Doc Jensen

History Lesson

EW senior writer Jeff Jensen unveils a new Big Idea, and tries to figure out the flashbacks, Henry Gale, and more

WHAT'S EKO BUILDING? His silence leaves us curious
Image credit: Lost: Mario Perez
WHAT'S EKO BUILDING? His silence leaves us curious

'Lost' (S2): The History Theory

Congratulations to Drew Wheeler, who correctly attributed last week's movie-referencing quip — ''All for you, Lost! All for you!'' — to my intended source: The Omen.

And congrats to Nancy Arsenault, Lucinda Sutton, Big Joe, and Jason Morris, who guessed The Stand, which is technically accurate, but not what I was going for, because, uh, I've never read it. (Please don't tell my colleague Mr. King, okay?)

All of these winners received an advance copy of THE HISTORY THEORY OF LOST, which I will share with all of you today — right after this week's edition of...

THE LOST MYSTERY HOT SHEET
A weekly ranking of Lost's watercooler mysteries.

1. FLASHBACK CONNECTIONS (LIBBY)
(DOC JENSEN'S 'THEY BETTER HELL EXPLAIN THAT ONE' LOST MYSTERY OF THE WEEK)
LAST WEEK No. 4
CRACKPOT ANALYSIS Until last week, I held to the point of view that Lost could have gotten away with never explaining the indirect links between the castaways in their pre-Island lives as revealed in the flashbacks: Sawyer and Jack's dad jawing deeply over drinks in a Sydney bar; Locke toiling away at a box company owned by lotto-rich minimagnate Hurley; Sayid popping up on a TV in the military recruiting office where Kate's dad works, etc. These moments — which until last week have always been played, for the most part, with the right balance of explicitness and subtlety — could have kept feeding Lost's ongoing Big Theme ideas of coincidence, fate, and manipulation without ever ultimately needing a definitive, declarative statement that clarified the true nature of these intriguing synchronicities.
No more.
To quote my editor, friend, and fellow nutjob Lostie Dan Fierman: ''I DEMAND ANSWERS!''
At the very least, they have to deal squarely with Libby. Ain't no way they can never clarify if she truly was a fellow patient in Hurley's loony bin, or if this is another example of Grok Theory, or if the writers just couldn't resist the temptation of being too winky for their own good.
Time will tell. And the clock is ticking.
DOC JENSEN LOST-O-MATIC INSTA-THEORY Contrary to what others are saying, the Libby/Hurley loony-bin moment was part of Hurley's flashback, not a sudden leap into Libby's memory, which would mark an unprecedented formal break in the show's narrative template. It could be another example of Grok Theory. Or it could be a dramatic expression of how Hurley has welcomed Libby into his paranoid head as a new figure in his personal mythology; her retroactive integration into Hurley's past is merely symbolic of her significance to Hurley's present. She is his angel, always over his shoulder (literally, in his flashback); she is his Beatrice in the mumbo-jumbo limbo of his life, his beacon of enlightenment; she is his touchstone of mental health. And if you can decode what I just said and rewrite it in English, I'll e-mail you an exclusive Doc Jensen Lost theory.
ESTIMATED CHANCE OF DOC J BEING RIGHT 23%
Notice how Libby's face melted into sad, knowing melancholy right after her episode-ending pep talk with Hurley, right before we segued one final time into Hurley's head. Secrets abound behind that look, methinks, and my hunch is we'll discover at least a few of them before season's end. Could she be an Other? A Dharma agent? A Widmore Labs marketing executive?

