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'Lost' countdown: Willy Wonka, U2, and the return of Jack vs. Locke!

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Image Credit: Mario Perez/ABCLast week’s episode of Lost had several moments that got us all buzzing around the virtual water cooler. Desmond hitting John Locke with his car in the Sideways world. The Monster throwing Desmond down a well in the Island world. And then, there was the Willy Wonka promo for tonight’s episode. Now that was an evocative and provocative bit of marketing communication! As many readers have pointed out to me, season 6 does seem analogous to the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The candidates are golden ticket winners, eligible to win the redemption factory that is The Island from retiring Jacob, but first they must pass various tests of character as well as the temptations of Mr. Slugworth, i.e. the Man In Black. The promo made use of the scene from the 1971 Gene Wilder film in which the eccentric confectioner takes his young would-be successors on a surreal boat ride and recites a creepy tone poem that expresses the kids’ intensifying anxiety and discombobulation as they journey deeper into a world where the rules of order and laws of reason are becoming increasingly unclear if not irrelevant. The lyrics used by Lost:

There’s no earthly way of knowing

Which direction we are going…

Not a speck of light is showing

So the danger must be growing

Are the fires of hell a-glowing?

Is the grisly reaper mowing?

Yes, the danger must be growing…

And they’re certainly not showing

Any signs that they are slowing!

Here’s the promo itself, in case my prose reconstruction doesn’t do it for you and you don’t mean being spoiled with decontextualized imagery:

The promo definitely evokes to the unsettling feelings and troubling questions produced by Fake John Locke. For me, the defining mystery of the season after the true nature of the Sideways world is the sincerity of the Man In Black. Is he really a semi-good shepherd who wants to get the castaways off The Island so he himself can escape his eternal incarceration? Or is he the bitter, cynical psycho who threatened to kill seemingly saintly Island guardian Jacob and any of his replacements back in “Ab Aeterno”? It’s so hard to know, especially when the character in question is wearing the flesh and speaking with the voice of John Locke, one of the most beloved of all Lost characters.

But you know, there’s another song about the inner tumult produced by profound disorientation, one that speaks to what’s happening in the Sideways world, where an outbreak of super-sized consciousness (Sideways minds enhanced by Island minds or at least their memories) is leading to a more positive version of discombobulation, marked by the euphoric excitement of new possibilities for heart, head and soul. The song is “Vertigo” by U2. Give me something “more powerful than a thought,” Brother Desmond! Hit me with your chariot of love and “give me something I can feel!” (Although the ominous lyrics “Just give me what I want and no one gets hurt” does sound Man In Blackish…) The video:

Tonight’s episode of Lost is called “The Last Recruit.” My guess is that we’re talking about the last convert to Fake Locke’s escape-plan mission, and I’m guessing the candidate in question is Jack. I’m also guessing the hyper-rational doc is going to need some serious convincing, especially from a “thing” (to use Ilana’s word) that represents a total subversion of his scientific worldview, an entity that looks like John Locke but isn’t John Locke, a supernatural construct that flouts the laws of nature. Season 6 has been missing some old-school Jack versus Locke conflict; perhaps with Team Hurley now merged with Team Locke we’ll get an injection of their drama, or at least a version of it. After all, the real John Locke is dead. But where is he? Could he be among the chorus of Island-trapped whispers? Or has he been locked up inside the flesh box of Sideways Locke? Many of you think Desmond’s hit-and-run was an attempt to jar Island Locke’s mind loose. Couldn’t Desmond have utilized a less illegal means of inflicting epiphany? And why so public? Why not hit Locke over the head with a hammer in a dark alley? But perhaps Desmond was going for a two-for-one. After all, Desmond’s violence was also a traumatic event for eyewitness Ben; perhaps Des was trying to shock Island Ben’s mind to the forefront of consciousness, too? And if Sideways Locke is en route to Sideways Jack’s operation room, maybe it’ll be a for three-for-one, too.

The (dubiously qualified) literature professor in me would like to remind all of us that violence-as-grace was a tactic endorsed by Lost-cited author Flannery O’Connor, who wrote the short story “Everything That Rises Must Converge.” O’Connor had a habit of facilitating redemption moments for lost soul characters through an ironic use of brutality. Her characters literally get enlightenment beaten into them. She once offered this explanation: ”I suppose the reasons for the use of so much violence in modern fiction will differ with each writer who uses it, but in my own stories I have found that violence is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace. Their heads are so hard that almost nothing else will do the work. This idea, that reality is something to which we must be returned at considerable cost, is one which is seldom understood by the casual reader, but it is one which is implicit in the Christian view of the world.” (Excerpted from page 112 of O’Connor’s Mystery & Manners.)

Speaking of methodology and returning to reality, let’s briefly talk about my recap of last week’s episode, “Everybody Loves Hugo.” Specifically, let’s talk about how many of my readers hated it. I don’t think I’ve ever received so many negative comments or derisive e-mails in response to something I’ve written about Lost. My recap was rambling and ridiculous, a self-indulgent conversation with myself filled with pretentious riffs on existentialism and ridiculous theories about Island mythology, sprinkled with bad jokes, song lyrics, and quotations from celebrated astrophysicists. In other words, my recap of “Everybody Loves Hugo” was pretty much like… every other recap I write about Lost, but apparently too many degrees too much for many of you. And you know what? I agree. My “methodology” got the better of me last week. Now, I’m not planning on changing how I do business too much. But maybe I can put some more meat on the platter to justify the excessive amount of sauce. Then again, I might be totally lying to you. In fact, tonight, I just may decided to ignore the episode altogether and write up a poorly researched, typo-filled 10,000 word manifesto on Marxism. I’m kinda like Willy Wonka that way: You just never know which direction I am going.

No Totally Lost today, kids. Sorry about that. We’re all slammed with work — including some stuff that I think you’re going to really dig, once we are able to share it with you. Since there’s no new Lost next week, our next installment of Totally Lost will post on May 4. I’ll be posting an instant reaction to “The Last Recruit” later tonight, and my recap will post sometime tomorrow. Send me your burning questions: docjensenew@gmail.com. I’ll be posting another edition of reader mail on Friday.

I celebrate both the light and anti-Doc Jensen grumpiness within you!

Doc