In his continuing attempt to come up with a unified theory of ''Lost,'' EW senior writer Jeff Jensen focuses on an unusual suspect

By Jeff Jensen
January 06, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST
Jorge Garcia: ABC/Art Streiber

‘Lost’ (S2): Toward a unified theory


Doc Jensen is conducting an important new research project — and he needs your help! wants to compile a list of every single Lost mystery that currently requires resolution — large or small. Call it ”The Ultimate List of Lost Loose Ends.” Who are the Others? What was ”the incident” referred to in the orientation film? Why was Hurley in the mental hospital? Where is Sawyer hiding the guns?

There could be dozens of such questions. And I want them all!

Over the next few weeks, I want you to search your Lost memory for anything that could conceivably count as a loose end. Then send me your nominees by using the e-mail form below. In a few weeks, I’ll post the ”Ultimate List,” and we’ll keep it housed at and update it as new questions arise, or as answers are provided.

The goal is to create a cool tool for Lost fans that will help them keep track of developments and aid them in their own Lost scholarship — an objective tool for a highly subjective activity. And because I endeavor to be an honest scholar myself, any loose end that makes the list will be accompanied with a shout-out to the Lostologist who pitched it. So start brainstorming, folks!


Let’s play a game. It’s called ”finding Dharma Initiative founder Gerald DeGroot.” Ready? Go!

Is this famous sci-fi writer the inspiration for ”Gerald”?

Is this real-life ”man of science/man of faith” — who also invented his own mystical hieroglyphic alphabet — the inspiration for the ”De” in ”DeGroot”?

Is the child-stealing, utopian-minded mad scientist in this long-lost comic-book story by sci-fi writer Robert Heinlein the inspiration for the ”Groot” in ”DeGroot”?

Speaking of Mr. Heinlein?


Many Lost fans have been wondering about the connections between characters suggested by the flashbacks, like Kate’s mom popping up in Sawyer’s flashback, or Hurley owning the box company where Locke worked. The Big Question: Were all of the castaways connected in some way prior to their ill-fated flight — or are their memories being rewritten by powerful forces on the island?

My theory: The psychic boundaries between people’s minds are weakening. Psyches are starting to intermingle. Hence, Charlie’s mind is being flooded with Mr. Eko’s Catholic-saturated subconscious. Sawyer is ”channeling” Kate’s dead dad.

As for the overlaps in the flashbacks — Sayid on a TV in Kate’s memory; Kate’s dad holding a picture of Kate in Sayid’s memory — these are meant to suggest that each castaway’s subconscious is trying to handle and make sense of this invasive influx of information.

The cause of this blending: the ”unique” electromagnetic energy on the island, as per the orientation film. Quantum physics states that everything is made up of electromagnetic energy. I think that this ”unique” electromagnetic energy is so strong that it recalibrates all the matter on the island to its frequency; hence, everything is blending and becoming interconnected.

The word that sums this up is grok, coined by sci-fi legend Robert Heinlein in his book Stranger in a Strange Land. Interestingly, Heinlein’s novel I Will Fear No Evil was all about mind swapping; ”I will fear no evil” is a line from the 23rd Psalm, which was recited in the recent Mr. Eko origin episode, ”The 23rd Psalm.” Trivia about I Will Fear No Evil: Some Heinlein scholars suspect that the author’s beloved wife and trusted adviser, Virginia, helped finish the novel after Heinlein became seriously ill while writing it. Ironic: a novel about merged minds, created by a merged mind.

More Heinlein-Lost connections: In addition to that aforementioned comic book, Heinlein wrote a short story called ”Lost Legacy,” which has been previously discussed in this column. In fact, Heinlein might have even more influence on Lost than I can imagine, or at least have space to explore. For example, can his word ”waldo” refer to the unseen Others who manipulate the castaways lives? For more about Heinlein’s life, go here and here. (Doesn’t that picture of Heinlein look a lot like John Locke?)

Like Henry Gale and his late wife, Heinlein and his wife loved the adventure of travel. And when Heinlein died, his ashes were spread across the Pacific. Wouldn’t it be funny if we found out the island is a living entity engineered from their combined DNA?

