TV Recap

Drawing a Blank

In a forgettable plot twist on ''Lost,'' Claire returns from captivity with amnesia, but at least we learn something about Charlie's past

Lost, Dominic Monaghan | EXIT TO ETHAN Charlie blew the bad guy away
Image credit: Lost: Mario Perez/ABC
EXIT TO ETHAN Charlie blew the bad guy away

''Lost'': A forgettable plot twist

Amnesia! Wow! Now there's a novel concept for a plot twist! Entering last night's episode of Lost, I was convinced this full-of-secrets series was finally going to have to cough up a few, now that Claire had mysteriously returned from her mysterious abduction by that mysterious jungle menace known only as Ethan. What did he want with her? Where did he take her? Does he belong to a tribe of similar jungle menaces? Surely there was no chance Lost could wriggle free from being pinned down on some answers for a change. . . .

Amnesia! That most clichéd of creative cop-outs, second only to ''It was all a dream. . . .'' How could I have forgotten? Maybe I, too, had amnesia: the whole history of this mental disorder as device to delay revelations for the purpose of drawing out story lines — wiped from my mind. How could something like that have happened? Wait! I remember: I thought Lost was a better show than that!

Amnesia! Blech.

Claire has returned to the castaways, without a scratch on her (she's still pregnant, too), but she can't remember anything that happened to her — not just during her captivity but during her entire time stranded on Twilight Zone Island. She can recall getting on a plane, and then . . . blank. Natch, Charlie, the former rock star and recovering junkie, and Claire's would-be boyfriend, is seriously bummed by her memory loss — so bummed that he's sent down his own memory lane, making him this week's Excuse Me While I Turn Pensively Away and Drift Into Thought, I'm Having a Flashback guy.

Actually, I liked this little anecdote from Charlie's past. It had all the poignancy of a Raymond Carver short story. Charlie flirts with a rich girl at a bar. He hopes she'll invite him to her swanky home so he can filch some fancy stuff and pawn it for cash so he can buy drugs for himself and his pal. One thing leads to another, and Charlie finds himself employed by the girl's father, selling copy machines. (The scene where he gives this a shot once again gave Dominic Monaghan a chance to demonstrate his gifts for light comedy.) The Big Point of Charlie's flashbacks was to establish his character's aching need for validation, in the form of being seen as trustworthy and dependable. This brings some interesting shadings to his feelings for Claire: Does he really love her, or is he merely attracted to an opportunity for redemption?

The episode's themes of forgetting pain and painful remembering do collide powerfully in the climax, when Charlie shoots Ethan dead. That is, right after Ethan gets beaten into unconsciousness by Dr. Jack, which frankly seemed implausible to me, since (1) Ethan was established as some kind of unstoppable Terminator and (2) Jack was woefully incapable of besting him in combat previously. What, did the show feel obligated to give Matthew Fox a hero moment? Rattled by his emotional psychodrama and enraged by what Ethan did to him (the brute only pummeled the life out of him, then strung him up in a tree), Charlie surrenders to vengeance, as well as his desire to prove himself.

I liked the ambiguity of Lost's final moment, as Claire tells Charlie she can recall their game of eating imaginary peanut butter. She is, in effect, telling him what he wants to hear — she trusts him; he makes her feel safe — but all he feels is doubt and shame.

But enough praise for the show's emotional dynamics — back to cliché bashing! Because in addition to the amnesia device, we also had the Bad Guy Gets Killed Before He Can Reveal His Secrets device. (Thanks a heap, Charlie!) Blech. Lost is quickly coming to a place where the need for some answers outweighs the pleasurable tease of secrets and the joy of water-cooler speculation. Not a lot of answers — just a few. Enough to prove that it is worthy of our loyalty and obsessive interest. Lost needs to remember that its fans came of age in the Twin Peaks/X-Files era. Red herrings, bait-and-switches, deliberately protracted mysteries, and other story-line-stalling tactics only make us suspicious that Lost's writers are actually . . . well, lost.

But at the very least, if they're going to jerk us around, be original about it. Amnesia. Blech. You're better than this, Lost. Act like it.

What do you think? Are you impatient from some answers, or are you willing to keep giving the show the benefit of the doubt?

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Originally posted Feb 10, 2005
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