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'Lost' (S4): The show is back!

With a little help from Josh Holloway, Jorge Garcia, and Michael Emerson, Doc Jensen teases tonight’s return episode, looks ahead to the season finale, and breaks out his ”Lost” dictionary to define the words ”Dharka” and ”Basra”

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‘Lost’ (S4): The show is back!

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME (PART ONE)
THE TEASE!
In which we preview tonight’s episode of Lost — the first of five installments to air over the next six weeks — with a cryptic bit or two from executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof.

This week, something special as we celebrate the return of Lost from its strike-induced spring break: We’re going audiovisual with a video tease. Check out this clip, in which ”Darlton” preview tonight’s episode, ”The Shape of Things to Come,” with a little help from friends Michael Emerson, Josh Holloway, and Jorge Garcia. (By the way, don’t let the fact that I interviewed the producers on April Fool’s Day scare you. Everything they say is legit. I think.)

To their tease, I would add this: ”The Shape of Things to Come” also happens to be the title of a famed H.G. Wells book, which also spawned a movie written by the author called, more simply, Things to Come. When I asked the producers what the episode and Wells’ work have in common, they said it basically boils down to one word:

Basra.

I leave it to you to investigate further for now. Tune in tomorrow for my recap, in which I’ll offer my highly theoretical and mildly incoherent two cents.

CRACKING THE DHARKA CODE!

A couple weeks ago, I teased tonight’s episode — and my recent feature story about Lost — with a single, silly word: Dharka. I asked you guys for guesses, and you responded with some interesting theories. By far the most popular was this one from reader Jason Hollen:

Dharka is a word in the language Urdu, which is the national language of Pakistan, meaning alarm. So, the reference refers both to the fact that Locke camp is being attacked and also that the flash-forward takes place in the Mideast. The coming war will be set up with a Mideast war zone and the burning of one of the barrack houses. My first thought was Dharma in Tunisia, but I don’t believe that to be right now. Also, it would be a nice play on words for Dharma and Karma.”

What I love about this guess is that it sounds perfectly plausible and utterly relevant while also being not at all what I intended and therefore, technically, ”wrong.” (Now I know what the producers must feel like when they read some of our theories. Emphasis on ”some.”)

No, folks, the correct answer comes from the tag-team tandem of ”ErasedSlate” and ”JimmyJamz,” who pooled their powers to win my Doc Jensen No Prize. To be clear, it was Jimmy who guessed it and Erased who pitched it after reading it on another message board; my understanding is that these guys don’t even know each other. You gotta love the Internet. And so it goes that last week, I got the following e-mail from Mr. Slate:

”So, is Dharka a Dharma Parka?”

DING! DING! DING! You are correct, sir(s)! To elaborate on the opening paragraph of my on-the-set report, I spent St. Patrick’s Day at a broiling rock quarry where Lost was shooting a scene in which Ben makes a trip to a Middle Eastern desert in the flash-forward future. But for some reason, he’s wearing a warm winter parka bearing a Dharma Initiative logo. Don’t ask me: I’m sworn to secrecy about the specifics…but I’ll give you another tease. Ready? Here it is:

Double-Crossing Telescopic Two-for-One Ass Whooping!

The answer is so spoiler sensitive, I won’t be able to reveal it until tomorrow’s recap, although by then I’m sure you’ll have figured it out, as you, too, will have seen what I have seen. And what I’ve seen? Kick-ass. I think this wait will be worth it.

NEXT PAGE: What’s in store for this season’s finale?

