When Hurley starts seeing his imaginary playmate Dave, Libby helps him confront his eating issues; plus, prisoner Henry keeps tormenting his captors

”Lost”: Hurley’s heavy past

Greetings, my imaginary readers. Before making the existential cliff dive off this computer and into bed, I’ll share with you some of my crazier thoughts/rants/hallucinations about tonight’s episode.

Suffice it to say I have wildly mixed feelings. I’m rather protective of the Hugo character. I don’t like to see him abused. Falling back on the fat thing — which, until recently, was not our man’s defining character conflict — seems cheap and lazy somehow. As Lost co-watcher and character-consistency expert Liz pointed out, how did a guy who seemed reasonably at ease with his girth last season end up being defined by it? And the line ”I’m so fat I killed two people!” came out sounding like the punchline to an especially conceptual playground joke. Yes, it’s Hurley’s weight that originally sent him to the mental institution — he stepped onto a deck, it gave way, and…disaster! Catatonia! Binge-eating! Institutionalization! The cursed surreality of Hurley’s post-lottery life must’ve come more easily to him than he let on in earlier flashbacks. Clearly, his pre-win existence was just as weird and tragic.

It doesn’t quite add up. But Jorge Garcia, bless him, makes the math work — close enough for prime time, at least. He’s got a nice light touch, and that makes near-ridiculous scenes like the Great Therapeutic Food-Wasting (hello? desert island?) almost credible. Personally, I was hoping to keep open the possibility of an Island as Hurley Hallucination scenario: It smacks of The Twilight Zone, of course, but also of that infamous Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode ”Normal Again,” where it’s hinted that Buffy has merely dreamed the whole show from the lockup ward.

Or maybe it does remain a possibility. As does this: Dave (Sex and the City‘s Evan Handler, flying gleefully over the cuckoo’s nest and into oblivion) was an illusion, but was he a flesh-and-blood illusion? Can the island manifest dreams, fantasies, nightmares, etc.? (The small print on the Dharma map suggests that the polar bear was bred, not sprung from the mind of Walt. But still…) Was an island avatar of Jack’s father really walking around? What about that friggin’ Kate horse?

I was holding out for another twist, and I got one: Libby, whom I long ago nominated as an Other, is revealed to be Hurley’s fellow mental patient at Santa Rosa. He doesn’t remember her. Whether or not she remembers him remains to be seen. The big flashback reveal — Libby downing her own complement of antipsychotics at a table behind Hurley’s — can be interpreted several ways. Either (a) she fixated on our Hugo in the institution and followed him, or (b) she’s Dharma all the way ( and the organization recruits mental cases who’ll be easy to brainwash), or (c) it’s all happenstance. Her chillingly ambiguous expression after embracing Hugo would suggest she knows more than she’s telling.

Oh, and speaking of that: Henry Gale, or whatever his real name is — what a gift! I could watch Michael Emerson (the actor playing unHenry) read the island phonebook and be completely satisfied. The man can take a potential clunker like ”God doesn’t know how long we’ve been here” and make it sound positively Miltonic. And now that I’ve come to accept this diminished Locke — the crutches help — I’m really enjoying the way unHenry plays our Man of Faith like a violin. (I know — total 180. Let the flaming begin.) ”I’m done lying.” Yeah, right, dude. Why even mention the clunk of that giant magnet? By my count, it’s now happened twice on the Losties’ watch, the first time being when Locke missed the deadline and the hieroglyphics showed for the first time. The magnet clunked then, too. See, I think the Hatch is more than a Skinner box, where test subjects are compelled by fear, belief, peer pressure, whatever, to perform meaningless tasks. No, I think it’s designed to make its prisoners believe it’s a Skinner box — then spring real consequences on them just when they start to congratulate themselves on their liberation. UnHenry is now telling Locke that the eye of God isn’t on them anymore — the last thing Locke wants to hear. But if Locke starts living without a plan, without a firm belief in an ordered universe, the delicate ecology of the castaways’ society could be upset. On a purely physical level? I think the magnet’s effects are cumulative, as is the damage unHenry is doing to the Losties’ fragile social network.

So…conjecture time. What’s Eko building? Is it related to Sayid’s mystery machine? How much stuff is Charlie going to help build before he finds out what he’s working on? And did the orders to construct a war machine already come down from Ana Lu or Jack to key players like Eko and Sayid, unbeknownst to the other castaways?

So write in, take me to task, give me some answers, tell me where Vincent the Dog ran off to. (I miss that harbinger pooch!) Also, I’d like to make one thing perfectly clear: Theory aside, character kvetching aside, this episode continues a promising trend. Namely, brisk forward motion. Suspense, rooted in character angst. This was no tree-frog hunt, no wild-horse chase — this was life and death. The island is starting to feel dangerous again. Goody.

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