smiling in the shot of the passengers falling to what they would think was their doom, and that she volunteered for all the seemingly dangerous tasks.  Now I'm sure she knows she's indispensible, and that no harm can come to her.  The ostensible bank heist was a test of how resourceful and ruthless she was, and the toy airplane she "won" from it was both a token saying, "Congrats, you're in!" and a sign saying, "We've decided to go with the airliner plan."  (Presumably they'd considered various ways to get their marks to the "theater".)  In the front section of the "wreckage", she was there to help the pilot with his act, as well as to make sure neither Charlie nor Jack was close enough to get a good look.
        Kate knew the supposed "dynamite" would at least be safe to her, which is why she volunteered to carry it.  It wasn't even artifically aged dynamite, as I'd thought before. Why would the Island Powers take such a chance with their marks at that stage?  That's how they were able to handle them bare-skinned without absorbing a dangerous amount of nitroglycerine -- there was no nitroglycerine.  However, the sticks were so rigged that they could be exploded by remote control, as part of the show (like the real sword the magician demonstrates before doing the trick with the fake one), which they did when someone expendable (Arzt) was far enough from the chosen ones.  (I no longer believe Arzt's death to have been accidental, although he was not a particular target, just in the wrong place at the time.)  Kate might've been afraid that if Jack carried some, he might be judged expendable too!  She knew Locke was in on the game up to the Hatch, but Locke didn't know she was.  (She actually knows what's in the Hatch is phony; he doesn't, and only has been promised there's something worthwhile in there.)  Locke knew the Wicked Winch that was dragging him wouldn't hurt him, as he said, but Kate knew it was rigged to "explode" when she threw the inert stick of dynamite over the precipice.  The Hatch too was rigged to explode; dynamiting it from the outside as they ostensibly did wouldn't likely have opened it.  All the dynamite and the difficulty of the Hatch was for was to make the Losties think it was their idea and their discovery, when all along it would Open, Sesame for them.
        There are still things about Kate I haven't figured, but can speculate on.  I suspect the "Marshal" was a co-conspirator who was double-crossed because the other conspirators thought he would double-cross them first.  If that's so, then tragically his death was unnecessary, because apparently he didn't blab to Jack even while dying, except to tell Jack not to trust her.  In other words, he wanted to save Jack's skin, but not to expose the whole plot.  (Seems everybody likes Jack!)  And if all this is so, he may be the one Kate meant as the man he loved and the man she (via the other Island Powers) killed.
        I also have a more nuanced idea about Locke now.  Yes, I still think he has a radio-controlled implant that controls his paralysis, and yes, that he has 2-way radio.  But he may not realize it's a radio.  If it's implanted, he may think it's telepathy and clairvoyance.  That'd suit the Island Powers even better. - RMG