2. HENRY GALE: ''THIS PLACE IS A JOKE!''
(DOC JENSEN'S PICK FOR LOST MYSTERY OF THE WEEK!)
LAST WEEK No. 2
CRACKPOT ANALYSIS Without a doubt, Henry Gale will be remembered as one of the best things about Lost's second season — and here's hoping we'll be seeing more of him in future seasons. Gale was full of cryptic comments last week, but perhaps the most important may have been dismissing the Hatch as ''a joke.'' Naturally, I wondered if this affirmed my Skinner box speculations about the Hatch. But after I got done prematurely congratulating myself, I realized the more provocative implication of Gale's observation. Recall not so much what Gale had to say about the Hatch but his context for those comments: Gale spoke as if he had no knowledge of the Hatch prior to his capture, or as if he weren't terribly impressed by the Hatch or personally invested in its existence. Either possibility is significant, because if Gale truly is an Other, they both lead to a very important clarification: The Dharma Initiative and the Others are distinct entities with separate agendas. For those of us who assumed that the Others have been working on behalf of Dharma because of the flashback to Claire's captivity inside Dharma's Hospital Hatch as an Others hostage, it now appears that we assumed incorrectly. Assuming, of course, that Gale is telling the truth. And if there's anything that this paragraph has established, it's that we shouldn't assume anything about Lost.
DOC JENSEN LOST-O-MATIC INSTA-THEORY Contrary to Gale's claims of no more lies, I think the little snake is still lying through his teeth. I don't think he's an Other, and I don't think he's Dharma. I think he's someone or something else — an operative working on behalf of another agency at work on the Island. That agency? See No. 6.
ECODJBR About Dharma and the Others being separate? 95%. About Gale not being an Other? 42%

3. HURLEY/DAVE
LAST WEEK Not ranked
CRACKPOT ANALYSIS Mmmmmm... Peanut butter... Mmmmm. Anyway: The Dave thing, for me, completely validated my philosophy that spoilers are a good thing. I watched the episode knowing that Dave was make-believe, thanks to some advance intel supplied by multiple well-placed inside sources (okay, some guy on the East Coast called me right after watching the episode and I begged him to tell me), and so I was able to fully engage and interface with Dave as he really was: a poignant embodiment of Hurley's relationship with food. I'm not fond of fakeouts like the Dave twist, especially when they run the risk of distracting from deeper, superior ideas embedded within a story. Besides, what did the Dave twist really accomplish for the episode, apart from that bit of business with the photograph, which was only necessary to set up the Libby beat at the end? Not much, in my opinion. By the way: My dad, who has joined me of late in the dark side of Lost obsession, insists that he saw in one shot the following numbers on Dave's hand: 10 28 84. I missed this, but I trust my dad, because he's a real-life detective, so he's, like, really good at detecting things.
DOC JENSEN LOST-O-MATIC INSTA-THEORY The date — whose individual digits add up to 23 — indicate the day Hurley created Dave... meaning, Hurley's been seeing fake people for much longer than we realize. By the way: Isn't that 23-people-on-a-balcony tragedy an anecdote from the Dave Eggers' book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius? If so, it could feed my unpublished ''In-Flight Entertainment'' theory, which states that everything that's taking place on the show is a group hallucination taking place aboard Oceanic 815 — a hallucination shaped by the books, comic books, music, movies, etc. that the passengers putting into their brains during the long flight to Los Angeles.
ECODJBR 100%
Because my well-placed inside source told me so.

4. FOOD DROP/LOCKDOWN
LAST WEEK No. 2/No. 5
CRACKPOT ANALYSIS Last week, Lost fans everywhere were speculating that lockdowns in the Hatch are initiated during Dharma food drops — and voilà! Here's Charlie speculating the same darn thing! By the way, my mom has a burning question: Shouldn't the castaways be more worried about where the supplies are coming from, and shouldn't they be less interested in scarfing down corn flakes and more frustrated that an airplane passed overhead and failed to see them?
DOC JENSEN LOST-O-MATIC INSTA-THEORY My parents are becoming more obsessed with the show than I am.
ECODJBR 95%
Now you know where I get it.

5. ''WHAT'S MR. EKO BUILDING?''
(DOC JENSEN'S EASTER-THEMED LOST THEORY OF THE WEEK)
LAST WEEK No. 10
CRACKPOT ANALYSIS Yeah! What is Mr. Eko building? And why won't he answer the damn question?
DOC JENSEN LOST-O-MATIC INSTA-THEORY He's building a church, or a crypt, or a cross, or a giant wicker man, and planning to burn himself up as the sacrificial lamb for the castaways' past transgressions.
ECODJBR 3%
Since I celebrate this week, I can make jokes about it. And anyway, I'm referencing a movie. The definition of cult classic, cheesy yet creepy. Own it today!

