I didn't know what to expect Thursday night. All I knew is that there isn't much LOST left, so even if it cost me $12.50 and I had no guarantees I'd actually learn anything, I was totally going to attend Times Talks Live: LOST, broadcast via satellite to a local movie theater.

 

Lorne Manly, an entertainment editor with the New York Times, interviewed LOST's executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof for an hour and forty-five minutes. I had told friends I wasn't sure how the time would be filled - surely they wouldn't spoil the ending that is now just two days away, and what could they tell us that we who obsessively study the show wouldn't already know?

 

Plenty, it turns out.

 

I attended the event with two co-workers, Kelly Good (and her brother Justin), and John Sizemore (and his wife Kelly). We laughed a lot, we said, "wow" several times, we left the theater electrically charged over the flat-out-awesome several-minute clip from the finale we were shown as the event ended.

 

We were also, I must say, rather blown away by the number of times the topics of faith, the Bible, redemption, the Garden of Eden and other religious themes were discussed by the producers, many times even without a question directly soliciting such an answer.

 

During the show, actors Michael Emerson (Ben) and Jorge Garcia (Hurley) did walk-ons (admittedly, these were rather cheesily set up with scripted answers that cued the entrance of the actors), and contributed to the questions and answers. Manly asked several questions from his own cards, plus several more that LOST fans around the country had submitted. At the end, audience members there in New York were given the opportunity to ask their own questions.

 

Some of the program involved technical details of how a show like LOST is written and produced, but even these less-revealing moments were enjoyable, mostly because of the hilariously "on" Lindelof and the eloquently-interesting Cuse, who have said they will be going into "radio silence" for a good while after LOST's finale this Sunday night. Why? They want to let the show settle with folks. They believe they have crafted an excellent ending to their tale, one with plenty of answers, but if some questions remain unanswered it is because they did not want to answer them and prefer to let people have something to debate. Kind of like… religion? Yep, like I said, that theme was omnipresent Thursday night, all the way down to the young lady in the NYC audience who credited the show for returning her to faith in God and people, and to church.

 

We saw 4 clips during the evening:

 

The first was the Season Two scene where Locke and Jack debate whether to push the button as the timer ticks down. This is the one with Jack wondering why Locke finds it so easy to believe, and Locke screams back that it's never been easy. They pointed out how they loved that scene for the way Locke needed Jack to agree to push the button with him. He could do it alone, but ultimately, this faith journey thing isn't a solo sport. We need to take it together. And practically, if Locke could convince Jack that they were going to spend a season pushing the button, that is what would convince the audience to go along with that storyline as well.

 

The second was the beloved scene from "The Constant" where Desmond and Penny finally talk to each other over the telephone from the freighter. This established that Desmond would not only be healed from time travel sickness, but that a Constant could be a person (hence, people still are constant presences in everyone's lives in this final season), and that Penny would be the one to rescue the Oceanic 6.

 

The third scene was an example of one that came straight out of a conversation in the writer's room - Hurley and Miles in a 1977 Dharmaville house debating the realities and paradoxes of time travel. Classic, funny stuff. Ultimately, they realized that Hurley would be the voice for the audience on this one, and he would need to come up with a poser that stumped Miles (this was the question of why adult Ben, whom they captured in the Swan in Season Two, would not remember that big bad Iraqi who shot him when he was a child. As we know, this was answered via Richard taking Ben to the Temple's healing pool and telling Kate and Sawyer that young Ben "would remember none of this.")

 

The fourth scene was the clip from the finale, and we'll get to that at the end…

 

Here's a list of the highlights, in no particular order. For the record, I don't consider any of these items "spoilers," because after all, they came directly from the show's production team itself just prior to the finale (as if they want to ruin that for anyone). But if you want to go into Sunday knowing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, turn away now. I promise nothing below this line is going to be something you go away wishing you didn't know, but some people are weird about that and need to click here instead.

 

TURNING AWAY? NO? OKAY, ON WE GO.

 

 

Coolest Reveals

 

One audience member asked a question about the first time Jack and Desmond met running the stadium steps in Los Angeles, you know, the one where "See ya in another life, brotha" originated. This fan had long believed that another line from that conversation, the one where Desmond told Jack, "You've gotta lift it up, brotha," was somehow cosmically significant. Was it? Would it still come into play? Upon hearing the question my co-workers and I groaned a bit, because after all, surely Desmond was merely talking about Jack's sprained ankle back in that scene, telling him he had to elevate it (lift it up). Right? Wrong! The coy answer the producers gave this questioner? "Um, you will know more. You're definitely not going to be disappointed in the finale…"

 

Malcolm David Kelley will be appearing as Walt in the finale! (Even though they joked that Kelley was now 39 years old).

