"Lost" in Translation: Don't Talk, Put Your Gun On My Shoulder

Sawyer and the army of the damned

Maybe the key moment this season came during “Dr. Linus,” when island Ben, while clawing through Sawyer’s old tent on the beach, came across a few of his literary leftovers, abandoned in the sand. Together they told the tale of one man’s divided soul: A copy of Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen” (two boys, both brilliant in their own way, both inspired-slash-tormented by their fathers, both torn between fate and self-determinism, etc.) and a porn magazine for dudes who admire ladies with big butts. Ben, who hands positively drip with the blood of the innocents, was scandalized. “What some people will bring on a trip!” he sputtered.

Lately these words speak for “Lost” itself, which has edged away from the taut character studies of earlier seasons to focus almost entirely on the breakneck action side of its personality. What’s going to happen? How will the dual plotlines meld together? Where does the island get its power, what does it mean and where will it end?

All significant questions, to be sure. But unlike “The Sopranos,” which confounded some fans and infuriated others by edging away from an action-based conclusion in favor of a literal depiction of the spiritual black hole it had been tracing through the entire arc of the series (always obvious if you had ben paying attention, or had the patience to look back and think again) “Lost” is steering its astonishingly complex story toward a more traditional destination.

No surprise, perhaps. They’ve been promising it over and over again in every single teaser and in-house ad ABC has generated: THE TIME FOR ANSWERS IS HERE.

So, fine. I’m still fascinated; still caught up in the unraveling mysteries. But when it comes to getting out in front of how the alt-lives in L.A. contrast/compare/extend from the island lives; and when it comes to predicting how Widmore is or isn’t connected to Jacob and/or Smokey, that’s where you (and I) have to turn to the great Lostonian Nick Gorini. (Whose coming wrap-up of this episode, which he thoughtfully previewed for me in an email not 30 minutes ago, contains some real kick-ass revelations).

So when it comes to this “Recon” episode the English majors among us can only ponder Smokey’s seemingly heartfelt narrative about the ongoing damage he suffers at the hands of the “crazy mother” who apparently favored one brother (Jacob, obviously) over him. This brings us back to the Hebrews and the tale of Jacob and Esau…..who remind us again of Potok’s “The Chosen,” and his modern Hebrews, Danny and Reuven. In which book, Danny’s father — the chief rebbe — cut off his son emotionaly in order to teach him the value of kindness.

So much of “Lost” has pivoted from the broken relationships between parents and children – fathers and sons, mostly, but obviously moms play into the scenario, too. The island certainly evokes the original Eden, and the creation and fall of mankind. The island has its magical powers, and its deadly threats. Its inhabitants are capable of stepping past the boundaries of mortality, or else collapsing beneath the weight of their own flawed humanity. Or, on the third hand, riding the inherent humanity they posess towards emotional transcendence.

Deep into the final season we’ve already looped through so many versions of these stories, and explored the outer reaches of so many others, it’s easier to imagine how the action and paranormal aspects of the story will play out than it is to imagine where the emotional tale will take us. It’s safe to assume it won’t descend into Tony Soprano’s existential blackness. Not because the creators’ vision is that much brighter. But because a hit series, like poor old Richard Alpert, suffers its own kind of Jacob’s Touch of Eternal Life: the lights stay on, your mascara never runs, you can never truly off yourself, not ever. Talk about dual existences, talk about a blessing that becomes a curse.

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