'Lost': Letters from the Flame, Volume 5

Michaelemerson_lost A quick thanks for all the positive feedback for yesterday's entry. You might assume I'm an aloof critic, but I've spent the better part of the day reenacting Sally Field's "You really like me!" speech in front of the monitor. Hey, it gets lonely writing a Lost blog sometimes. I'll be sure to revisit this topic in future entries (brush up on your knowledge of Isaac Asimov's Foundation series as a primer) but for now, let's get to this week's edition of "Letters to the Flame."

As always, these are questions posed by Zap2It readers concerning the latest, greatest, and most perplexing issues in the Lost universe. On with your thoughts and questions!

First up, reader "A-Rob" wants to know the following:

I'm sure sometime you'll tackle Ben/Widmore's rules, but I've been thinking of something too. Ben told him that he'll never find the island. But really, Widmore did find the island, with the freighter folks already there. If Widmore's true focus was getting back to the island, why wouldn't he go on the freighter with them? Or was this just an exploratory mission.

Or, could this power struggle between Ben and Widmore be a whole, this island isn't big enough for the both of us, kind of thing. The only way Widmore can be on the island is if Ben isn't there, and vice versa.

Obviously, the relationship between these two titans will form a bulk of the remaining story of Lost, with specifics doled out at a rate to be determined. I could see the basic struggle outlined by the end of this season, and I could also seeing the true, central conflict revealed during Season 6. Either is possible.

Let's tackle the issues in the order you present them. As far as Widmore unable to find the Island by the time of their London encounter, clearly the Island is inaccessible via the methods used by the freighter folk. The freighter discovered the Island, so near as I can tell, by an event long planned/anticipated by Widmore: the turning of the failsafe key by Desmond Hume. This single action allowed for a level of precision in identifying the Island previously lacking.

But, clearly, this window is discreet, in terms of both time and space. If it were simply a matter of retracing the steps of the freighter, Widmore would have no problem whatsoever. But that's not the case, for reasons I could guess but with little certainty. Perhaps the Island's electromagnetic field changes to the point where access is no longer possible. Perhaps the precarious timeshift between the real world and Island world is too dangerous to cross. Maybe the Island's a mirror moon. Lot of possibilities that are fun to consider, but not extensively at this time.

As far as Widmore not being onboard the Kahana: let's take yesterday's Risk metaphor and extend it a bit. Would a king ever stand at the front lines of a battle? Of course not, he'd send in foot soldiers to the slaughter and collect his prize only when the threat of harm to himself is zero. So long as Ben Linus is in play, Widmore's not safe.

"But," you say, quite astutely, "Ben says he can't kill Widmore! So what doth Widmore haveth to feareth?" Your weird, faux Elizabethan omits one fact: we only know Ben can't kill Widmore in London. On the Island? All bets are ostensibly off. Remember what Widmore said at the end of "The Shape of Things To Come":

Widmore: That island's mine, Benjamin. It always was. It will be again.

I'm standing by my theory that Widmore and Linus once physically coexisted on the Island, and due to a type of cosmic conservation of energy (as describe in my recap), the conflict that started on the Island can only be solved on the Island. Think of it like Miyagi and Sato in The Karate Kid II: it would be really weird to have them solve their decades-old conflict in downtown Des Moines. They need to throw down in Okinawa, baby. And the Linus/Widmore conflict needs to end on the Island, plain and simple.

How will Widmore get BACK? There's the $4,815,162,342 question, and, ironically, the amount of money in Widmore's checking account. (OK, I made that up.)

OK, that was a long, convoluted answer to a meaningful question. Let's try to follow that up with something equally important and philosophical. With that in mind, Brian of the North has a vital observation:

This may have been covered, and I just watched last week's ep on my computer, but did anyone notice the red-shirts slipping on a certain viscous, sticky, sweet fluid as they came out of the cabins to greet Sawyer. Easily one of the (un?)-intentionally funny moments of the series.

I'm going to go with "unintentionally" on this one, but yes, the fact that I nearly fell on floor laughing took a bit away from the drama of the scene. My take was that the night before, Camp Locke had Game Night, and one of the redshirts simply forgot to put away the Slip N' Slide. Tragic, really. (As for the "certain viscous, sticky, sweet fluid"...we have something special planned for you all very soon.)

Let's see what reader "Adslinger" has knockin' about his noggin:

Does the island need some kind of conflict in order to thrive? Ben knows he can't kill Charles and, I'm guessing, Charles can't kill Ben. Michael can't die; apparently neither can Jack or Locke (although we don't know that for sure yet) because they apparently all have work to do. So, if one side is trying to control the island for good and the other side is trying to control the island for self-serving reasons like money and profit, why does the Island need each side alive?

So, if I read this correctly, you're asking if the Island's like a character on The Hills, needing conflict to justify its existence? That's a provocative theory, man. Ben's eyes ARE as scary as Spencer's teeth. You might be onto something here.

Massivemonsterattack In all seriousness, I think it's a mistake to think of only one sole "force" at play here. A few months ago I looked at Jacob/Smokey as two sides of a split coin: a yin and yang of opposing forces that exist in order to balance the other, sort of like Neo and Mr. Smith in The Matrix. For every Island impulse, there's an equal and opposite impulse steering things in another direction.