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME (PART TWO)
THE HIGH-STAKES SIGNIFICANCE OF LOST‘S SUPER-SIZED SEASON FINALE

Perhaps most of you have heard the cool news that Lost‘s season finale will now be a two-hour affair, airing from 9-11 p.m. on May 29. When I interviewed DL and CC 23 days ago, they were just beginning to recognize the need for another hour for season 4 as they were finishing up the first draft of the finale. I could sense they were feeling the pressure of wrapping up the season’s storylines, especially after last year’s crop of season cappers, in which Lost‘s flash-forward stunner was widely acclaimed for reinventing the series but a host of other shows (particularly Heroes; remember that show?) were blasted for fumbling their finales. As Lindelof explained:

”The finale that we are writing now is in many ways the pilot for what season 5 is going to be. Creative choices we are making and where we leave our characters at the end of the season have to hold from May 22 and the end of January of next year [the projected start of Lost‘s fifth season]. The finale, there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on us; it’s like playing in the championship if you’re a basketball team. You have to play enormously well or else [the fans] will hold it against you — especially if you’re off the air for eight months and you don’t have a reset button like 24. Shows like Lost or Heroes or Grey’s Anatomy, they are judged by their last episodes, and the taste in the audience’s mouth after the last episode has aired directly influences the storytelling coming in next season.”

Actually, the stakes might be bigger than that, given the fundamental challenge facing Lost next season. In my interview, I asked the writers a question unrelated to the finale: Does the prospect of 36 more episodes — the number of episodes left before the end of Lost — feel like too much, not enough, or just right in terms of bringing their story to a conclusion? This was Damon’s response, which was seconded by Cuse:

”From our vantage point right now, they feel like they’re just enough. The real trick of season 5 will be getting to season 6 without feeling like it’s stalling. Because the audience is so used to the narrative moving at 90 miles an hour [this season] that even a reduction of speed to 70 will feel slower. So as far as the pacing of the fifth season goes, we have to basically hold back on the things the audience really, really cares about for the final season…. I think because people love season 4 so much, I think all of us are preparing for the inevitable ‘Season 5 sucks, it was completely unnecessary, let’s just get to the good stuff.’ Although we think we have some really great stuff in season 5, it is the connective tissue that will bring us home. But that is the nature of the beast.”

NEXT PAGE: Charles Widmore…starring in Spamalot?

To be very clear, you should not read this statement as an admission from the producers that season 5 will be anything less than essential Lost; they were merely articulating the creative challenge of a show that is now able to truly tell its story as if it were a novel — and we all know that novels save the big revelations for the last chapters.

Bottom line: It would be a shame if all the renewed creative mojo and pop-culture buzz that season 4 has mustered for Lost would be wasted on a lame finale. Of course, giving the show an extra hour doesn’t automatically guarantee that the finale won’t suck; the guys are still gonna need to play their butts off in that championship match. But from a fan’s point of view, I’m glad ABC has put the writers in a position to play their best possible game.

That’s it this week. I have to admit, Doc Jensen is still recharging his batteries from a recent mess of non-Lost work. I just got back from London on a top-secret mission (more on that later this year), but Lost proved inescapable. Just down the street from my hotel, there was Charles Widmore himself, Alan Dale, starring in Spamalot. (FYI: those rumors of Lost recently trekking to London to shoot some scenes with Dale and Michael Emerson? True. I also hear that Emerson wasn’t the only Hawaii-based Lost actor to make the trip…) Down the street the other direction is one of my favorite comic-book stores in the world, Forbidden Planet London. As I shopped, I heard a trio of blokes discussing Lost; two of them had just discovered the show on DVD and were encouraging the third to do the same.

On my way out of London, I found a book at Heathrow Airport called The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The book grapples with ideas that I’ve long argued are essential Lost themes: how we make sense — or fail to make sense — of incredible, sometimes catastrophic events; how we live our lives amid the ambiguity of uncertainty. But what caught my eye was the jacket art of the book: The ”black swan” featured on the cover looks very, very similar to the is-it-a-swan-or-is-it-a-snake? logo of The Hatch, a.k.a. Station 3: The Swan. The book was published in 2007, so I can’t make one of my patented crazy-talk assertions that The Black Swan is some kind of secret Lost text. But who knows? Maybe Jack could pick up the book in a future flash-forward. It’s very much a ”man of science” kind of tomb….

Questions? Send ’em! JeffJensenEW@aol.com.

Hasta!

—Doc J

Need a refresher on all the show’s new characters? Get Doc Jensen’s intel on Miles, Faraday, and all the others.