Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ridiculous Red-Shirts Turn Romeo and Juliet

This morning, after I semi-forced him to watch the spectacle that was Sanjaya's performance last night, Nathan informed me that Sanjaya was going to die on LOST tonight. He was right. Sort of.
The title of this episode is Exposé . That's the title of the Baywatch-like show Nikki was on, and it's also a reference to the fact that the show is finally blowing the lid off the tightly sealed mystery that is Nikki and Paolo. Woo. A whole episode devoted to unlocking the history of the two least intriguing characters in the show's history. (Too little too late, guys; actually, this one renewed my faith that these two had a point, but I'm too used to deriding them to stop now.)
My first thought when the episode started was "What? No 'Previously on LOST'?" No, they just dove right in. And it was Nikki. And then I said, "Nikki?" As in, "I can't believe they're starting the show with this chick nobody cares about." And then, "I can't believe they're giving her a flashback" and "I can't believe they're killing her off now, so all we'll ever get of her will be in this episode." And moments later, I thought the same of Paolo. And then I thought, "Maybe they're not really dead."
But mostly I thought the whole thing was a bit of a sly commentary on red-shirts, planned that way from the beginning of their arc, giving us these characters who are so obviously incidental that we half-expected them to go weeks ago, while also half-expecting they would develop into more interesting people. Once again LOST seems to be trying to drive home the point that every person matters, every person has value. Even the crumb bums like Paolo and Nikki. Early in the episode, in the flashback, Nikki protests to her director / lover / victim that she is just a minor character so nobody particularly wants to see her survive the season. It's prophetic. This is a high-concept episode. Or maybe I'm just reading too much into it.
Later, while Sawyer's still nicknaming the ill-fated duo just hours after blasé ly asking, once again, who the heck Nikki is, Hurley repeats his impassioned Tricia Tanaka is Dead speech and tell Sawyer to have a little respect for the deceased. Hurley is always the first to ask for people's names. He's also the one who comes up with the idea to find the flight manifest, a little project he and Locke both had a part in. It helps them both to get to know all the castaways. Because they're interested. Because they sincerely care about their fellow survivors. Locke's motivations have become a bit murky lately, but I really do think he generally wants to help everyone seek out his or her better nature. (The whole killing Mikhail thing? Way not cool. I still haven't quite gotten over that one, John Boy...)
Anyway, Locke and Hurley seem to be about the only remaining survivors who really had any idea who these two were. A small idea, to be sure, but they bothered to get to know them at least a little. Hurley speaks at the funeral because he is the only one there who even remembers what they did on the island in previous days and weeks. Hurley cares. Hurley wants to throw his arms around the world, one person at a time. Strangely, I had a dream last night about him, and somehow we met up at some kind of gathering and were hitting it off... Anyway, Hurley, you can come give me a bear hug any time. My name is Erin, with an E; I do not have a turnip-shaped head or a stand-in dad who happens to be a hot hobbit. I'm just a reclusive wanna-be writer who's always said Samwise trumps Merry. Guess who Sam is? (Forgive my increasingly loopy ramblings. It's time I went to bed...)
As if to drive home the point about there being no pointless characters, this episode was a veritable red-shirt reunion, what with Arzt (who we always knew was a goner), Ethan (who's at least managed to make more of a name for himself in flashbacks) and Shannon and Boone (who I'll consider border-line since they were the first of the major cast to vanish). Did we see Scott or Steve in some of those early beach scenes? I didn't notice, but they didn't play much of a role if they were there. Might've been nice if they had, but I'm sure they didn't want overkill. (Ha...)
Okay, and what was up with Billy Dee Williams playing himself? Talk about random! I knew almost from the start that flashback had to be a TV show because of the corny music in the background. Definitely sounded like a tacky score, and there's never music on LOST that isn't literally a part of the scene at hand. Why would anyone have that dorky tune playing in real life? Incidentally, nice touch putting Lando only two degrees away from Han, and emphasizing the connection by the reciprocal "Thanks for nothing" that reminded me of the "I love you... I know" exchange between Han and Leia. Probably shouldn't have, since Sawyer and Nikki obviously don't give two hoots about each other, but Nikki is the link between Billy and Sawyer, and doggone it, I'm taking all the Star Wars references I can get, even if I have to grasp at straws for them.
Sawyer wastes the breaking of his nickname promise on Nikki and Paolo. Totally boring names, and they can't hear him anyway. Or can they? Sawyer seems a little shifty here, and he's up to his usual tricks, but I think it's good he owns up to his part in Sun's abduction when she confronts him and probably also good that he ditches the diamonds, which seem like blood money, though it does seem a shame to see several million dollars go to waste. Not that it's much good on the island. Apparently he feels a little guilty about exploiting Paolo and Nikki's misfortune, so if tossing the stash clears his conscience, it's okay by me.
