‘Lost’ (S3): Can an old VW bus lead Hurley to Hope?
THE 10-WORD TEASE!
In which we usually ask the executive producers of Lost to give us a tantalizing tidbit about tonight’s new episode — but not this week.
Tonight, the focus is on Hugo ”Hurley” Reyes: Numbers-cursed food addict; Lotto winner; Dead Libby lover. Your tease today comes from…
Why? Because I’ve actually seen tonight’s episode! And in my humble opinion, ”Tricia Tanaka Is Dead” is a joyous and poignant hour of television. It’s basically a Lost take on Little Miss Sunshine. According to the hype, this installment, which finally brings all the characters (save Jack) back to the beach, is very ”mythology lite” — but I’m not buying it. In fact, I think ”Tricia Tanaka Is Dead” could very well be a cleverly crafted allegory for the history of The Dharma Initiative on The Island. Moreover, ”Tricia Tanaka” begs the following question, in light of Lost’s mounting, intensifying fixation with father issues: Is there a correlation between bad, dead, and/or deadbeat daddies and one’s capacity for faith in larger, more celestial father figures or forces during adulthood?
But all that’s a conversation for later. For now, here’s your 10-word (or so) tease:
”Can an old VW bus and a map to nowhere lead Hurley to a place called Hope?”
See you on the road to Shambala. (Just watch. You’ll see — and hear — what I mean.)
NEXT WEEK: MARCH (MYTHOLOGY) MADNESS BEGINS!
As much as I dig The Dude With The Weird Al ‘Fro, I can’t wait for next week’s episode, a Sayid-centric affair which will take us into a new Dharma Initiative hatch (”The Flame”) and formally introduce us to ”Patchy,” the one-eyed mystery man spotted on the monitors inside The Pearl Station during last fall’s ”Death of Mr. Eko” outing. If you read our recent cover story on Lost, you’ll know that this episode will finally establish the relationship between Dharma and The Others. I don’t know the specifics — but I do know the general idea. And the revelation promises to fire the minds of theorists everywhere.
I know one other secret about the Sayid episode, ”Enter 77.” It’s the latest iteration of a signature storytelling device, and you’ll need Internet access or a library card to properly suss out its significance. But be careful, kids: This is revolutionary stuff. If Big Brother sees you getting TOO obsessed with this Easter Egg, you might find yourself sent to Room 101 (or is that Room 23?) for some cultural reconditioning. If you want to play detective, even at the risk of spoiling something for yourself, I’ll help you out by linking you in the right direction. When you find it, email me your discovery and insta-theory at JeffJensenEW@aol.com.
Happy hunting, comrades.
DOC JENSEN’S SKELETON KEYS TO LOST
In which our resident Google-happy Lostologist reveals three names that unlock the many mysteries of The Island, including: Dharma; the Egyptian hieroglyphics that spell ”Underworld”; the significance of the Apollo candy bars; the elusive mercurial Orientation Film narratives; the Four-Toed Statue; the Black and White Stones; the Adam and Eve skeletons; the Black Rock; the Comic Book; the Numbers; the Virgin Mary statues stuffed with drugs; the miraculous healing; the airplane(s); ”unique electromagnetic fluctuations”; ”only fools are stuck in time and space”; the themes of fate, faith, and father issues; and much, much more. The names?
The Greek god HERMES. My money is that the Four-Toed Statue is an ode to this fleet-footed messenger. Not just God of the mind — but a trickster God, as well.
HERMES TRISMEGISTUS, the ancient Egyptian progenitor of Hermeticism and alchemy. His ”Seven Principles” could be retitled ”Dharma 101.”
And finally, ATHANASIUS KIRCHER, an eclectic, esoteric Renaissance man noted for his fanciful, fact-meets-fantasy scholarship on a variety of Lost-esque subjects.
Use them. Turn them. Watch them unlock everything.
Last week, I issued you guys a challenge. My contention was that the acronym for DHARMA — Department of Heuristics And Research on Material Applications — was an anagram that included the words ”DESMOND HUME” and ”PENELOPE.” My challenge to you was to use the remaining letters to complete the sentence. And some of you were actually foolish — er, I mean, inspired enough to take me up on it!
Greg Tramel from Conroe, Texas pointed out that if you left out the word HUME, you can scrabble together the following: ”Desmond is Christ,” ”Desmond is the messiah,” or — just in time for my recent fixation with Egyptian mythology — ”Desmond is Christ; Penelope Isis.” Of course, as Tramel notes, ”still a lot of letters left over.” DOC JENSEN SAYS: Yep. Still a lot of letters left over. But I like Isis — and I have a theory on that, which I’ll hit you with next week.
Heather Endow wrote: ”’Penelope hits Desmond after Antarctica crisis. Ruler not a ‘pharma.” The first part is obvious. After all, Desmond deserves it for breaking Pen’s heart! The second part shows that neither Widmore Industries (which made Sun’s pregnancy kit) nor The Hanso Foundation (which does pharmacological research) owns The Island and that some other force ‘rules’ The Island.” DOC JENSEN SAYS: I can tell you two things. 1. Your anagram is wrong. 2. Your theory is brilliant, because that’s EXACTLY what my wife thinks, too. Her hypothesis? That in the wake of the doomed endeavor that was Dharma, The Hanso Foundation sold The Island to… Mittelos Biosciences, the off-Island front company for The Others.