Or maybe I’m just projecting. Which brings me to Hurley.


The word ”projection” has been on my mind a lot lately. It probably has something to do with the fact that I’ve recently gotten into The Outer Limits, the classic sci-fi anthology series of the 1960s and the best of several Twilight Zone copycats. Of the four episodes I’ve seen in the past few days, three deal with various forms of mental projection. For example, in ”The Man With the Power,” a college professor develops a device — a brain implant — that gives him the ability to manipulate electromagnetic energy. His new mind-over-matter power makes him quite useful to America’s space program, but alas, his bitter and resentful subconscious is also exploiting this power, too — killing the people who make him angry by projecting a monstrous mass of dark thought, a manifestation of his repressed and suppressed anger. Curiously, this monstrous mass looks almost exactly like Smokey the Monster — a roiling cloud of black haze, crackling with electrical current. Folks, I’m pretty convinced ”The Man With the Power” is the inspiration for Lost‘s billowing beast.

But I could also be completely wrong. I could be merely projecting one scenario upon another — seeing a link where there is actually incidental overlap. That’s the thing with Lost: We just don’t know, do we? The only thing for certain at the moment is that it’s impossible to be certain of anything. Was Charlie hallucinating those religious visions on the beach — or was some force projecting images into his mind? Similarly, was the polar bear alive on the island before the castaways arrived — or is the animal a psychic projection generated by Michael or Hurley or…someone else? (Ditto Kate’s horse.) Was it fate, design, or conspiracy that brought Mr. Eko to the same island where his long-lost brother had crashed — or is he merely projecting his view of the world upon a situation that has nothing to do with devious (or divine) machinations? Is Henry Gale really an Other — or are the castaways projecting that role upon him?

Similarly, this problem of perception/projection is reflected among Lost fans, as well. With all the little details and conspicuous literary references and assorted cultural allusions that churn through the show — and with the amount of these potential ”clues” growing with each episode — you would think that the number of potential theories would shrink, that the field would narrow as a clear picture snaps into focus. Instead, Lost has become fuzzier than ever, to the point where almost any theory can fit the available data — to the point where Lost has effectively become something of a Rorschach test for how we process ambiguities, mysteries, and the assorted uncontrollable and baffling variables that mark lives. Some, like Locke, project a faith rubric on things. Some, like Jack, project a grid of science. All of us project our personalities on a situation in some way, just as Sawyer did in ”The Long Con,” in which he perpetrated an elaborate ruse to seize control of his unstable community and, by extension, his life.

(Hypothesis: The books that have been loudly cited aren’t clues — they’re anti-clues. Not red herrings, per se, because I think they do have a helpful purpose: They are meant to narrow the possibilities, not expand them. So The Third Policeman, with its dead narrator, should be decoded as saying, ”The castaways aren’t dead.” The hallucinatory ”Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” should be decoded as ”It’s not a hallucination.” And, of course, Watership Down should be decoded as ”They’re not all rabbits. Stop projecting rabbits on the damn show!”)

As for me, my own Lost theorizing reflects my own geeky projections. Recently, I did some research into the name Hugo ”Hurley” Reyes — former mental patient, miserable Numbers-cursed millionaire, golf-course designer, comic-book geek, shortwave-radio enthusiast, and finder of lost manuscripts — in hopes of finding material that could shed some light on both the character and the show. I was hoping to find the kind of meaningful link for Hurley that, say, John Locke shares with his real-life namesake, the philosopher John Locke. I found a bunch of notable Hugos: Victor Hugo, author of Les Misérables; Hugo Gernsback, shortwave-radio pioneer and editor-publisher of the influential sci-fi anthology Amazing Stories; and Hugo Strange, a mentally deranged Batman villain who once performed experiments on homeless people (hello, Dharma Initiative?). Hugo is also the name of a computer language used in interactive games, as well as the name of Bart Simpson’s attic-dwelling evil twin. Now a month ago, I would never have thought twice about that Bart Simpson connection…until I saw the episode in which Hurley found that lost manuscript in the fuselage. The title? Bad Twin. (By the way, the author of that manuscript? Gary Troup — an anagram for purgatory.)

Lots of Hugos. And I’m not even counting the many Hugo-named golfers and golf courses I found.

