SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t watched Lost yet, stay very still for eight hours, until the feeling of numbness passes.
Last night’s was a really cool episode of Lost. That is a different thing, however, from a really good episode of Lost. The installment in which the show explained–then killed off–the much-loathed characters of Nikki and Paulo would have been a triumph, a redemption of the widely mocked decision to add the new characters out of nowhere, if the episode had managed to tie them in to the larger continuing story. (I say this, by the way, as somebody who kind of liked the out-of-the-blue new characters; it reminded me, in a way, of the introduction of Dawn to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I thought the writers had meta-fun with the artificiality of the whole idea.)
Instead, it was an elaborately spun one-off, a Twilight Zone episode (or worse, a CSI), a collection of inside jokes (“Tell me we’ll never end up like them”), allusions and Easter eggs. Look–it’s Arzt! It’s Shannon and Boone–and apparently Boone’s gay! So that’s what Paulo was doing in the Pearl hatch can! It’s funny; usually, serials do standalone episodes as a sop to casual viewers who haven’t gotten into the show’s whole mythology. But there’s no way in hell you’d have been able to make heads or tails of “Expose” without having seen the entire series, and without having a pretty sharp memory of details going all the way back to the pilot. It seemed basically like an intended treat for hardcore students of Lost, most of whom, however, will probably hate the episode because it took the Big Story nowhere.
Mrs. Tuned In and I debated after the show whether (1) the writers had planned this ending for the pair since the beginning of the season or (2) they realized at some point that Nikki and Paulo were a horrible mistake and decided to kill them off, Ana Lucia-style. In a way, I’m hoping for (2). That at least would have been an Olympian act of retroactive ass-covering, offing the characters in an elaborate way, accounting for their every brief appearance this season (so that’s why Paulo was weirded out when Nikki wanted to go to the Pearl station!), in a way that made it all look long-planned and intentional. Option (1) simply means that it was long-planned and intentional–again, in an impressive way–but for what? So we could be all, “Oooh, but they’re still alive!” and forget about Jack and Sayid for an episode?
If at the end of it all, it turned out that Paulo and Nikki were informants for the Others as Sawyer said, the episode could have been one of the series’ best. But except for the scenes with Ethan (above) and Ben and Juliet (which didn’t tell us much)–nothing. As it was, it’s best treated as a banquet of Easter eggs, or rather Easter candy, whose parts didn’t add up to a balanced meal but were tasty empty calories taken individually, like so:
* The Fox Force Five-ness of the Expose series within a series cracked me up–Billy Dee Williams, perfect! “What’s Expose?” “Only the most awesome hour of television ever!”
* The episode was busting with Hurleyisms. Upon Sayer saying that Eko’s “You’re next” applied to everyone, not just Nikki and Paulo: “Yeah, that’s not really better.” To Desmond: “No offense, dude, but far as superpowers go, yours is kind of lame.” And finally, his priceless eulogy: “Nikki and Paulo. I guess we didn’t know you very well. And it appears that you killed each other for diamonds.” I want someone to say that at my funeral.
* “Paulo lies” was really “Paralyzed”–I’m sorry, that was cool. (The magically paralyzing “Medusa spider,” on the other hand, was a little too Gilligan’s Island.)
* I can’t put my finger on it, but the Locke who talked to Paulo on the beach really seemed like the Locke from the first season–confident, serene, spouting deep-sounding aphorisms (“Nothing stays buried on this island”…) and practical nature-man advice (…because high-tide season is coming to the beach).
* Seeing the familiar pilot and first-season scenes redone from another P.O.V. was a trip, although to Mrs. Tuned In, Jack’s speech on the beach reminded her of the stitched-in Livia Soprano scenes from the episode in which she dies.
That said, I’m ready to move on and wait for the story to pick up again next week. Speaking of which: fisticuffs between Kate and Juliet? Can that possibly be a fair fight? Juliet looks like she’d cry if you honked at her for cutting you off in traffic.