 

Was Widmore really visited by Jacob off-island after the freighter was destroyed? In my recap of "What They Died For" yesterday, I made the case that for several reasons, yes, I believe Charles is telling the truth. But when the producers were questioned about Widmore's motives "now that he's dead," Damon Lindelof gave a very interesting answer. He said that on LOST, we can only assume something happened if they actually showed it to us with a scene. Otherwise, what reason would we have to believe the words of a character they had previously shown us was selfish and untrustworthy? This one made me think. It still makes more sense to me that Widmore was visited by Jacob. How'd he suddenly get back to the island after years of trying? Where'd he get his "list" of candidates? How did he know about the war that was coming to the island, and that there was a "wrong side" that might win? How did he know to bring Desmond? While those are all great questions that still put me in the camp of "yes, Jacob visited Charles," the implication that simply cannot be overlooked from Lindelof's cryptic answer is that Charles - though unafraid of dying like Smokey inferred - is still acting selfishly. His true motives for bringing Desmond back might have had nothing to do with being a failsafe or one final level of protection put in place by Jacob. Following that line of thinking, then, it is quite probable that Jacob never visited Widmore, and therefore Smokey has been given wrong information about Des - information that might backfire on him!

 

There's a major Star Wars reference within the first 7 minutes of the finale. Cuse looked like he wanted to smack Lindelof for revealing this, so we all took this as much more meaningful than, say, Hurley wanting to send George Lucas a better screenplay for Empire Strikes Back. What could it be? A Jack-and-Claire Luke-and-Leia-style kiss? Ew, let's not go there. It'd be much cooler if, maybe, Ben were to go up to Jack at the concert and say, "I am your father!"

 

Is the "final scene" really the final scene? This was odd. There seemed to be a minor debate between Cuse and Lindelof when Carlton started to talk about something like "the final scene" or the "real final scene." Whatever they were getting at, it was clear this was something they really didn't want to give away. I can only assume that the show will appear to end one way, but one final shot or reveal may just yank the rug out from under us.

 

What vs. Who? This was a cool reveal for me because the producers mentioned the thematic concept of "Identity" - one that we have played with often in our recaps - within the show. So many times they have toggled between defining people or things as whats or whos. Ultimately, they decided early on that instead of answering questions like "What's in the Hatch?" and "What is the Monster?" that it would be so much more powerful, especially considering the sense of community / togetherness / humanity they wanted to instill, to answer them as "Who's in the Hatch?" and "Who is the Monster?"

 

Mirrors. The producers were asked about both the mirrored structure of the six seasons (Season One in many ways paralleling Season Six, and so forth), as well as the prominent presence of actual mirrors and reflections within Season Six. They admitted that first of all they did want the series to have some symmetry, which is one reason why this season's flash-sideways has served to give them more room to help us know the characters in the ways the Season One flashbacks did. The other reason mirrors seem to be everywhere is, as above, the concept of Identity. They want to remind people of the sensation one sometimes gets of looking in a mirror and wondering if the person staring back is really one's self. Who is that person? Do they have their own life on the other side? Do they have the same odd feeling of disassociation when they look closely at themselves or get introspective?

 

Reassurances

 

If you're like me, you've been bombarded recently by pseudo- or know-it-all fans telling you how they heard "the show has four alternate endings!" Please. Stop. This is not a remake of the movie Clue. So get one. If you were perhaps worried about this rumor, Cuse was kind enough to dispel it for us: the "alternate endings" that are being promoted for the post-finale Jimmy Kimmel special are spoofs. Humor spots. Fun. Nothing more.