Charlie sure doesn't have much to say in this episode, but when he speaks, he makes the most of it, mustering up his nerve and serenely fessing up to his misdeeds in season two. It's a very brave thing to do, and perhaps in light of that, and the fact that he could have gone on keeping it a secret indefinitely, Sun merely stalks off coldly, sparing him the slap she bestows upon Sawyer. Jin's almost entirely out of the loop, except to suggest that the monster got Paolo and Nikki, which Hurley postulates may be true, and I thought there might be some truth to that, at least with Nikki, because where did all those other spiders come from? But then Nathan informed me that I missed a bit of Arzt's dialogue, where he explained that the spiders secrete pheromones that attract other spiders, or some similar shmoo.
Evidently Nikki wasn't paying much attention either. Otherwise why would she sic a spider on boyfriend dearest knowing a troop of spiders is on the way? Why wouldn't she think ahead and write a note that she could whip out if she did get bitten, explaining what has happened to her? What does she expect Paolo will do when he comes to and recalls that she just attacked him with a spider and ran off with his diamonds? And why, after taking none of this forethought, does she stop to bury the diamonds instead of running straight out of the woods to explain the situation while she is still intelligible? Stupid, stupid girl! Just like Romeo and Juliet... sort of...
Usually after watching a flashback, we feel more sympathetic toward the people involved. I don't, particularly. Paolo and Nikki are self-involved, deceitful, greedy murderers. But they are real people. Folks with a sordid back story all their own. I really do appreciate the fact that the writers had a plan for them all along. And I don't think we've seen the end of them. The trailer promised us that someone would die in this episode. Evidently, two people died. Three, if Howie Zuckerman counts. But you know that's not who they're talking about. So maybe neither of them actually is dead. But how will they dig out from under all that dirt? If only the beach people weren't so darn civilized! Why'd they have to be in such a hurry to bury them?
Which brings me to my grand prediction. It's not so much a prediction perhaps as wishful thinking. But note that Vincent pulls the cover off of Nikki and Paolo in this episode. It doesn't seem like much at the time, just a dog getting into things he shouldn't, but dogs have extra-keen senses. Maybe he can hear their hearts beating or in some other way be aware as the less-attuned humans are not that these two are still alive. And what are dogs famously good at? Digging. Vincent is the only major beach character not to have had a flashback. Maybe his shining moment is about to occur. Vincent to the rescue! So we can have several more weeks of Paolo and Nikki making irritating two-minute appearances. No, I think if they survive this, they'll be better integrated. Because people will just be so psyched to have them back and have a second shot at getting to know them. Nikki and Paolo can be part of the gang.
Dez still is kind of a loner. I find it odd that he refers to Sawyer as Hurley's "mate"; Hurley gets along with everybody but I certainly wouldn't say he's unusually close to Sawyer. Then again, they were playing ping-pong together earlier, so maybe that's what sparked Desmond's comment. He once again notes his lack of control over his psychic flashes, and Hurley tells him he has a lame super-power. At least Desmond has enough of an idea of who Nikki is to recall that she had a fight with Sawyer.
Ben shows us his convoluted self again, and I wish I could remember the day and whether it's after Michael was "compromised" by the others or merely after he began trying to use the computer as a way to communicate with his son. Ben's way of going about things is so convoluted. Why can't he just ask Jack nicely? Well, at this point, I guess there have been some incidents that haven't exactly made for stellar Other-Castaway relations, but still, there's no need to make himself even less popular by also abducting Kate and Sawyer. It's way too complicated, not to mention incredibly manipulative.
But back to Nikki and Paolo. Perhaps Paolo is actually dead when we see him; with all those spiders running around, he likely was bitten again, and that probably would kill him. (And wouldn't it have occurred to Nikki he might get bitten twice, even with only one spider? Then again, she wanted a gun first, so she probably was okay with the idea of him winding up dead.) Paolo could have contributed to the island, particularly by letting people know what Ben was up to. This knowledge would have saved everyone a heap of trouble. Shame on him for not spilling the beans. Shame on both of them for being such petty, self-absorbed people. And the whole thing about "Gee, maybe you won't need me anymore if you have the diamonds"? Yeah, not romantic. Just whiny. I'm trying to muster up a little sympathy for one or both of them if they are indeed dead, because I always try to give each character the respect he or she is due as a human being. But gosh, they make it a little hard, given the circumstances. I always hated Romeo and Juliet, and at least they weren't running around killing people for money. Nikki and Paolo brought their misfortune on themselves. Hooray for Jin being alive and well.
The previews seem to indicate that next week's focus is on Kate and Juliet's catfight. Apparently they're going back to the beach, though I don't know what they're up to or why they're traveling together. The title is the very ominous Left Behind, which could mean Jack and Juliet, since they were denied their escape route, or if we do see the beach, which I have a hunch we will, it could mean Nikki and/or Paolo, who were buried alive. Or... going back to my glorious theory... it could mean Vincent, who was abandoned by Michael, who knew he intended to high-tail it off the island as soon as he got his kid back. Couldn't he have said, "Oh, maybe Vincent can help us sniff Walt out" or something? But Michael never did care much about that dog. Let's see if the writers do...

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