TV Article

Others Wise

Jeff Jensen, EW's obsessed ''Lost'' expert, puts forth his first theories of the new season, involving sexuality and some seriously weird science

M.C. Gainey, Lost | TOM FOOLERY Is Mr. Friendly hiding secrets about his character in all those cargo pockets?
Image credit: Lost: Mario Lopez
TOM FOOLERY Is Mr. Friendly hiding secrets about his character in all those cargo pockets?

''Lost'': Who ARE you people? Theories on the Others

Did last week's season premiere rock or what?

Maybe as perfect an episode of Lost as there ever has been. An emotionally compelling blend of character-driven drama, forward-moving mythology, head-spinning answers, and, naturally, head-scratching new mysteries.

Which brings us to the matter at hand. Buckle up, kids. Because this batch of Lost theories is my bestest yet! Without further ado, I bring you our weekly Wednesday special...

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

1. WHO'S ''HE/HIM''???

LAST SEASON No. 5

ANALYSIS One of the few burning questions about the Others that the season premiere didn't explicitly address — or did it? ''He/Him'' would be the alleged leader of the Others, previously referred to as ''he'' by Mr. Friendly/Tom and ''him'' by Henry Gale/Ben. In the premiere, it appeared as if Ben was the honorable mayor of Othersburgh, which to me looked like The Village (The Prisoner) by way of Stars Hollow (Gilmore Girls). (And judging from the passive-aggressive snickering, bug-eyed Ben isn't the most beloved authority figure, either.) Is the matter settled? Is Ben the Keyser Soze of the island underworld? Or have we not yet met the ominous Godfather of the Others?

ANSWER Definitely not settled — yet. According to a very knowledgeable Lost source, the matter of the identity of He/Him is ''a good question to be asking.''

THEORY The phantom regent who rules the Others has not yet been seen, but when the curtain is finally pulled away and this elusive Number One stands revealed, I predict ''He/Him'' will be played by Number Six himself, The Prisoner's Patrick McGoohan.

ESTIMATED CHANCE OF BEING RIGHT 6%

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2. IS MR. FRIENDLY GAY?
(LOST DEBATE OF THE WEEK!)

LAST SEASON Not ranked — not by a long shot.

ANALYSIS Of all the cryptic bits in the premiere that Lost fans could have pounced upon for water-cool discussion, Tom's conspicuously coy explanation for why he wasn't excited by the prospect of watching the designated hot chick take a shower — ''Kate, you're not my type'' — was definitely the most titillating. Lost certainly has attached many ambiguities to Big Tom since his first appearance in season 1, but I never in a million years would have thought his sexuality was one of them. After all, we're talking about a man who belongs to a secret, closeted society that lurks in wooded areas at night, likes to play dress up, and listens to Petula Clark records. And his nickname is Mr. Friendly! Doesn't sound like any gay man that I personally know. How about you?

MY POINT, MINUS THE SARCASM, PLUS A THEORY OR TWO The menacing Tom would seem to be an unlikely (not to mention risky) choice for Lost's first gay character. But Lost could be smart enough to make this work. Certainly the Others could be used to create a rich allegory for ''one of them'' demonization, culturally formed and reinforced prejudices, and plain old ignorant thinking. Remember, according to Ben, ''We're the good guys.''

A SECOND OPINION I had a great conversation with my EW colleague and fellow Lost fan Adam B. Vary about this subject. I asked him if he would share some of his perspective, and he obliged:

''The moment Mr. Friendly told Kate last week that she wasn't his type, my immediate reaction was, 'Oh, he's gay — finally.' For two seasons, I'd watched Lost explore people colored with practically every strand of diversity imaginable: rich to poor, young to old, thin to heavy, Southern, Northern, Midwestern, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, European, African, Australian, agnostic, Christian, Muslim, single, married, formerly married, (formerly) disabled and on and on and on. But never gay. Given how we're told Lost's showrunners have a Grand Plan, it really begins to bring up the question: Where in this Benetton collection of tortured souls are all the 'mos?