 

I've long been aware that "did you know how this was going to end since the beginning" has been Cuse and Lindelof's least favorite question. It's pretty much a no-win proposition, as Damon went on to point out. He said there exist two groups he hears from most often. One wants every snippet, plot point, and twist from LOST lore to have been pre-ordained in a giant binder. The other wants to know how much evolved through fan theory, fan reaction, writer creativity, character growth, etc. But these ideas - the ordained and the organic - are mutually exclusive. Still, there have been elements of both occurring. They did confirm, though, what they have confirmed already several times - the actual ending, the final place we end up - has been known since J.J. Abrams conceptualized the show. From there, they crafted a story that was ultimately helped along once they found out exactly how much time they had to tell it. Beyond that, they created each episode to be a compelling story unto itself. It was a brilliant answer involving the many levels of quality storytelling. They even admitted their own fallibility, especially as it pertained to Nikki and Paulo…

 

The producers gave a flat-out "No" to questions of whether the actors or the fans were ever responsible for suggestions that found their way into the show. However, on rare occasions, audience reaction to certain things might cause them to consider putting in an explanatory scene here or there. One such example was how people kept pondering why Hurley would never lose any weight (Lindelof did humorously expose human prejudice via this example, saying that nobody ever asked why Kate's hair retained such a sheen, or why Sawyer's beard never grew unruly, oh, but the fat guy? What's with him?). So, they put in the scene about his secret stash of ranch dressing and other foodstuffs in the jungle. Which later would even give the character a nice obstacle to overcome. And interestingly enough, even Nikki and Paulo were conceived as a way to please fans who used to complain about "all these other survivors" of the 815 crash who never got to say or do anything! And we all know how that turned out: "Who are these characters? Why are they taking up episode time from the ones I already love?!" Which is why in Expose they wrote the great line for Sawyer to say on behalf of the viewers: "Who the hell is Nikki?"

 

How did the producers go about deciding upon and setting up the endgame of the final season? They described it as planning your own funeral. What they really wanted to go for was the emotional response and a spiritual quality. Yes, it will be about the mystery, but mostly, it will be about the characters.

 

Interesting Q & A

 

When asked what some of their inspirations were that they drew upon for their careers and the writing of this series, Cuse pointed to serial Westerns he grew up watching (like Gunsmoke) for their narrative styles and ongoing stories, and Lindelof pointed to Twin Peaks for its "What the hell just happened?" manner of storytelling and David Lynch's writing and direction. It was the first time he ever realized how a TV show could "leave the space of the box it's on" and spawn hours of discussion with someone, in that case, his dad.

 

Some of the ongoing questions / problems some fans seem to have with the show were cited as: Why was Claire's psychic so insistent? What makes Aaron so special? What was the deal with Kate's toy plane (one of my own pet peeves)? Why do you torture us with lines like "every question I answer will only lead to another question" from Mother? And, respectively, they took us through these questions. The psychic would later reveal himself to be a fraud [incidentally, one friend once told me that one of the DVD extras contained a deleted scene where Malkin was paid to make sure Claire made it onto 815]. They never really said Aaron was special; the psychic wasn't legit, the Others only wanted to study him b/c of their fertility issues, etc. Kate's plane was nothing more than what it was; no hidden microfilm inside or anything. And Mother's line about questions and answers? Like it or not folks, it's the truth - about the show and about life (which they illustrated with a mini Q& A session of their own. "Where did the universe come from? The Big Bang. What started the Big Bang? Uh...." and so forth).

 

Ever wonder why, if the Smoke Monster can't kill the candidates, why Smokey tried to drag Locke down that hole at the end of Season One? One audience member did, and Lindelof's two-part answer involved the following: First, "what are the rules?" Is a rule breakable (just with consequences, of course, like in our lives?). Second, what they wanted to explore in this scene was Locke's faith journey. He had previously looked "into the eye of the Island, and what [he] saw was beautiful." Would he still feel that way if those beliefs were challenged? If the beauty turned on him? Came at him with an apparent malevolence? What would that look like?

 

Why has Eloise Hawking always appeared to be one step ahead in knowing what's going on? Will she be appearing in the finale? For obvious reasons, the producers said they could not answer. They did get quite a laugh, though, when they said her apparent powers of comprehension come from "her hair." They did use this question to explain how Hawking has often functioned for them in the role of "Johnny the Explainer" (a role other characters, such as Ben, have filled on occasion). They never wanted there to be one "Johnny," mostly because they did not want there to be one final human authority on anything, just like in real life. There's no rulebook or ready explanation for your journey, but (just like in the game Myst I have referenced so often), you have to work much of it out as you go along.

