I imagine, much like Nikki and Paulo’s sudden appearance, this episode divided viewers into the Love it or Hate it camps – or Front Section/Tail Section if you’re looking for a Lost-themed euphemism.
Me? I LOVED It. This was a clever stand-alone hour that worked on numerous levels.
First and foremost, it was Lost’s variation on the classic whodunit, with our resident beachcombers struggling to uncover the how and why of Nikki and Paulo’s untimely ‘demise’. To that end, it was also a classic morality play, with an ending ripped from the pages of Tales from the Crypt (I’ll dive into that in my observations below). Finally – and most fittingly, Expose was a winking in-joke; a celebration of the Red Shirt (that token background character made famous in the original Star Trek who is given just enough lines to move the plot along before fate (or a screenwriter’s whimsy) steps in and ends their tenure).
On with the show.
1. Five minutes in and Lando Calrissian saves the day. I cracked a Colt 45 and a smile.
2. So Billy Dee was playing Billy Dee who was playing Mr. LaShade who in actuality was The Cobra. Genius. Also, knowing the little puzzles the writers like to toss in here, that whole segment may have been a bit of playful foreshadowing. Later in the episode, Hurley pages through the Expose script and stumbles across the revelation that the Good Guy LaShade was really The Cobra. He then lets Sawyer know that Mr. LaShade has been the good guy for four season before revealing his deception. Could this be foreshadowing a fellow good guy changing his stripes? Maybe, Jack??? (Yup, I’m reeling in The Manchurian Candidate theory again).
3. First tip off to the Red Shirt – in an episode brimming with playful references, Nikki confesses to her director who offers to bring her character back from the dead, “I’m just a guest star. I’m destined to be killed off.”
4. Was it Flight 815 that crashed on this island or Con Air? As Sean pointed out, there are approximately 4 con men at work on the island. Sawyer is the obvious one. Followed by Kate. Shannon was grifting wealthy dudes (and her lover./brother) to get at her Dad’s cash. Cooper was hand-delivered to Locke in a box. Now we have Nikki/Paulo scamming the director for his stash of diamonds. Man, this is a tough crowd.
5. There’s an old filmmaking adage, ‘If you show a gun in Act 1, it better go off in Act 3.’ The same rule applies to Medusa Spiders.
6. So Nikki and Paulo were essentially the Forest Gumps (or Jungle Humps) of the island as they were spotted in every single major event. Some were obvious (of course we would need to revisit the plane crash – nice effects work meshing Nikki in with pilot footage by the way) while others were surprising. So the two apparently found Boone’s plane and The Pearl station long before anyone else. While it’s a bit of a stretch that neither felt the need to tell anyone about the shelter that they found, once you come to terms with how selfish they were, it’s a little easier to take. Plus The Pearl segment effectively removed Paulo’s unfortunate web nickname. After last season’s episode, where Paulo emerged from The Pearl ‘john’, the net had dubbed him – TASG – which loosely translates to (and this is a family site here so I am being a bit delicate) – Take A Dump Guy. Now we know he was just stashing his rocks. NO!!! That’s not a euphemism.
7. When Nikki spied Shannon and Boone arguing in the airport she proclaimed “Promise me we’ll never end up like them.” What – Dead? Or Brother and Sister Lovebirds?
8. Another shout out to the Red Shirt – the reappearance of Dr. Artz – who when last seen, blew himself up with dynamite. “Dude, you’ve got some Artz on you.”
9. I like Sawyer’s continued befuddlement whenever he spies Nikki. When Hurley tells him “Dude, Nikki’s dead” – Sawyer speaks for the audience, “Who’s Nikki?”
10. Ultimately, that leads to Paulo and Nikki’s fate. I can’t help but think that their awkward insertion into the show (unlike the eloquent introduction of the Others’ Juliet and Ben) was tied to ABC’s demand to ‘sex’ up the show. During last Spring’s Network Upfronts (where the major nets profile their programming schedules), an ABC executive promised that Lost would inject more action and romance in the third season. To me, that always sounded like some executive lobbed bullet points at Cuse and Lindelof and told ‘em to make it work. That they did and that it failed so spectacularly is testament to the fact that the suits should leave the creative types alone. Lindelof and Cuse did what they were told, they cast the mannequins. Nobody told ‘em that they couldn’t kill them off.
11. But how about that ending? In a playful episode brimming with sly humor, the entire story culminates in one of the more chilling deaths to play out on this show. With Nikki and Paulo paralyzed by the Medusa Spider’s bite, they are thought to be dead and are promptly buried alive by Sawyer and Hurley. At the moment when they began tossing dirt on the grave, Nikki’s eyes flashed open. Neither Hurley nor Sawyer noticed and continued piling dirt. That last shot, of a massive dirt pile resting atop the still living Nikki and Paulo was a chilling moment, although in true Tales from the Crypt fashion, they really had it coming.
12. By the way, after Nikki’s pole dancing and her ‘revealing’ run through the jungle, I think they may have offed the wrong chippie. I’d offer Kate up in a heartbeat. Ah well, there’s always DVR.
Next week (or rather – yesterday) – the Kate-centric ‘Left Behind’.