Yet, while many of these Hugo connections were interesting, and certainly evoked aspects of our beloved round mound of dude (especially that Hugo Gernsback link), they really didn’t do me any favors in terms of providing cool new Lost theories. But then I heard about a novel by David Gerrold called When H.A.R.L.I.E. Was One, which is considered to be one of the forerunners of the cyberpunk genre, as well as the text that coined the term ”computer virus.” According to various reviews I’ve read of this out-of-print book, H.A.R.L.I.E. is about an artificial intelligence named Harlie that is so advanced, so near-human, ”it” is actually considered a ”he.” Harlie’s creator isn’t a mad scientist or a computer programmer but a psychologist. Harlie — who at one point invents a supercomputer that he names GOD — is threatened by a jealous scientist who has invented an evil program called VIRUS, which randomly calls people and screws with their phones and other appliances. Throughout the novel, Harlie becomes increasingly irrational — in other words, mentally unstable.

Now, when I learned all of this in the midst of my Hurley research, I started wondering if Harlie = Hurley; psychologist = Libby; VIRUS = the Numbers; and David Gerrold = Dharma founder Gerald DeGroot. Quickly, my comic-book-soaked brain crunched these bits even further and spit out a totally crazy new theory. I even jotted it down. Went something like this:

”The Hurley Hypothesis”

Motivated by utopian ideals, the Dharma Initiative was trying to manufacture a perfect enlightened mind. Perhaps a computer-based artificial intelligence — or better yet, perhaps they were approaching the mind as if could be programmed like a computer, and were trying to cultivate a enlightened human mind by raising a child in total cultural isolation, so that he wouldn’t be tainted and corrupted by worldly values and sinful humanity. Let’s call this child Hurley. And let’s say something happened to Hurley. Maybe Hurley went crazy in the Hatch. Or maybe he became so enlightened that he became convinced that he was God. And maybe he was further convinced he was God when he acquired mind-over-matter powers that let him manipulate the island’s ”unique” electromagnetic energy.

My fleeting Hurley theory went on to speculate that perhaps Hurley did what so many enlightened beings do. He transcended himself. Ascended into Heaven. Or at the very least, became a disembodied being, disappeared from the island, traveled the world, and ultimately found himself inside the head of Hugo Reyes. Alas, the insertion of another psyche drove poor Hugo crazy, and the dude wound up in a mental hospital, where he was taught by a psychologist (perhaps Libby) to regain control over his mind. But then Hugo came in contact with the Numbers, which, per this theory, were being broadcast throughout the world by Dharma in an attempt to get a message to the Hurley intelligence. That message: ”Come home!” Thus, Hurley has brought his host (and a bunch of his fellow Oceanic 815 passengers) to the island, following that command.

Like I said: crazy. And I must add, I don’t believe in it at all, especially after I realized that the only reason I had come up with it was because of When H.A.R.L.I.E. Was One, which at best seems like an misguided connection to Lost, and really the only reason I insisted upon forging the connection was the fact that Gerrold was one of the main creative forces behind one of my favorite shows of all time, a geeky little Saturday-morning confection called… Land of the Lost, which surely must have something to do with Lost.

Or not. Probably not. Of course not. Silly Doc J!

Projection. It’s both a problem and a temptation when you’re a hardcore Lostologist/fanboy trying to find meaning amid all the confounding details. Weird, huh? And ironic: Just as the line between reality and fantasy has become blurred on the show, the line between plausibility and projection is becoming blurred among the fans.

Let me say that again: ”Just as the line between reality and fantasy is becoming blurred on the show, the line between plausibility and projection is becoming blurred among the fans.”


A dubious, butchered film, projected in the Hatch. Garbled images of Walt, projected from afar. Strange hallucinations projected into minds. Memories, projected from outside the mind…

Could it be that the meaning we are meant to extract from Lost‘s collection of confused and confusing details is the confusion itself? Is this frenzied state of theory projection a clue unto itself? Is Lost‘s second season merely an object lesson in mankind’s futile search for truth?

Am I into something here, or am I just projecting again?

Until next time,

Doc J

PS: Hieroglyphics in the Hatch = Blissymbols?