6. WIDMORE
LAST WEEK No. 16 (HOT SHEET GAINER OF THE WEEK!)
CRACKPOT ANALYSIS Lost bumbled its first attempt to plant this allegedly major new mythological mystery back in the Charlie episode, then snuck it in a few weeks later in the form of the pregnancy kit (brand name: Widmore Labs) Sun got from Sawyer. Now, word on the Web is that a deleted scene from a recent episode shows WIDMORE on the air tanks of Henry's balloon. Why the deletion? Is Lost getting cold feet about this mystery?
DOC JENSEN LOST-O-MATIC INSTA-THEORY Assuming the answer to that last question is ''No'': Henry Gale will be revealed as an agent for the Widmore Corporation, a vast, far-reaching conglomerate that has somehow obtained Dharma's research into subliminal manipulation (the whispers in the wind, the hieroglyphics in the Hatch timer) and is using that learning to insidiously market its products, as opposed to Dharma's intention, which was to trick the world toward one-world utopia.
ECODJBR 66.6%
Actually, this is a permutation of my ''Imagine'' theory, which we'll get to at another time.

*

THE CRISIS OF CONTEXT: THE HISTORY THEORY OF LOST

As hinted at in my Henry Gale musings, I have recently arrived at a new approach to Lost theorizing. Which is this:

There is no super-string theory that sums up and explains the many mysteries of Lost.

Instead, perhaps we should be viewing the Island's mythology as... well, mythology. More specifically, as history. And an evolving history at that. My bold prediction is that Lost won't give us some Big Answers in the season finale, but it will provide us with some much-needed context to more productively explore the questions.

For example, what if we were to learn the following:

Each of the essential mysteries of Lost — including the Monster, the Dharma Initiative, the Others — have separate and distinct origins. Until now, Lostologists such as myself have confused these mysteries as being intimately integrated components of a single-conspiracy solution. My new thinking is that, at best, all these things are loosely interconnected, inasmuch as they represent eras of Island history that have overlapped.

ANCIENT HISTORY: The Monster. Smokey's been here for ages. We know nothing of his/her/its origins, and probably never will. It's possible that subsequent visitors to the Island have experimented on him/her/it and profoundly altered him/her/it, and maybe even trained him/her/it like a dog. Like a watchdog. As in the ''Cerberus'' reference on the Map.

BLACK ROCK ERA: Slave ship in the Jungle. Came to the Island a few hundred years ago. The story of the survivors (and descendents?) remains untold.

HANSO/DHARMA INITIATIVE ERA: A relatively brief era, and most likely, its true nature remains a mystery — meaning, the Orientation Film is bogus.

THE ''OTHERS'' ERA: The Others are a separate, non-Hanso/Dharma group — A doomsday cult? A radical Deep Ecology sect? The Orphans from Theodore Roszak's novel Flicker? They came to the Island, co-opted abandoned Dharma facilities and equipment, and are masquerading as ''The Dharma Initiative'' as they pursue their own agenda. It's possible that the Others are not a happy bunch of campers. Remember when Zeke greedily took the guns away from Jack, Locke, and Sawyer earlier this season? Is it possible that Zeke ain't seeing eye to eye with this mysterious ''He/Him'' that he and Gale alluded to and is plotting a coup?

THE WIDMORE ERA: The latest era and dominant contextual force on the island, utilizing Dharma science as direct marketing tools — as in, directing marketing products into your consciousness. Could the castaways be test subjects for Widmore product/market-research testing?

In the context of the ongoing, overlapping Others/Widmore eras, three separate ''moments'' have occurred, either by accident or design:

ADAM AND EVE: The skeletons near the waterfall. My gut is that someday, a whole separate Very Special Episode of Lost will be tell their tale.
THE FRENCH EXPEDITION: Late '80s. All save Rousseau die.
OCEANIC 815 CASTAWAYS: Most likely, they were brought to the Island, perhaps by Widmore. Yep: The castaways didn't crash on the Island, but were made to think they crashed on the Island. Most likely, there's a landing strip on the other side of the Island.

In the season finale, Jack and company are gonna find it.

*

Due to Too Much Stuff to Cover, we're going to stop there for now. Next week, we reveal the Ultimate List of Lost Loose Ends, plus a few surprises that'll knock your socks off.

Until then, I leave you with this burning question to debate:

Good fan or bad fan?

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Originally posted Apr 11, 2006
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