Ryan Prosser of Seattle, Washington — hometown of Doc Jensen himself! — sent me this ominous possibility: ”Push return. Terminate strain. If a plane crashes, do not panic.” DOC JENSEN SAYS: Yes, it CAN get kinda dark and gloomy in Seattle. But I like it a lot.
Of course, all of you want to know: Is the unfurled Dharma acronym really an anagram clue — or am I just playing games? DOC JENSEN SAYS: I’ll tell you the WHOLE story — next week.
A FAN THEORY FOR THE COMMON MAN
Doc Jensen presents… a guest lecturer!
Meet my good friend Dr. Steve Porter. I just call him Steve, but you MUST call him ”Dr.,” because unlike yours truly, Steve is an honest-to-goodness Doc. Of PHILOSOPHY, no less. Yes, Steve is very, very smart. But don’t hold that against him, because he’s also a big Lost fan, albeit not a nutjob like you and me. Yet Steve does have a theory. A big one, and a very good one. It provides a way to look at the mystery of Lost without getting lost in all the many mysteries inside Lost. In fact, Steve suggests most of us are missing the point of this so-called ”mythology show.”
DR. STEVE SAYS: Lost has lost some viewers, and I think I know why: The show doesn’t make much sense. Now I know we have been promised that it will all come together in the end. But right now, if you actually sit down (for several days — perhaps weeks), gather all the facts, and try to come up with a grand meta-narrative to tie it together, you end up with an obviously false purgatory theory, a super-complex black-hole theory, theories based on TV shows, comic books, and other literature that many of us have never seen or read, or some other wild Doc Jensen hypothesis that would be impossible to put into a two-minute soundbite. Now that may be the glory of Lost for those who spend multiple hours every week browsing Lost websites, but it is an Achilles heel for the common man and woman who actually have to work, take their kids to t-ball practice, and are lucky if they are still awake at 10 p.m. on Wednesdays.
So I have a cure for Lost’s dwindling Nielsen ratings: a brief meta-narrative that has no intention of being the correct account of what is going on, but nonetheless makes sense of the show — a theory for the common man and woman. Something that can be said when someone asks, ”So what is this show about?” Further, this is a mini-theory for those of us who don’t have time to read page 184 of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. It brings the thrill of discovery back to the show, rather than deeper confusion or more complicated theorization. So here it goes.
Lost is primarily a meditation on the nature of free will and determinism. From the interconnectedness of the past lives of the castaways who all ”just happen” to end up on this plane, to Charlie’s struggling drug addiction, to Locke’s musings about fate, to Ben’s manipulative attempt to get Jack to freely operate on his tumor, to Desmond’s apparent inability to prevent future events, the show continually brings up the issue of the degree to which persons are free and the degree to which the things that happen to us are completely outside of our control.
Within this meditation of free will and determinism, there is a connected and secondary meditation on naturalistic and supernaturalistic realities. Of course, philosophically, a major sub-theme of freedom and determinism is the role of God in the course of human events (something the philosophers Hume, Locke, and Rousseau all discussed) and while Lost is certainly not blatantly theistic, it does have an undeniable supernatural element. The lame can walk (Locke), diseases are cured (Rose), visions and apparitions are commonplace (think Boone, Shannon, Michael, Kate, Eko, and so on), a black smoke monster picks up a large man and pummels him to his death (Eko), etc. While our modernist sensibilities might prefer a completely naturalistic explanation to all this, it seems that some sort of supernatural mystique must remain. But this is exactly the point: There is a struggle throughout the show concerning what is fixed or determined by natural laws and forces and what seemingly supernatural exceptions there are to these laws and forces. For instance, Oceanic flight 815 crashes on The Island because of an electromagnetic surge that occurs because Desmond fails to punch a button which is made to release that charge (naturalistic explanation); but aboard that plane is a spinal surgeon that has the ability to remove a growing tumor from Ben’s back (supernaturalistic explanation).
Before this mini-theory becomes a maxi-theory, the thesis here is that these two meditations — freedom/determinism and naturalism/supernaturalism — form the core of Lost and the rest of the ballyhoo is the supporting cast. That is, The Others, The Dharma Initiative, parapsychology, the abandoned hatches, the electromagnetic forces, the one-eyed patch man, the missing children, the black smoke monster, the apparent healings, the apparitions, the polar bear, the inability to sail away from The Island, the numbers, Desmond’s precognitive ability, and so on are simply props to play out deeper and deeper investigations into the degree to which humans are free or determined and the degree to which the world is governed by purely natural forces or also supernatural ones.
Now this isn’t to say that all those little loose ends aren’t going to fit into a larger picture, it simply takes the emphasis off trying to figure out what that picture is. In other words, on this theory, Lost isn’t a show about electromagnetic forces or the fall-out of the now-defunct Dharma Initiative or the relationship between The Island and the rest of the world or even people coming to grips with their psychological baggage. So: ”What’s this show about?” It’s a show about freedom and determinism in a world that defies purely naturalistic explanation. Now be quiet; it’s about to start.
DOC JENSEN SAYS: Thanks for completely invalidating my existence at this magazine. Sheesh. Some friend YOU are.
Until next week —