 

Why did the Others think Walt was "special?" And how did he appear on the Island from off-island? They answered this question by admitting that yes, Walt is/was special, and that they have used this word, "special," to describe several characters through the course of the show. Lindelof cited a "mobisode" from Season Three that was on the web, in which Walt's experiences in Room 23 were shown to some extent. Basically, just as they had Ben and Miss Klugh say in the show, the Others "got more than they bargained for" with Walt. "He started freaking them out," said Cuse.

 

Asked whether / how creating the show has changed their views on Faith and God, the producers said, well, it was more the other way around. The show provided a vehicle for them to illuminate thoughts on faith (emphasizing how this will be very big in the finale). They talked about the questions we all have, the answers we seek, and how we do life together, in community. They compared creating the show - the togetherness of the team, the processes of finding the answers, the shared lives - to how we all seek, love, work, and lift each other up in our daily lives. I believe the way Cuse put it was, "Disparate people form community under extraordinary circumstances." And with this one line, he perfectly tied in what they had been trying to get across all night how the creation and evolution of the show among the writing staff paralleled the story being told within the show.

 

This theme continued when a different audience member asked why is it necessary for there to be human presence on the Island? In other words, can't it just protect itself? The producers said that first of all, an empty Island wouldn't make for a very good story. Second, they said, "the Garden of Eden didn't really get interesting until there were people in it." And that's what their story is on one level all about - what difference do people make. Are they basically good, or basically bad? What will they sacrifice to protect what's important? What will they do to procure their freedom? Unable to ever "prove" a concept of God or the laws that would come from him, will they nevertheless accept these things on faith, or will they go their own way? It's "the biblical story," said Cuse, "you have to take it on faith." He did pause, though, and reflect that the pursuit of truth is central to all religions, not just Christianity…

Now About That Scene from the Finale...

Man, did they end the evening on a high note. Here's what happened in the scene as best I can recall...

Locke is staring down the well noting that Desmond is not there. Sawyer is spying on him from the bushes. Ben gets the drop on Sawyer from behind and forces him at gunpoint over to the well.

Locke asks what Sawyer is doing there. Sawyer says he heard Desmond fell down a well; he's there to get him out. He looks down it, no Des, tells Locke, "Looks like somebody beat us both to it." Locke asks if James knows why Locke is there. "I'm guessin' you need Desmond to destroy the island." When Locke confirms this as "absolutely right," Ben gets a horrified look on his face.

Sawyer teases Locke that this would be suicide for him, but he insists, "I'm not going down with anything, but YOU, and your little candidates, certainly are." Sawyer then drops some knowledge on Smokey, "We're not candidates anymore!" This seems to genuinely surprise or unnerve Locke, and Sawyer uses the momentary distraction to punch and disarm Ben. He takes off into the jungle with Ben's rifle and backpack (which we assume contains C-4 and the other walkie like the one Ben gave Miles).

Ben asks why Locke isn't going after Sawyer. Locke says he doesn't need to. Now Ben, knocked to his knees and bleeding, gets whiny. Says, "I thought when you said you were going to destroy the island you were speaking figuratively!"

"Why?" asks Locke. "Because I said when I left I would leave you in charge?" Then he says that Ben is still welcome to join him on his boat (the Elizabeth, surely) once he gets Desmond to do what they need him to do to put "this God-forsaken place" "at the bottom of the ocean."

Just then, Locke looks at the ground around the well, notices a paw print.

"I think there was a dog here..."

(Fade to black, rousing applause)

So first of all, I guess I was wrong about Ben perhaps manipulating / playing / conning Smokey in going along with him. It does appear from this clip anyway that Ben had returned to the dark side because he thought he was going to get to play King of the Island again.

Also, Sayid did not help Desmond out of the well. Sayid actually thought Desmond was still in the well. The paw print surely indicates that Vincent, Rose, and Bernard came across Desmond, and helped him out of there. We might even go further and guess that this well is where Rose and Bernard regularly came to get their water? In any case, we were right - they're still on the Island, and they showed up just in time!

We already know the Island ends up at the bottom of the ocean, somehow, some way, in some time. But who or what actually succeeds in doing it? Might sinking the Island actually end up being a brilliant idea, since we know that "The Source" is not extinguishable via water (it already sits in the middle of a waterfall without ever going out), and therefore putting the Island at the bottom of the sea is the ultimate way of making sure nobody finds it, can get to it, or extinguish it?

Sunday is so gonna rock!