INTO THE NEXT STAGE: “Lost”: As Confusing As Ever and Running Out of Time

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By GUY AOKI

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(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on April 8, 2010)

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It’s one of the most confusing television series of all time yet one of the most intriguing and probably the most complicated. “Lost” ends its sixth and final season on May 23, and with only six more episodes to go (and a total of seven hours), the revelation of what it’s all been about has continued to be very slow in coming.

A plane from Sydney, Australia, bound for Los Angeles splits in half, and passengers land on a mysterious island with a smoke monster and the evil “Others” who kidnap and kill them and try to keep them from escaping. We eventually learn that the survivors were called to the island for a reason.

For the first three seasons, alongside the current storyline, we saw flashbacks of the back stories of these characters—a look at their demons, and some clues as to how they were evolving or not. Then, in one of the most shocking episodes in television history, we learned that Dr. Jack Shephard’s flashback­—where he was a suicidal drunk who wants to return to the island after apparently escaping it—had actually been a flashforward: A look at was going to happen in the future!

Season four dispensed with the flashbacks in favor of flashforwards for all of the characters. In last year’s season finale, our heroes detonated a hydrogen bomb in 1977 hoping it would prevent their known futures from happening. Beginning this season in February, we learned their storyline continued but in the present day (well, 2004, the year they landed on the island) and we got to see an alternate reality (the “sideways world”) where, instead of crashing on the island, they all landed safely at LAX and went about their business but kept bumping into each other.

Jin and Sun meet Jacob at their wedding. (Courtesy of ABC)

But we’ve learned that the bomb detonation also set in motion a different path for all of the passengers: Jack now has a teenage son. Sawyer, once a fugitive, is a cop. Hurley, who felt cursed after winning the lotto, feels like the luckiest man alive. Instead of being married with the blessing of Sun’s father, Jin and Sun are still single and secretly seeing each other. Sun’s gangster dad even put a hit out on Jin for fooling around with his daughter!

We’ve at least learned the larger meaning of what this is all about. Jacob, a Jesus-like figure, drew about eight of the regulars to the island as candidates to replace him and assume the role of caretaker of the island and keeping the evil Man In Black (revealed to be the smoke monster) in check. As he explained to one of them, the island keeps MIB’s evil in check. If he were to leave the island, he’d infect the world with his evil. This battle between Jacob and MIB has gone on for centuries and over a hundred past candidates have all died, probably murdered by MIB.

MIB, now disguised as the dead John Locke, tricked the evil Ben Linus into killing Jacob (though he still appears to Hurley, who can communicate with dead people), and promised the castaways he’ll get them off the island. However, “Losties” believe MIB wants to gather all the candidates together so he can kill them and finally be free to roam the real world.

In the present day storyline, Jin and Sun have been apart for three years and have been desperately trying to find each other. In the sideways storyline, Jin, in shooting a thug, accidentally shoots Sun in the stomach. It’s then she reveals to him that she’s pregnant.

Frustrating for fans of the show is that with so few episodes left, there’s so little time to explain the dozens of questions that have sprung over the past five years. Yet producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse only add more questions and more characters. They’d better have a checklist of the things they’re going to explain in the next seven hours or there’ll be a huge backlash from those of us who’ve patiently accepted their drawn out storytelling method hoping they’re going to knock us out by the end with the big picture.

In this week’s episode, we finally saw some interaction between the current story and the sideways one when, in the sideways timeline, Charlie and Desmond Hume’s car went into the river. When Desmond tried to rescue Charlie in the passenger seat, the latter turned to him and put his hand up to the window. Written on his hand in ink:  “Not Penny’s Boat.”  This was a shock because in the real storyline a few years ago, that’s the last thing Charlie did—as a warning to Desmond­—before he drowned (in this sideways world, Charlie survived).

This triggered images of Penny (Sonya Walger, now starring in the ironically titled ABC series “Flashforward”), Desmond’s true love, who he’d yet to meet in this sideways world. At the end of the episode, Desmond met Daniel Faraday, Penny’s half brother, who’s apparently beginning to piece the two worlds together and told him where to find Penny. Desmond and Penny met, smiles abounded, and they seemed to begin their pre-destined star-crossed love affair.

ABC’s “Lost” airs at 9 p.m. on Tuesdays.

Oh Not Again Department: I was not in a good mood when I read that CBS’s new medical show (what, another?!) was not going to feature any Asian American regulars. “Miami Medical” looked more like a hospital out of South Central with mostly white and black docs. Andre Braugher played the head of the trauma unit who inexplicably loses it when a drop of a patient’s blood lands on his shoes. He slowly begins taking off his clothes, leaving the operating room, and doesn’t come back.  Even more unrealistically, no one goes after him or even makes sure he gets counseling.

The joke is he read the rest of the script and wanted nothing to do with this series! I would at least expect some Latinos. There’s one in Lana Parrilla, who’s Puerto Rican and plays Eva Zambrano. She becomes the new head until a British doctor, Proctor—yep, it rhymes—(Jeremy Northam) just walks in acting as if he’s been there for years and takes over. Despite airing on Friday where old shows go to die and new ones are thrown in to fail, this Jerry Bruckheimer produced series did pretty well.

Leaving So Soon? Department: It was barely a year ago that Kal Penn left the Fox series, “House,” to work in the Obama administration as a liaison to the Asian American community. It was supposed to last for two years, so I was confused when, late last year, we heard Penn would be reuniting with John Cho to do another Harold and Kumar movie that would be released near the end of 2010.

A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas will open in a few months. Hayden Schlossberg and Jon Hurwitz, who wrote the first two movies and directed the second, will once again write this new project, but they’ll hand over the reins to a new guy who’s worked mostly on music videos. The partners (who won a MANAA Media Achievement Award in 2006) decided to instead direct American Pie 4.

This week, it was announced that Penn was leaving his Washington job. Wow. That was quick.  Can anyone tell me what he accomplished during his tenure there?

Till next time, keep your eyes and ears open.

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Guy Aoki, co-founder of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, writes from Glendale. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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