This binary opposition might be a crude construction, but it still hopefully serves to show that there's not simply the Island's will at work here. Just as Widmore and Linus fashion themselves the ruling players over a Risk board of their design, I'm willing to wager there are two unseen sides looking down at them the same way Linus and Widmore look down at their pawns.

Why do you never pick up when I call? Are you eating well? Do you need a blanket? You look cold. And I brought you some brownies. You're too thin, eat something already.

Mom! I told you never to write me here! I'm like, working and stuff! Using that English degree you paid for, aren't you proud? I'll call you later, promise. What? This? This is a "blog." No, it's not like a diary. Know what? I'll just call you later. Yes, I promise. Fine, stay if you want. You can learn what reader "sin laden" wants to know.

I would really like to know how Widmore knew the location of the island (whether he knew through Penny or the Brazilians in the ice cave) and why the hell Ben was so sick after landing in the Sahara, presumably via The Orchid.

As mentioned before, the sky turning purple gave Widmore a great bearing, but remember: this was simply one (albeit incredibly important) piece in a chain of events stretching back decades, ostensibly all the way back to The Purge itself. We've seen a few steps along the way, such as the purchase of the journal, Henry Gale's balloon, and the race around the world...all part of a master plan to triangulate the location of this Island.

But you bring up a good point about Penny and Her Peeps. At the time, their insertion into the narrative represented the first time something the "real world" was shown concurrent to events happening on the Island. So it was seismic, it was revelatory, and it was promptly ignored until roughly 2/3rds of the way through Season 3. Awesome.

I've held onto the following backstory for some time now, but take it with a silo of salt. After Desmond's disappearance, Penny did a bit of investigating of her own, behind her father's back. Or so she thought, as Charles Widmore was in fact counting on his daughter using her love for Desmond and extensive financial resources in order to find him, essentially doing Widmore's work for him. He tapped into her networks, learned of the location via the transmission from the "ice cave" (on Hoth, maybe?) as you call it, already had a freighter on hold in the nearish vicinity, and therefore could immediately pounce upon the location discovered by the men inside the listening station.

Essentially, under this scenario, Widmore's privy to certain future events and merely seeks to facilitate them. This is how I justify his seemingly schizophrenic attitude towards Desmond: in "Live Together, Die Alone," he's downright hostile to him, but in "The Constant," he's basically paternal. He's whatever he needs to be to actualize the necessary steps needed to lead Desmond towards turning the key and Penelope discovering the Island via this action.

Or, you know, not. I mean, I could be wrong. Like I said, that's my working backstory, and I'm sticking with it until proven wrong, which should be soon enough.

Finally, let's end this edition of "Letters" with two men with lunch meat on their minds.

Have you seen this "Earth as a sandwich" website? Essentially it shows that if the earth were squashed down like a sandwich and you stuck a toothpick through Tunisia, it would come out in the middle of the South Pacific. There is no chance that this could just be a coincidence, right? --- "John"

Concerning the 'Earth Sandwich' theory, and the fact that it depends on where you do the smooshing or where the ends are. The sample could be manipulated to make all sorts of different results. However, it still brings up an interesting theory of how he might travel through the center of the Earth somehow to reach his destination. It may be boiling hot in the middle but in between I'm sure it can get mighty cold without sunlight. Hence, the Dharma Parka or Dharka. --- Shaggysteve

First of all, can I just say how much I want a Dharka? I'd pay a good deal of monthly income towards the purchase of one. Living as I do in the Northeast, it would come in handy. And be a hit with da ladies. But enough about the jacket and onto this theory.

I'm fine with a less literal version of this theory, which is to say that there are certain "hot spots" harmonically connected via the electromagnetic elements based in the center of the Earth. (Then again, given the Dharka, maybe I should call these "cold spots.") The appearance of the polar bear in Tunisia brandishing a Hydra collar neither confirms nor denies Shaggysteve's assertion that extreme cold is a necessary component of such teleportation, but clearly there's a connection between Tunisia and the Island.

What's more interesting, to me, is Ben's uncertainty of the time in which he's spit out. We've seen several Others in the "real world" before, with Ethan once telling Juliet that the trip to the Island would be "pretty intense." Ethan wasn't playing around, I guess. While we've seen Others after being in the real world for a little bit, we've never seen them at the moment they "arrive," as it were. It's mere speculation to say Ben arrived differently than Richard, Tom, or Ethan, but it's worth noting that those three were sent to specific places and, ostensibly, to specific times as well. This suggests that the effort involved in landing in the Sahara involved risks Ben had previously never worried about.

Perhaps this is connected to the Widmore's inability to find the Island. Perhaps Ben's trip via the Orchid (aka, the "Sandwich Maker") was one-way. Impossible to say with any certainty at this point. In any case, there's value to be had in looking at teleportation in Lost through this metaphor, but at the end, it works more as a thought exercise than actual material application to the show itself.

Thanks to everyone for your questions, and make sure to head over to It Happened Last Night Thursday night for the recap of "Something Nice Back Home," this season's 10th episode.

Ryan also posts every 108 minutes over at Boob Tube Dude.