How will ''The Lost Experience'' end? EW's expert Jeff Jensen offers his prediction about where the alternate-reality Internet game is going. Plus: introducing the ''Da Vinci Code'' theory...
‘Lost’ (S2): How will ‘The Lost Experience’ end?
First, a burning question:
According to the fictional story that’s being told through The Lost Experience, Lost is just a TV show, and the Hanso Foundation is a real organization. QUESTION: Is this blurring of fantasy and reality pertinent to the core mysteries of Lost? Or is it just a creative conceit that has no relevance beyond The Lost Experience?
Hopefully, I’ll have an official answer soon. In the meantime, here’s DOC JENSEN’S INSTA-THEORY: Rachel Blake, TLE‘s intrepid heroine, is either bogus or being duped and used by the Hanso Foundation. Either way, her function in Hanso’s conspiracy is simply this: to attract a worldwide audience. (You know: just like an ad-supported TV show or certain Internet amusements.) She’s a Pied Piper, and her alluring music is intrigue. After all, doesn’t everyone love a good mystery? (It has certainly worked for Lost.)
What is Hanso planning to do with the global following that Blake is cultivating? Here’s my prediction: In the final act of The Lost Experience, Blake will finally flush the elusive Alvar Hanso out into the open. My guess is that Hanso will agree to participate in a live interview with Blake under the pretense of ”setting the record straight.” But the interview is a Trojan horse. Literally. The broadcast will be embedded with a subliminal message — perhaps the Numbers; perhaps a new sequence of Numbers — that’s designed toâ?¦ do something to us. Maybe unlock our full human potential? Maybe bring instant enlightenment? (See: the ”Instant Karma” assertion of Doc Jensen’s Jingle Theory of Lost). Within seconds of flashing the subliminal signal, the interview will terminate, bringing a strange, abrupt end to TLE (think: the creepy last scene of The Blair Witch Project), and leaving us all to wonder: What the hell just happened? The final words we’ll hear will be Alvar telling Rachel: ”It’s time to go home, daughter.”
Second, an answer to YOUR burning question:
Last week’s interview with Rachel Blake was LEGIT. I posed the questions and got authentic answers. Consider the Q&A officially ”part of the game,” if you like. Put it this way: My interview with Rachel was as ”real” as the code-ensconcing glyph that accompanied last week’s column. Hope that clears things up for some of you.
As for all of the Jim/Pam fans who’ve read the previous paragraphs and feel completelyâ?¦ well, lost, allow me to explain:
The Lost Experience — a Internet-based ”alternate reality game” about a hipster Nancy Drew named Rachel Blake and her efforts to expose the sinister secrets of the Hanso Foundation — has entered an important new phase.
Recently, Blake went to Sri Lanka and recorded a secret Hanso Foundation meeting, during which a film was shown explaining the origins of the Dharma Initiative. Blake has sliced her video document into about 75 little bytes, and now we have to reassemble the film by finding codes that have been scattered across the Web and entering those codes at a website called hansoexposed.com.
When I asked Rachel why she feels she needs to make this so gosh darn difficult — can’t she just post the video in its entirety online? — this is what she said:
”If I didn’t hide it all over the Web and bury it on corporate [sites], those (expletive)ers would wipe it out. Only chance I have at getting the truth out there is ‘gamesmanship.”’
Glyph hunters are invited to share their passwords with fellow glyph hunters. If you want some of mine, send me an e-mail and I’ll share what I’ve collected so far (I’ve got 20 of the available 20 released as of this writing)… or you can visit this column every Tuesday and I’ll recap the info contained in the bits of film and speculate about what they are all adding up to.
But before I do, I encourage you to play the game. Really, it’s fun. And it even gives you a nice buzz of smug. ”Hey, look at me, I’m a cutting-edge Web guy/gal!” If you’re not in the market for cheap ego boosts, then let the promise of Big Revelations (the Numbers! the DHARMA acronym! Alvar Hanso!) inspire you. Finally, the tricky/trippy/trying experience that has been The Lost Experience is delivering the geeky goods. And what’s even better, cheating is allowed! Here’s my Glyph Hunting for Dummies suggestion:
1. Set up a glyph-collecting account at hansoexposed.com. It’s quick and free and there are NO ADS.
2. Let two killer Lost fan sites — thelostexperience.com or thelostexperienceclues.com — do the glyph hunting for you. They seem to have a knack for finding these things within, like, seconds of their release. Visit one or both of the sites each morning, and scribble down the info they’ve discovered.
3. Click over to hansoexposed.com; input the codes; inspect and view.
Since there’s going to be about 75 of these bits of film, and they are being released out of sequence, my advice would be to arrange them as you go. It’s gonna be even more complicated if you wait until the very end.
Or you can just let me explain it for you. Here’s what I’ve pieced together (literally) so far:
— Presumably, the film opens with shady Hanso Foundation exec Dr. Thomas Mittelwerk addressing a group of unseen people.
— Presumably, the group of unseen people are shown a film — a Dharma orientation film. Actually, the mother of all Dharma orientation films.
