16 February 2006

Lost, Plot, Chess, Taking One Out Side and Showing One What It's Like...

OK, so let's start off with LOST, which aired last night- "One of Them" was the title. I'm pretty torn about the quality of this episode. There was stuff to take away from it, and a lot that just didn't work for me. So, I figured I'd just do a straight breakdown.


  • Sayid. It had been a long time since they had prominently featured him, and since he is such a great character, eventually, his absence was felt. Not that I can't understand why they held him back a bit- keep in mind that, by island time, Sayid lost the woman he loved not three of four days ago. It's understandable that they'd not want to force credibility by injecting him into a situation without acknowledging the grief he must be carrying. So there's that.

  • Sayid's backstory, which was an improvement from the recent Charlie/ Sawyer ones. It gave insight into Sayid's background as an interrogator and torturer (it was always kind of strange that a communications expert would be adept at torture), and had a truly great scene, after he had tortured his CO and left the cell with the tool box. Explaining the situation, handing the box off to the American commander, his hands soaked in blood.

    Nice as well to see Clancy Brown- Rev. Justin from Carnivale, among other things. He was great- I really enjoyed how he played the character as a bit more aloof, and less white-knuckled for The Cause. There was something very interesting about that, and more authoritative.

    In addition, Kate's stepdad was the officer that initially questions Sayid and his CO. Late in the episode, you can see him looking at a picture of an adolescent Kate in the jeep.

  • The fact that you know Henry Gail is lying (I'm assuming his name is spelled 'Gail' for the moment- as an angram, it spells "HEAR LYING." It could also refer to "Henry Gale," which was Dorothy's uncle's name in The Wizard of Oz)- especially considering how convincing he was. Maybe I'm assuming too much here, but for me, there's no way they can undermine Sayid's gifts for interrogation and his earlier claims that he can "always tell when someone is lying." Sayid knows- and his declaration that the reason Locke and Jack don't know- because they're willing to put the things the Others did behind them- is a way to avoid the possibility that Sayid's judgment has been clouded by grief.

    This isn't ironclad, of course- Locke wonders if Sayid is "looking for someone to punish." The way the episode was structured though, I just can't believe they would allow for that setup- Sayid's ability to identify when someone is lying- to be torn down. Gail is lying.

    In addition, there was something to that long shot of him staring down Sayid after Jack intervened and as the door shut. Henry Gail from Minnnesota probably crumples into a corner in a pool of tears after getting the shit kicked out of him by Sayid the torturer, if he's even still conscious (got a pretty good beating to be still awake). This guy more or less stared him down, after he convinced the "leader" that he was able to be trusted on a basic level. In other words, he's telling Sayid- "I won."

    Which, if true, adds to the mythos of the Others, adds layers to that characterization. Makes them even more sinister. Gale was, I think, supposed to be convincing, and we're supposed to be in his corner, until Sayid realizes he's lying.

  • When Sawyer called Hurley "Rerun." That was fantastic.

  • The 108 Clock. This was both good (as I'll mention here) and bad (later). Seeing the scenes for this week's episode last week, we were made to believe that the clock would finally count down to "0" and we would see in some part what that means, and what actually happens. Given the nature of the show, I figured we wouldn't, and that a revelation like that was a bit big for mid-season. Turns out I was right. We did, however, get a crumb of something.

    In the scene, Jack pins Locke down from the computer in an effort to get him to open the armory door to pull Sayid off Gale. The clock is ticking down, and Locke has a choice to make. He elects to open the door in order to enter the numbers. He gets there just in time, fucks up the entry, and the clock hits zero. When this happens, we hear a few noises. First, what sounds like a faint alarm. Second, what sounded like big, machine like "movement." This, to me, sounded like the initiation of the blast doors Michael pointed out earlier in the season.

    Then, on the clock, the numbers flickered off, and what started to appear were images in red backed with black, or in black backed with red. They appeared to be hieroglyphic in nature, and included among them a bird and what looks like a pin (see image above). Just before the sixth image flickered down, however, Locke was able to enter the numbers correctly, and the clock whipped back to 108.

    There were three really subtle clues here that may all mean something, or may all mean different things (how's that for vague?). First, the hieroglyphs- there is word around the 'net that the images translate to something. I'll let you decide if you want to click on that and find out. It's not overly revelatory, but it's your call.

    Second, the noises that triggered when the images started to appear after the clock counted down. I personally think this may be a small step in the direction of "proof" that something does, indeed "happen" when the clock is left to count down. What that is and how injurious/ serious it is obviously not really clear.

    Third, the fact that, even after the clock counts down, one is able to enter the numbers and have it reset. Either there is a grace period on the clock while the images "load" (as in, if you hit execute before this message pops up, it will still reset) or, in conflict with my last point- the clock really is a Pavlovian/ Skinner-ian like experiment, and the machine's resetting is a sign that the experiment is allowed to continue- after all, their letting the clock run ends the experiment, and one would want to give leeway to the experiment continuing.

    The Locke/ Jack standoff was really intense too.


  • There didn't seem to be much furthering the story too much. There were smaller clues, and this-and-that, but "Fire + Water," "The Long Con" and this, "One of Them" episodes all seem to be somewhat weak "setups." If that ultimately pays off- I'm ok with it. It's only three episodes, and I still think the show came out of the gates in season two extremely strong.

    But really, the first two of those aforementioned episodes are probably the worst in the show's run. I think this one was a major step up, but stuff needs to start clicking. Seeing as the next episode- March 1st- is Claire focused and lands in a sweeps week, I have high hopes.

