Hornswaggler | The culture, the humor, a bit of the sports, not so much the politics, and the workplace distraction

Hornswaggle is an alternate spelling of hornswoggle, an archaic word that means to bamboozle or hoodwink. I take my pronunciation from the late Harvey Korman in "Blazing Saddles" --

"I want rustlers, cutthroats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, conmen, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswagglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass kickers, shit kickers and Methodists!"

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Monday, February 01, 2010

Game time

One of the great things about the NFL is that, even if your hopes are dashed in the end when your team lies down like dogs to a hated division rival, getting outscored 58-14 in two games, at least it helps you pass the time until the new season of "Lost," which over the past few years has premiered in January/February.

I don't handle the "Lost" offseason well. It's like a breakup. It takes me awhile to put it out of my mind and move on. That being the case, I can't believe the final season has arrived. For the last few years I've had to wonder whether, if we learned a devastating meteor was bound for Earth, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse would take a moment or two from their end-of-life preparations to tell "Lost" fans how the show ends. But I think now we're finally in the clear.

I'm generally like a moth to a flame when it comes to spoilers, but this year I've mostly managed to stay away. The few things I know I won't share here, but it seems as though, on the heels of a mind-bending, time-skipping season five, things are just going to get weirder and weirder in season six. Frankly, as much as I enjoyed last season, I kind of wish they'd found a less convoluted way to wrap up the story of the castaways and the Island. I follow this show closely, I read about it somewhat obsessively, I'm well-educated and I'm reasonably smart -- but I still can't keep all the mythological aspects of the show straight. It was complicated enough before the Island began skipping through time. Nonetheless, I trust Lindelof, Cuse and company to bring "Lost" to a satisfying conclusion.

There's a lot of pitfalls, obviously. In a recent interview with GQ*, Lindelof repeated a thought that's become something of a mantra for him and Cuse:

Our overall feeling is that people talk about the mythology of our shows, but that's not really why they watch them. Hospital dramas have patients, and legal dramas have clients and judges and lawyers, and we have our mythology. The mythology just provides the story. The characters are the reason people watch.

Look, I don't want to burst their bubble, but as much as I am fond of the characters on this show and eager to see whether they attain redemption, what I really want to know is what the eff is going on with that island. That's why I'm tuning in. People don't obsess over "Lost" or devote blogs to it because they're wondering whether Sawyer or Jack will wind up with Kate.** They're into the mystery of the show. Part of me thinks Lindelof and Cuse don't believe this line, they just tell it to themselves kind of like whistling past a graveyard to avoid thinking about the possibility of an epic failure, because providing answers at last to all the questions they've raised brings with it the possibility of massive viewer disappointment.

Incidentally, in that same interview, Lindelof said:

The most slippery slope, the slope you don't want to be on, is when people question your characters. If they say, "I don't understand why so-and-so is doing that, or behaving that way"—you can always get away with the mythology on that level, but when people lose touch with the characters, that's when you're completely hosed.

It's funny he said that, because I had problems with several key turns last year involving major characters:

1) I didn't buy Kate's decision to come back to the Island. The kid gets lost in the supermarket one day and that's it? She's done? That's something that happens to every parent at least once. And Ben revealed that he was behind the scary, paternity-test-demanding lawyer before Kate made her decision to return, so that doesn't explain it. Hopefully we'll get some more background on her change of heart, because vague promises to help Claire and the transparent writers' trick of having Kate make Jack swear not to ask her about the subject have left the mustard decidedly uncut.

2) I didn't buy Kate's decision to save young Ben's life by taking him to the Others for treatment. It came out of nowhere. It felt arbitrary.

3) I didn't buy Jack's reasoning for blowing up Jughead. This one was ridiculous. He wanted another chance at Kate? How about walking over to her and saying, "I'm sorry for acting like a fool," and then following through and ceasing to act like a fool?

Despite these criticisms, "Lost" is still my favorite TV show of all time. If "Law and Order" if a Quarter Pounder with Cheese Meal and "Mad Men," despite its awesomeness, feels at times like eating poached salmon and steamed kale, "Lost" is the rare show that tastes great and is good for you. It touches my brain in its special place.

As far as theories or predictions go, I think we can safely assume some kind of connection between the Smoke Monster and the Man in Black.

For me, the biggest clue that MiB may in fact be the Smoke Monster came in one of the final episodes last year when fake Locke took Ben to the Temple to be judged. It was only after Ben fell through the floor and wound up on his own that the Smoke Monster appeared, allowing it to slip out of fake Locke's body and come out through the vent.

The hieroglyphics and what appeared to be blood/body scraps around the vent would seem to indicate that at one time Smokey was worshipped as a god by whatever people built the temple and the other buildings now in ruins. Could it be that some Egyptians fell through a worm hole to the Island and restarted a parallel civilization there? Maybe the Island at one time was located in the Mediterranean or Red Sea?

Another question is whether this idea that Smokey is the guardian of the Temple, as Rousseau's doomed shipmates were informed, is true or a cover story of sorts. Also, if MiB is set in opposition to Jacob, why do the Others, Jacob's merry band of Island protectors, seem to get a free pass? We know the Others went to the Temple to hide from Widmore's ship, and in season four Ben appeared to summon Smokey to destroy Keamey's men.

Clearly, there are rules governing Smokey and MiB's behavior that we're not yet aware of. One theory is that the Smoke Monster's role, or one of them, is to test people. But why then does the monster sometimes just cold go romper stomper, forgoing the exam? The monster simply eliminated Rousseau's people, even possessing her baby daddy, i.e. making him "sick" and compelling him to try to kill her. Oooo-eeee, what up with that?

It seems maybe that Smokey has gone rogue, like MiB himself. Whatever role he or she or it was relegated to by Jacob or some other governing force has long since started to chafe.

Anyway, that's it for now. I'm sure I'll have reaction to the premiere later this week. If the trailer I saw last night (the first one with actual footage from the final season) is any indication, it's going to be a face-melter.

*Hey GQ, were you planning on posting part three of that interview ever?

**No, Edward Wyatt of The New York Times, fans of "Lost" are not tuning in to find out "Will Hurley ever lose weight?"

.: posted by hornswaggler 8:02 PM

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