— The copyright date is 1975. That’s five years after the creation of the Dharma Initiative, per the brief history provided by ”Dr. Marvin Candle” in the Station Three orientation film, and five years before the creation of the Pearl and Swan orientation films, per their copyright dates. This assumes, of course, that the information in those later orientation films is accurate — including their dating.
The film is narrated by an as yet unnamed man with a dark beard and a light accent, probably Danish. It is possible that he could be Alvar Hanso, circa 1975. So far, ”Mr. Beardy,” as fansites have dubbed him, has explained that:
* In the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union collaborated with the United Nations on a secret project.
* The DHARMA acronym stands for Department of Heuristics and Research on Material Applications. (Head over to wikipedia.org for a provocative tutorial on Heuristics.) Mr. Beardy adds that Dharma also means ”The one true way.”
* There is also mention of Dharma cofounders Gerald and Karen DeGroot and a ”secret facility…”
There’s more — including a reference to an ”equation” that was ”buried by those who commissioned it” — but those are the chunky morsels gleaned from the few fragments so far released. DOC JENSEN TIP: Check out valenzettiequation.com, an official TLE website whose purpose in the game has not yet been made clear. Check out the passages about how the U.S. and the Soviet Union, working with the U.N., financed the work of mathematician Enzo Valenzetti in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis. One would have to assume that the Valenzetti Equation is the project referred to in the film.
THE DA VINCI CODE THEORY OF LOST
All this glyph hunting and code breaking definitely has me feeling like Robert Langdon — which reminds of how much Lost resembles everybody’s favorite heretical conspiracy theory thriller. Consider:
O, Draconian Devil! O, Devilish Digits!
In Dan Brown’s blockbuster novel, the first riddle that symbologist Robert Langdon has to crack is the relevance of the legendary Fibonacci sequence to various other riddles. On Lost, we have the Numbers (4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42), a mysterious set of integers linked to various other mysteries (Hurley’s bad luck, the Hatch, the computer). Could the Numbers be the Valenzetti Equation? If so, then check out that aforementioned Valenzetti website, especially the part that states where Valenzetti went to school: the Fibonacci State Institute of Advanced Sciences.
Follow The (Cultural) Clues!
In The Da Vinci Code, clues to an elaborate mystery/conspiracy are found in notable works of art like Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Similarly, Lost has referenced novels like The Turn of the Screw, The Third Policeman, and now Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend to illuminate (albeit obliquely) character arcs and aspects of its mythology. (And what could be more scavenger hunt-ish than The Lost Experience, which has fans searching the Web for pop culture sites?)
In The Da Vinci Code, Langdon must crack the code to a lockbox known as a cryptext that contains the location of the Holy Grail. The corollary in Lost is the Map, showing the locations of various Hatches on the Island and cluttered with annotations describing the functions and history of the Dharma Initiative. But getting to actually see this map is as tricky as cracking Langdon’s cryptext, since it’s painted on a mysterious retractable wall and only visible in black light. (By the way, this current glyph-hunting phase of The Lost Experience — pure cryptext craziness.)
”The Man” Is Lying To You. (Or Is He?)
In Da Vinci and Lost, anything that is presented as ”official information” should be regarded with skepticism. In Da Vinci, it’s the accepted history of the Catholic Church. In Lost, it’s the purported history of The Dharma Initiative provided by Dr. Marvin Candle (or is that Dr. Mark Wickmund?) in the Swan and Pearl Orientation Films.
It’s The Themes, Stupid!
Both Da Vinci and Lost share a central concern: the conflict between faith and reason. And both use convoluted conspiracy theories as the means to present criticisms of blind trust and zealous belief. (In Da Vinci, it’s the Vatican’s efforts to suppress the truth about Mary Magdalene; in Lost, it’s the myth of the Button, per the story spun by the Orientation Film.) It should be noted that in both Da Vinci and Lost, these sketchy, poorly substantiated and seemingly implausible conspiracy theories are essentially proven to be true. In Da Vinci, Langdon finds reason to believe in the Magdalene heresy after realizing that ”The Holy Grail” is buried in the Louvre. And in Lost, Locke realizes that the Button really does have a function (and a terrifying one at that) when he discovered in the season finale that the computer wasn’t useless after all but was actually regulating the fluctuations of the Island’s unique electromagnetic energy. (I think.)
I know what you might be saying: ”Cute, Doc Jensen. A neat parlor trick — but how does it really illuminate Lost?”
A fair criticism. But I have an answer. See, The Da Vinci Code Theory of Lost is actually the appetizer before the big meal — an exciting new Big Theory that I think represents the closest I have ever come to cracking the Lost code, and I dare say it might represent the most reasonable theory I’ve read anywhere. A bold statement, I know. But in the next couple weeks, I’ll prove it to you. I call it the ”TV Is Good For You Theory of Lost.”
But that’s ”coming soon.” More immediately, keep checking in with EW.com’s blog, PopWatch, throughout the week for TLE updates. And come back next week for our next TLE recap, and maybe a surprise or two. Until then: