Lost – ‘Not in Portland’ – 3.7


If you listen to the major television critics (most of whom greeted Lost’s return for 16 straight episodes with stellar marks), what once was Lost is found again. I happen to reside in the ‘Other’ camp. I was hooked on this show from the first moments of the pilot episode and have been swept up in the grand, glorious mystery ever since. I guess I simply possess that elusive human quality. You know…


I’ll never understand those people who get hooked by a mystery and then want everything answered immediately. With this show, that’s all you hear from the naysayers. WE WANT ANSWERS!!! Well, some answers have come. Sure, they have been parceled out, but yes, you are correct, some of the central mysteries remain just that – an enigma. And that’s the way it should be until we reach the closing passage of this grand adventure. I mean, who grabs a book and skips to the end. Actually, now that I write that, who actually grabs a book these days (I write as I turn my eyes downward and mumble awkwardly. Guilty as charged.)

My point is, I understand the frustration that can set in when you feel that a show might not deliver on its promise, that its plot strands will grow too disparate and that no matter what narrative hoops the writers dive through, they’ll lose control and never get back on course. I’ve seen it happen with my all-time favorite show, The X-Files, which truly should have ended its run somewhere around the 7th season.

The difference between The X-Files and Lost is a wide gulf. The X-Files sprinkled its mystery in the six or seven ‘mythology’ episodes that it dropped on us a season. Everything else was ‘monster-of-the-week’. Personally, I enjoyed both types of eps equally (the true draw was Mulder and Scully and their interplay), but I understand where some people could grow hungry when provided with so few morsels.

With Lost, every episode is part of the mythology. You may not get the full picture, but through the added details you can see it begin to take shape. And what a dense and rich mythology we have developing. I love the fact that the show is equal parts drama and puzzle. Sure the red herrings abound (quite literally as we saw when Sawyer won himself a fish biscuit) but more often than not, the writers deepen the mystery and color the truth with each successive episode. Yes, for every answer a new question usually opens, but that’s how a treasure hunt unfolds. Each found item brings you another clue on your journey towards great riches.

Using video games as a metaphor, the pleasure in playing a game is not reaching the end and viewing the final cut-scene that calls it a wrap on the narrative and gives way to the credits. It’s the journey in the middle that compels us to play. Lost is no different. We’re playing along, exploring this fantasy island alongside our surrogate heroes and looking forward to each new clue. At least, I am. All you need is just a little patience.

Enough with the rant – on with the show.

1.   The first person we gazed eyes upon in last fall’s season premiere was Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell). Juliet’s intro coaxed the same inquiry out of me that Desmond’s initial scene in the Season 2 premiere prompted. Who is that and where the hell are we? Desmond was in the Hatch. Juliet is an ‘Other’ apparently living on Wisteria Lane, or some approximation of that suburban sprawl, which just so happens to be located on our mystery island. It was a great WTF moment, pregnant with possibility.

2.   The Season 2 Spring Premiere opens on Juliet again. In that great Lost tradition of misdirection, we spy a troubled Juliet overlooking the sea, apparently contemplating a big decision. She heads inside where she passes Ethan (who casually says “Hello” and keeps walking). The interior looks dark and dingy and with Ethan’s cameo we assume this to be a flashback to earlier island times. Then comes the reveal. Juliet asks her sis to come live with her and the sister (who appears to be suffering or recovering from cancer) says that she likes living near the beach. Juliet throws the shades open and proclaims “It’s Miami. Everywhere is on the beach.” I thought that was a great reveal but it prompts the question – What the hell was Ethan doing there?

3.   The episode title – ‘Not in Portland’ refers to Juliet’s job offer from a medical research firm, Mittelos Bioscience. The producers tipped their hand that an anagrammed clue was deposited somewhere in the episode. A Google search on Mittelos returns the anagram – ‘Lost Time’. The Mittelos rep eventually confides that the job is ‘not quite in Portland’ – hence the title.

