SPOILER ALERT: The following post contains what could well be spoilers, if I were able to make any sense of the plot points.
In the first seconds of season 3 of Lost, we learned the most important fact yet about the Others: They have CDs. In a flashback scene reminiscent of the season 2 opener, newcomer Other Juliet pops a CD into her stereo, before the meeting of an Others book club, just before her comrades–who it turns out live in a well-appointed little Pleasantville of ranch-style houses–witness the crash of Oceanic Flight 815. This scene alone raises all manner of questions:
* The hatch we met Desmond in last season was a museum of 1980-era technology, down to the vinyl LPs. Where did they get CDs? Who’s supplying them? (Especially if, as Juliet later hints, the Others are no longer part of the Dharma Initiative?)
* What’s the source of the tension between Juliet and Other leader Fake Henry Gale (who is really, sadly, named "Ben")? And will the castaways/prisoners be able to exploit it?
* What’s the significance of the Stephen King book Juliet chose for the book club? (King has variously praised Lost, been cited as an influence by the producers and been the subject of fan theories that he secretly is a writer for the show.)
* Why is that the CD Juliet pops in plays Petula Clark’s Downtown, when the CD booklet in the jewel box clearly shows the back-cover art for the Talking Heads’ Speaking in Tongues? Is there a hidden lyrical refence–something about Slippery People, or Burning Down the, uh, Hatch? Or were the producers simply unable to secure the soundtrack rights to, say, This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)? If so, poor form, Mr. Byrne. (Actually, I suspect that all this may have no significance. I’m just really satisfied with myself for having noticed it.)
Suffice it to say that the TiVo will get a good workout from this first episode, which, like both previous season openers dropped us with little preparation into a new, bizarre environment (first the island, then the Hatch, and now Otherville) and then flooded us with details like the wall of water Jack unleashed while trying to escape his submarine prison cell. Suffice it further to say that I won’t even try to analyze all the new developments and possible clues in the episode–I’ll leave that to the billion-fingered armies of the Internet. And suffice it finally to say that the episode, whatever it did or didn’t answer, was funny, inventive and grandly entertaining. (So much so that the Jack flashback to the breakup of his marriage, while touching and I’m sure very important for character-development-audience-identification-blah-blah-blah, seemed mostly superfluous.)
A few favorite moments:
* Ben, to Juliet, looking over the King novel that we are told he would have disapproved: "I guess I’m out of the book club."
* Jack, having self-aware fun with his own abrasive nature as he lies to Juliet that he was a repo man before the island: "I’m a people person, so I really love it."
* Sawyer, to Other Tom upon getting his mechanical cage contraption to give him water and a fish-shaped Dharma bar: "Figured out your complicated gizmos." Tom: "Only took the bears two hours."
* Ben, again, having brunch with a captive Kate, under a thatched hut on the beach that looked like the site of a Survivor reward banquet, explaining why he gave her a new dress and the nice meal: "I gave you all that so you’d have something to hold onto. Because Kate: the next two weeks are going to be very unpleasant."
Actually, ABC is airing five more straight uninterrupted new episodes before the show goes on hiatus until winter, so the next several weeks are looking pretty good from here. But if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go have a fish bar.