  • Given what we were teased with, the way the clock counting down was dealt with felt like a cop out to me. I was anticipating it being a situation where the clock counted down as the episode ended, and that there was some sort of "answer" forthcoming, but that we'd have to wait. Instead, nothing too tangible came up. The images were good clues- but this is a show that used to dole out huge revelations rather swiftly, and has begun slowing that down pretty recently.

  • The Hurley and Sawyer frog hunt seemed both out of place and vaguely repetitive. Remember when a boar was pissing Sawyer off and he enlisted Kate to help him root it out? I guess there's a possibility this little thread could mean something else eventually but, for now, it was just sort of comic relief, but been-there-done-that. The squishing scene at the end, though, was another nice nod to Sawyer being in need of a generous cockpunch, post-haste.

  • Is it me, or has Sayid said "I'll never torture again" fairly often on this show, only to find a new, better reason to do it. I don't have any problems with his vacillating on that- I just see it as a bit hard to swallow when he continually makes that declaration and goes back on it. Maybe it could be developed later. For now, it stuck out too much.

    Plus, the torturing stuff seemed to be a subject that was already "covered." If you come back to it, fine- but there needs to be a newer wrinkle, I think.

  • OK, that's all I got. Next episode (repeats next week) is a Claire episode, which, as I may or may not have pointed out rather often here- I've been pulling for for a while. To me, the best stuff in season one was Claire and her psychic.

    So, I finished The Plot Against America yesterday. I thought it was decent. Certainly not great, and not a canonical pillar of literature- but an interesting exercise in speculation.

    I enjoyed the retelling the book through the prism of the young boy, but one thing that struck me as completely ridiculous was how much 9, 10, 11 year old Philip knew about American politics- between isolationists, communists, various intricate political maneuvers- I suppose, given that it's written through Philip's POV detailing when he was 9 but after years had past, it could be that he's extrapolating later understanding to further a point. But in a lot of instances it's expressed as his impression of an event that often struck me a bit more than he'd seem capable of grasping. That said- knowing these sorts of things in the context of the book's events carry a lot higher stakes than they did, for instance, with me and Reagan.

    I didn't have a problem with the events depicted in the book. They were outrageous, but it was a work of fiction, speculative, and juxtaposed against events that would seem even MORE outrageous. Given the Holocaust, it makes it difficult to claim "well, that could NEVER happen..."

    Maybe he overstated Lindbergh's anti-Semitism. But I think the reactions to that were WAY too apologetic to Lindbergh. Ultimately, Roth speculated on what would happen if men like Lindbergh and Ford were able to back their beliefs with authority. Ford was the more ironclad anti-Semite, however, that's the exact reason he never would have been elected. Lindbergh's anti-Semitism was more below the skin.

    As has been discussed fairly often- the ending kind of sucked. It felt rushed, appended, hacked up- it wasn't even a horrible way to finish the plot; it was simply rushed and presented in a far too "convenient" manner.

    Decent book.

    So now I've moved on to Lolita, which I read ages ago in high school, but I want to re-read. After this, maybe Heart of Darkness or Death in Venice. I also recently bought a bunch of used paperback novels on Amazon for about $4 a pop. I don't know how often people use that feature of the site, but they should really, really often.

    Anyway, Lolita is a monolith of greatness, obviously. I'm really pumped to be reading it again.

    Ever since Mike let me read The Wu Tang Handbook, I've been really interested in getting back into playing chess. I had a 6-or-so month period where I got really interested in it in like, high school or thereabouts. I even have an old Simpsons chess set, too, which I got one birthday. I should bring that back.

    Anyway, the easy call was to get a chess game for my PS2, which I did (used on amazon, again) and recently got in the mail. It's the same program I had on the computer YEARS ago, this time with some "tutoring" from Josh "Searching for Bobby Fischer" Waitzkin and more than a few more features. I want to re-learn how to do it reasonably well. So far, so "meh." Lots of fun though.

    There was this quote from RZA too about Stanley Kubrick, a story I recall really well from the biography I'd read of him. He used to set up chessboards on his set, with two chairs and leave it. He'd sort of dare people to challenge him to a match- and he was a real master. Almost an exertion of authority from him.

    Finally- couple quick things. First, about Valentine's Day. Everyone knows it's a steaming crock(pot) of shit. Duh. But, Erin and I had a fun time anyway- we went and saw Capote (she hadn't seen it, and I did WAAAY back when it first came out like 3 1/2 months ago) at the AMC 25 in Times Sq. I got her a DVD copy of March of the Penguins, and she got me the Mike Wallace/ Edwin Burrows book Gotham, plus a pretty impressive card that she made wholly out of post-it notes.

    So we're sitting there watching the movie, and there's this couple sitting a few rows to our right, fucking talking through the ENTIRE thing. Seriously, just badness. A lot of people around us were doing the audible huff-and-puff routine, turning around and staring at them, etc. Eventually, I got sick of it- so I looked right at him, made the "cut it out" gesture with my hand and did a loud "SHH." Then, I leaned back and didn't give him an opportunity to respond.

    THEN, after the movie was over, Erin said she was pretty sure it was first date, because she had a rose, and they were talking about where they were from, family, etc. This made me feel really bad- I didn't want to, as Mike put it, "hate on his game." That must be remarkably emasculating to have happen on your first date, and you know the guy didn't want to make a scene with his new girl. So, even though he was being a loud douche, I felt sort of bad. In a bizarre twist, Erin was ruthless. She didn't care!

    And finally, the Dominican Republic hat is IN THE BUILDING! Wore it today- looks killa.

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