4.   Need to get rid of a character quickly. Cue the speeding bus. Nip/Tuck’s done it. Final Destination did it. But give producer J.J. Abrams credit. He pioneered it when he threw a speeding bus at Keri Russell’s courtier Todd on Felicity several years back. No matter how many times I see it happen, a guy getting plowed over by a speeding bus never fails to entertain. It’s the thriller equivalent of a spit take.

5.   Sawyer was in rare form this evening. “Can’t believe you fell for the ol’ Wookie hostage scam.”

6.   On the Sawyer front, the other big revelation was the rescue of Carl from Dharma’s Clockwork Orange brainwash chamber. That place would make for one helluva’ rave if it wasn’t so damn creepy. Among the messages being blasted into Carl’s brain, I caught a reference to Jacob – “God Loves You as Does Jacob”. In the last episode, Tom mentioned that Jack wasn’t on ‘Jacob’s’ list. Who is the mysterious Jacob? Is he the eye-patched guy that Locke spied on that monitor? I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.


7.   Towards the end of the episode, Juliet lets Jack know that she has been on the island for 3 years, 2 months and 28 Days. In the show’s chronology, the survivors are still in the year 2004 as evidenced by Ben’s Red Sox World Series revelation from last fall. Also, we know they’re beyond two months removed from September 2004 due to last season’s episode – ’The Other 48 Days’ – which chronicled the Tailies 48 day journey from one side of the island to the other. That places the actual time that the show is currently taking place somewhere in early-to-mid December 2004. If you do the math backwards, Juliet arrived on or very close to September 11, 2001.

Now here’s where I theorize.

I don’t think the selection of that date is meant to be insensitive. There have been other programs that have worked September 11th into their fictional narratives. Also, I don’t believe the writers mean to suggest that Dharma has anything to do with the real world catastrophe. Instead, I think the events of that day forced Juliet’s decision to join Dharma. We already know that Dharma experiments focused on psychiatry, zoology, paranormal behavior and the unique magnetic properties of that island. Their studies have pulled in individuals who have displayed some psychic gifts. Also, we have seen that a mysterious smoke creature (which I believe is a manifestation of true ‘evil’) inhabits the island. Also, there is the presence of the male and female skeletons.

What if Alvar Hanso located the actual Garden of Eden on Earth? What if those skeletons are Adam and Eve? What if within this Garden of Eden, true Evil lived alongside pure Good? What if the unique magnetic properties on this island broadcast Good and Evil impulses throughout the world? What if there was no traditional God or Devil but rather actual tangible ‘forces’ that influence humans and their choices.

Dharma may have set up shop to study these forces and using psychic energies, upset the balance of good and evil, transmitting those ‘good’ tidings at greater strength throughout the world. Their theory being that by influencing good behavior, they could end war and suffering and essentially save the world from itself. In essence, the solution for World Peace.

If it is true that September 11th was the date Juliet came to the island, it’s importance is most likely symbolic. Dharma may have told Juliet all about what they are up to and what they are looking to change. Any rational person would run screaming or stand a skeptic. But maybe, on that day, Juliet witnessed (as did we all) true evil and it forced her hand. Crazy or not, perhaps Dharma could make a difference in the world. Three years, two months and 28 days later, she’s beginning to rethink their cause. Again, this is wildly speculative but I believe it pulls in enough of the disparate plot threads to forge a pretty compelling theory. This also backs up Ben’s assertion – “We’re the good guys, Michael.” Are ‘The Others’ striving to make up for Lost Time.

Next week – ‘Flashes Before Your Eyes’.

[tv 4.5]

Comments now closed (7)

  • Ed, I also enjoyed the speeding bus, although I first saw it on Final Destination. A very underated movie. I like the way she called it before it happend. She was shocked because she said earlier that day. Interesting 9/11 theory, but I am not sure I that would do it. I think she some issues and was looking to “get away”. Maybe not that far, but she wanted to continue her research and this enabled her to do so without bringing her sister into it as her ex wanted. I am curious to as to what type of treatments she was using on her sister. She obvisouly didn’t get back to see the baby be born, if her sister even had the baby.

