Tuned In

TIME at Comic-Con: Lost

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From my e-mail inbox to you, the tireless Rebecca Winters Keegan reports on this weekend’s Lost panel at Comic-Con:

Noon, Saturday
The Lost panel is happening in the 6500-seat Hall H after the Heroes panel. Some attendees stood in line for seven hours to get inside. Season five hasn’t begun taping yet, so it’s not clear what panelists Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof will be able to share.

The panel, we’re told, is “sponsored” by that shadowy research project the Dharma Initiative. CC and DL sit onstage drinking from enormous Dharma Initiative cups like Coke-swilling American Idol judges, and folks in khaki DI uniforms usher people to their seats.

A documentary-style video about the Oceanic Six starts playing. The narrator calls it, “a story so incredible, so completely improbable that quite frankly we all assume it has to be true…. or is it?” Over black and white images of the cast, he asks, “Could the Oceanic Six be at the center of one of the greatest conspiracies in recent history? And if they are, who or what are they trying to protect?” The words “The Freighter Folk” flash on screen, with more pictures of cast members, including Faraday. Someone asks, “What I want to know is, what is he doing wearing a tie on the beach?”

After the video, a silver-haired man named Hans von Eegan (sp?) [Search me. –ed.] takes the stage and tells the crowd he is a DI recruiter who is conducting a search for qualified men and women for the Initiative here at Comic-Con. So far he said he’s found only “boys and girls in a state of perpetual arrested development.” Hans plays a brief video showing the kinds of questions Con-goers are asked to determine their fitness for the project, questions like: “What would you sacrifice to stay alive? You just took a sick child’s toy –why?” And, “What does terror sound like?” Hans says he only found six D.I.-worthy volunteers, a fairly standard-looking group of Comic-Conners who are paraded on stage, then whisked away.

CC and DL quickly get to the Q&A portion of the panel, giving questioners gifts. A guy named Stewart who is a dead ringer for Jorge Garcia gets a Costco-sized tub of Dharma Initiative Ranch dressing; a guy who asks a writing question gets a life jacket signed by all the writers. Here’s a sample of the Q&A, all answered by either CC or DL. When I’m thinking/typing fast enough, I note the initials. It doesn’t really matter, though. They speak like they share a brain:

-Did the island travel when the hatch imploded? No

-Are Jen and Locke dead? You have not seen the last of either of those characters. Death is a relative term.

-What are your favorite episodes and seasons? CC: The Constant and Season 1; DL: The Season 1 Finale, and season 4

-Will Rousseau get a flashback? CC: “You will learn some more about Rousseau’s story. To use the word flashback might be disingenuous. Instead of flashbacks and flash forwards, we’re gonna do something different.” (This was the first of a few references CC and DL made to a new way of handling the passage of time that will be employed in season five).

-Did the book/movie Lost Horizon influence you? CC: “It’s not a touchstone movie or book…however Stephen King we do rip off wantonly.”

-What happened to Vincent? Vincent made it and will appear in season 5, and it’s safe to say Vincent will make it to the end of the show

-Will Jack and Kate get together in the end? CC and DL dodge this one, but gave the questioner a Jack action figure. While they’re debating the figure’s likeness, Matthew Fox strides onstage to thunderous applause. He looks dumb-founded by the size of the crowd.

-Will Kate ever see Sawyer again? Yes

-What will happen to the people on the Zodiac boat? “Those of you wondering why Faraday is wearing a tie on an island, stay tuned.” DL says when season 5 starts, “You’re not gonna know where you are. There will be storytelling off the island.”

-Do you ever write yourselves into a corner? CC: “We try to write ourselves into corners every day.”

-How old is Richard Alpert and how many toes does he have? CC” “You’re gonna see him barefoot in the near future.”

At this point one of the six DI recruits who stood on stage earlier, a chubby guy with curly hair, comes running back onto the stage holding a camera and screaming, “After four seasons they deserve to get some freaking answers!” The hysterical chubby guy’s tape is then played on Hall H’s big screens. It shows him going to the Dharma booth in the Convention Center with Hans to see a classified video. In the video, a scientist identifies himself as “Dr. Marvin Candle,” then says, “You know what, forget it. There’s no point in games anymore, right? If you’re watching this now, you know that my real name is Pierre Chang.” [!!! —ed.] A baby cries off-camera. Chang yells for the baby to be taken outside. “There’s only one chance at this. Please!” he says. “I am a professor of theoretical astrophysics from Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was brought to this godforsaken island years ago to conduct experiments studying the (something sciencey and unintelligible) Einstein field equations. If I can keep this (unintelligible) open long enough you should be receiving my message roughly 30 years in the future. The American president is a man named George W. Bush. You share digital information instantaneously on something called the Internet. And unfortunately my colleagues and I are all dead in a violent purge. One we are apparently powerless to escape. This info comes to me from a source that has proven to be credible.” Voices off camera say, “None of it matters. Get to it.” “Chang resumes, “This place, it has extraordinary properties… It’s imperative that the Dharma Initiative be reconstituted. Time is not just of the essence. It is the essence. Perhaps you will be able to find a way to save us, to change the past.” The voices off camera say, “This is useless.” The camera is turned off.

The DI guy returns to the stage and says the Initiative is withdrawing sponsorship. The panel has to end.

Fans share a collective whoah. I’d ask for their reactions but I’m running to a Seth Rogen Q&A. I have to say, Lost put on the most entertaining panel I’ve seen yet at this year’s Con, with the special-for-Comic-Con videos and cool, quirky gifts. They treat their fans like stars.