''Before I get too excited by last week's winking, however, I'm reminded that, on Lost, the obvious explanation tends to be the wrong one, so I'm actually inclined to believe Mr. Friendly isn't gay. Which is a relief, really — what would the show be saying by making one of its skeeviest characters its first Friend of Dorothy? — but only dangles that question in front of me even more insistently. Of course, when this is asked of Lost's powers-that-be, we're told, 'How do you know there aren't any?' So maybe some LGBT's really are lollygagging in the background on the beach. I'd just like to get to know at least one of them.''

THEN AGAIN... Maybe Tom just prefers blonds. Or polar bears. (Keep reading...)

ESTIMATED CHANCE OF TOM BEING GAY 10%, but probably a lot higher than I'm admitting right now.

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3. WHAT'S WITH JULIET'S MUST LIST?

LAST SEASON Not ranked

ANALYSIS Being the geeky Romeos that we are, we've become immediately smitten with Juliet, Lost's Stephen King-reading, Petula Clark-grooving new Other. But when we began to dissect her Must List for Big Theory clues, we began to worry for the melancholy tropical suburbanite. Take ''Downtown,'' Clark's 1964 smash, which begins: ''When you're alone and life is making you lonely you can always go... downtown!'' But without a hipster party zone on the island that we know of, one wonders if Juliet might consider chasing her blues away by following the tragic example of her Shakespearean namesake. Things get more foreboding when you scrutinize the ''Downtown'' sequence and see that the Clark disc was tucked inside the case for Talking Heads' Speaking in Tongues, which features ''Burning Down The House.'' The strange musical pairing becomes downright chilling when you pause, squint, and see that Juliet's ''favorite book'' is King's Carrie, which ends with the pig blood-drenched telekinetic teen not just burning down the gym (and incinerating her cruel classmates), but also burning down her house (and killing her abusive religious mother), then burning down the roadhouse bar where her miserable mutant life was conceived. (If this is Juliet's ''favorite book,'' I wonder what the rest of her top ten looks like.)

THEORY Juliet and the Others were psychic Dharma Initiative lab rats who rebelled against exploitive ''parapsychology'' experiments, which were probably intended to create mind-control and mind-swapping techniques; hence, Juliet's huffy book club speech about ''free will.'' (FYI, if we are correctly interpreting the Map that John Locke found in the Hatch, one of the Dharma facilities ''divested'' — revolted? — from the project in 1985.) The Others aren't actually malevolent; their lonely island mission is to redeem Dharma's demented legacy and guide the lost souls who reach their strange shores toward the same kind of personal enlightenment that they possess. Which is the real reason why Mr. Friendly told Kate she wasn't his ''type.'' Spiritually speaking, she's not good enough for him. Yet.

ESTIMATED CHANCE OF BEING RIGHT 75%. But please: We never want to see Kate and Tom getting too friendly.

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4. THE DHARMA ZOO

LAST SEASON Not ranked

ANALYSIS When Juliet casually revealed that Jack's cell inside Dharma's former zoology facility, the Hydra, had been a lab for studying sharks and dolphins, I naturally began to wonder what kind of weird science was being conducted inside this station. I thought, ''Doc, aren't sharks and dolphins natural enemies? Perhaps these brainy, aquatic rivals were being used in experiments designed to purge aggressive behavior and reconstruct hostile survival-of-the-fittest instincts. Just imagine if that research could be applied to human beings. In fact, maybe Dharma was trying to turn the Utopian dream of John Lennon's 'Imagine' into a genetically engineered reality.''

And then I thought to myself, ''Nah! That's crazy talk, Doc! Bring it back down to plausible science. Clearly, what Dharma was really trying to do was... manufacture human/animal hybrids, just like The Island of Dr. Moreau!''

THEORY Think about the Others. Think about their cute, simple pet names. Ben. Tom. Juliet. Think about their bare feet, padding silently and easily through the jungle as if they were born to it. Think about ''Henry Gale,'' and how he links to The Wizard of Oz, which includes one of the most famous human/animal hybrids in pop culture, the Cowardly Lion.