    Ethan showing up was strange. He must have been spying on the sister or somehow got to know the sister to get info on what treatment she was using on her. Ethan has to be a doctor with the same speciality has Juliet because he was one who took Clarie and was injecting her before she escaped. It was similar to what Juliet was doing to her sister. Shots to stomach.

    All and all, I am glad it is back. Should be a good 15 weeks going forward. I also agree on the “I want answers” camp. I think sometimes shows can string people along and lose an audiance than have 10 episode to “wrap” up because they know they will be cancelled. I think Lost has two more season and should look to end point at that time.

  • @ckiatos:
    1. Maybe the way they coerced her to the island is by promising to cure her sister. Remember, Locke arrived on the island and was cured as was Rose (of cancer). Of course, Ben has cancer. Maybe if you are foreign to the island, you can be cured, but if you are born there, you cannot. Or – if you spend too much time there you eventually start to break down. I don’t know – either way, one person’s cancer was cured and another’s not – so it’s a mystery. But they may have used the ability to cure her sister to coerce her to come. Also agree that she was now free to go away although she has to be freaked out that they could arrange a bus to smash her ex.

    2. I like how when we first met Ethan, he was this creepy, sinister dude and in all of the flashback episodes he seems fairly nice (this one, the Claire episode, even the season premiere.) What’s up with that duality. By the way – did you know the actor who plays him (William Mapother) is Tom Cruise’s cousin? With Ethan as freaky looking as anyone, I guess Tom sapped that gene pool dry.

  • I have to admit that I wasn’t pining for the show to return during its absence, but now that it is back, I am starting to get geeked back up. I think it was hard with the first six episodes being jumbled the way they were with the setup they obviously needed to do before the break. I almost wish they just focused those on the three rather than show anything about the rest. I think that would have kept people more in suspense. Anyway, my hope is that they get into a good rhythm over the rest of the season. The preview at the end certainly looked pretty good.

    Don’t forget about Rachel McAdams getting run over by the bus in Mean Girls, although she didn’t die. I’ll leave to you to make fun of me for knowing this…

    I have to believe it was Ethan behind the wheel of that bus. It is obvious they want Juliet, so short of kidnapping her, they remove whatever roadblocks are in the way of her accepting their offer.

    I was wondering if Ethan did something to Juliet’s sister before Juliet arrived. The sister was out, so who knows. Was it really the research that Juliet was doing that caused the pregnancy or something else that Ethan did?

    What about the reveal that Alex is Ben’s daughter? Are we now talking adoptive or real? I’ll go with adoptive since we all believe she is Roussou’s kid and wasn’t she prego when she arrived?

    The Wookiee line was great.

  • @Sean – I think Alex just grew up thinking she was Ben’s daughter. Danielle said that ‘The Others’ took her infant daughter when she crashed on the island. Alex would have grown up never knowing her mother and would naturally believe Ben to be her father. I’m sure we can count on her finding out the truth.

  • Ed, funny you mention Rose. Has she even been in an episode this season? I find that strange. I agree that once they kidnapped Roussou’s daughter been must have “adopted” her as his own. Funny that she is quite rebellious and seems to be pretty crafty like her mother.

    Sean, I agree the break was tough and I found myself losing interest. I also don’t like the 10 pm start. Stupid American Idol! I didn’t even know it was opposite AI as I have never watch it. That would be like watching “Mean Girls”. Oh no I didn’t! Yes I did! Someone had to step up and call you on that reference.

    But I am back in the fold. Looking forward to seeing what’s up on the other island.

  • @Ed: Yeah, I agree. It makes sense that some of these kids they have taken wouldn’t know they had been adopted, assuming they were taken early enough.

    @CK: Thanks for the Man Check! I don’t recall seeing Rose at all, but then she is a minor character, so not unexpected. We didn’t get a lot of face time with some of the folks with their name in the credits yet.