EW senior writer Jeff Jensen solves the show! (Or so he thinks...) Disagree with him? Then post your own best guesses about the hatch, the Dharma Initiative, and other mysteries
‘Lost’ (S2): Doc Jensen solves it! (Or so he thinks…)
Every month EW will turn to our shadowy operative inside the world of Lost for insight. Burn this when you’re done. The truth is out there.
1. THE ISLAND: It’s Alive!
Our theory of Lost begins with the question posed in the pilot by smack-addled rocker Charlie: ”Guys…where are we?” Some have argued that the island could be a hallucination — ”A Psychological Shipwreck,” to use the title of an 1879 short story by Lost-linked author Ambrose Bierce. Or an alien twilight zone. It’s tempting to go with ”limbo” — an elastic enough idea to corral the show’s incredible coincidences and odd details, like a smoke monster and a band of child-swiping Others. But we believe the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 aren’t stuck in a mass delusion or a satanic mousetrap. They’re alive on the island. A haunted island. And it was made that way by the Dharma Initiative.
2. THE DHARMA INITIATIVE: Head Games
What we know about Dharma is incomplete at best, utterly bogus at worst. According to a choppy ”orientation film” found in the hatch, Dharma founders Gerald and Karen DeGroot established a research facility on the island in the 1970s to conduct experiments in meteorology, zoology, electromagnetism, psychology, and parapsychology — a dubious science that believes the brain houses mind-over-matter powers. (Think X-Men, Jedi Knights, and sci-fi author Robert Heinlein, whose 1941 short story Lost Legacy is about kids realizing their psychic potential under the tutelage of — COINCIDENCE ALERT! — Ambrose Bierce.) Our theory is that intentionally or not, the Dharma team pulled loose psychic powers from one of its test subjects — skip to No. 5 for the answer about who that might be — with disastrous results. How? With fear. Where? Where else, down in…
3. THE HATCH: Human Testing
The orientation film claims the hatch was originally used to study the island’s ”unique” electromagnetic energy. And indeed, there is a curious wall that seems to be humming with the stuff. But the filmstrip also states that the DeGroots were following B.F. Skinner, a psychologist famous for his Skinner boxes: controlled environments used to study animal behavior. Folks, the hatch is a human Skinner box.
Why wasn’t this mentioned in the orientation film? Because the orientation film is part of the experiment! The film was fiction, designed to induce paranoia and fear and observe the test subject’s reaction. What Dharma was studying was the behavior every Lost fanatic engages in: the human imperative to organize seemingly random details into some kind of order. The problem is that someone — someone we haven’t seen or met yet — was put in the hatch and had a psychic break of world-altering proportions.
4. THE NUMBERS: Those Damn Yankees!
It has been Lost‘s most baffling conundrum: the seemingly inexplicable connection between Hurley’s havoc-causing Lotto picks — 4 8 15 16 23 42 — and the hatch’s computer code. This is a two-part riddle. First, the original purpose of the numbers: Skinner box experiments require test subjects to execute empty tasks, like pulling levers or, say, inputting digits into a computer. The Dharma-ites chose the sequence because…they were big Yankee fans, and each number correlates to a retired Yankee jersey. But the second question is far more important: What purpose do the numbers serve now? There are lots of out-there (and fun) ways to go with this, but the truth is that the numbers don’t do anything. The ”cursed” digits are just one more sinister detail in Dharma’s elaborate sleight of hand intended to freak out test subjects. The problem was that extreme stress on the subject in the hatch combined with the electromagnetic energy down there to jar loose some suppressed psychic powers. And it jarred them loose in the wrong individual. In that explosive moment, the once meaningless digits were encoded with devilish life. Hence, Hurley’s bad luck, and a virus that is rewriting reality on the island.
5. THE ANSWER TO ‘LOST’: The Island Is Haunted by a Powerful Psychic
The Dharma experiments resulted in the creation of a potent disembodied being. A being deeply steeped in pop culture — think about all the novels, comic books, and random flotsam that make up the DNA of Lost — and powerful enough to bring those bits of pop culture to life. Someone who imprinted his consciousness on the island. Someone whose radioactive corpse was walled up in the hatch. Someone named Aaron.
So how did the Oceanic crew end up on the island? Aaron summoned them, because he has as-yet-undetermined uses for each of them…and he needed a new body. The body of a then-unborn baby. Claire’s baby. Which is why the Others (Aaron’s followers) have tried to kidnap her child. And why they had to snatch poor, psychic Walt — remember that dead bird from season 1? — who was the only one with the ability to see through their plan.
Of course, the castaways could all be dead. It could be a mass hallucination. The Others could be trying to secure franchise rights to the Twilight Zone Dairy Queen. But this is our story, and we’re sticking to it. At least until the start of the next episode.
Share your own Lost conspiracy theory or questions with Jeff by filling out the form below. Jeff will select his favorites and respond to them. Come back next week to see his responses.