In fact, the more you think about it, the more it makes sense that there's some kind of dark animal magic on Lost. Mr. Friendly/Tom could be part polar bear, a seemingly cuddly yet very dangerous predator. (Hence, why Kate isn't his ''type,'' and why he knows that it only took two hours for the bears to crack the food puzzle.) Henry Gale/Ben could be part shark, allegedly villainous but actually misunderstood. (Again: ''We're the good guys...'') And Juliet could be part dolphin, playful, empathic, and always coming to the rescue, like the way she reached out to Jack when he was drowning in flashback angst. Her Flipper-esque nature also explains her uneasy relationship with Ben; remember, dolphins and sharks don't mix. Just like ''Fire + Water,'' the title of the weirdest Lost episode ever (it was the one where Charlie was inexplicably overwhelmed by religiously tinged hallucinations), and the episode that just may explain all of this theoretical monkey business. During one of Charlie's flashback scenes, there was a visual reference to the cover art of Pink Floyd's Animals, a concept album inspired by George Orwell's Animal Farm. Now, we know that Dharma was doing experiments in zoology and parapsychology; perhaps the animals were test subjects for experiments in mind/body separation and consciousness transfer. In fact, Smokey the Monster — which roars like a bear, hunts like a shark, and thinks telepathically like a dolphin (or so some believe) — may have been the prototype for switch-and-mix hybrid engineering. (Further proof: according to the Map found in the Hatch, Dharma referred to Smokey as ''Cerberus,'' a mythic beast with three heads.)

According to The Lost Experience, the summertime Internet extravaganza produced by the show's creative team, Dharma's mission was to not only explore ways to improve mankind (see: Dr. Moreau), but more pressingly, to develop radical strategies to preserve the human species from impending self-destruction (think: Noah's Ark); perhaps Dharma was trying to download human consciousness into sea creatures in case one of Al Gore's awful inconvenient truths triggered another flood.

Regardless, it's possible that my animal-magic contention supersedes or possibly intersects with my previously stated Dharma-test-subject-uprising theory. Maybe the Hydra animals telepathically took control of the scientists. Or maybe they melded minds with the human test subjects and drove the scientists away. (According to an annotation on the Map of all the Dharma facilities found in the Hatch by John Locke, an unspecified entity inexplicably ''divested from the project in 1985''; could this entity be the Others?)

So why are these beastly Others obsessed with the Oceanic 815 castaways? Maybe it's an instinctively mandated Darwinian turf war. Maybe they want to transfer their consciousness into Jack, Kate, and Sawyer's stronger, younger bodies.

But I have a kinder, gentler theory: Maybe the Others represent a new kind of being, one that lives in harmony with nature. (The fact that they walk silently and barefoot through the jungle seems to suggest that they possess an animal's sense of ease in the jungle environment.) And maybe as such, they have something they want to teach our human castaways about living better, more enlightened lives. Yes, the Others do sometimes behave like rabid dogs... but really, they just want to be man's best friend.

ESTIMATED CHANCE OF BEING RIGHT Negative 99.999%

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5. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO THE GUYS IN THE HATCH?

LAST SEASON No. 1

ANALYSIS I refer, of course, to Desmond, Locke, and Mr. Eko, who were in the Hatch when it was blown to smithereens. Similar to last season's three-part, three-episode opener, Lost is going to take three episodes to address all the cliff-hangers from its sophomore finale. Tonight's outing will deal with the beach-bound fuselage crew, and in particular, Sayid, Jin, and Sun (the Korean couple will get the episode's flashback story). And while we might catch a glimpse of one of the Hatch boys (a very revealing glimpse, according to some spoiler reports), the former button-pushers will be bringing up the rear of the trilogy next week.

TEASE OF THE WEEK According to my sources, at least one of the three button men will return to action transformed in such a way that gives him something in common with one of the heroes over on Heroes.

ESTIMATED CHANCE OF DOC JENSEN'S SPOILERISH TEASE BEING ABSOLUTELY RIGHT 93.999%. After all, Lost theorizing isn't an exact science. Not like making animal/human hybrids.

Until next week —
Doc Jensen

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