It was to begin again.
The fifth and penultimate season of Lost is nigh, and at this point, there are a lot of past-present-future narrative knots to untangle. Time is out of joint, as is the island, and the future isn't what it once was. What we can be sure of is that, with only 34 episodes left, Messrs Cuselof, et al., will be flooding our screens with more information than their tiny dimensions and our powers of perception will be able to handle on one viewing alone. So the virtual community convenes once again to knock our collective noggins together and see what we can find, and to watch for the creators watching us watch them.
Before I go any further with this preliminary post, just know that this post is not as long as it looks. Last season ended with all kinds of talk surrounding writers and thinkers like Jeremy Bentham, Philip K. Dick, and Joseph Campbell. In trying to find some apparatus that would help to organize all the developing storylines, I was looking for some sort of basic catalog that might help with some overall structure. There are many out there, and most are written for the aspiring fiction writer, playwright, or screen writer. However, the plots described were more often than not too general to be of much use in these circumstances.
Then I came across a slightly obsessive late 19th century French literary critic named Georges Polti, who wrote a book called The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations. Polti doesn't take credit for the list, though; he claims it was the 18th century Italian dramatist Carlo Gozzi who determined the thirty six situations, and that his math was checked by both Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller. It's a hard list to top. Polti also does the heavy lifting of categorizing and breaking down all the possible variations within his thirty six situations, and he seems to revel in such work, but it yields a book that's about as enjoyable to read as a blueprint. However, it is still used by those who make their livings out of crafting narrative, and is surprisingly useful for understanding where Lost is coming from and where it might be going. Reading the various Lost storylines against Polti's list even hints where some of the complicated romantic storylines might emerge from. This isn't necessarily to say that the writers are definitely using this text, but it is to say that it can be usefully applied.
Rather than break everything down that Polti does, with numerous subgroups under each situation, below you can see just the thirty six situations themselves, with some representative examples from Lost. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I'm sure people can add to it — in fact, I hope you do. If you would like to see an outline of just the situations with their subgroups, click here, and you can see why I did not go into the subgroups. Polti was dealing with ancient, Renaissance, early modern, and contemporary drama from his day, and as such his situations can seem a little odd to a modern eye (see Situation 26, Crimes of love, Subgroup E: A woman enamored of a bull). In fact, after reading his list, it seems much drama has put some interesting twists on these situations.
Lost always generates a bit of tension with its audience in the gap between episodes. Time is not only distorted in the show itself; a day for them can be a week for us. For this reason, many prefer to watch a season again on DVD uninterrupted, when storylines don't have as much time to simmer in your subconscious and make you question why this survivor is getting romantic with that Other, or why a plotline was introduced and not followed up on for four weeks. Hopefully, the following list will help some to see some possibilities in such time gaps, and alleviate some confusion.
And with that, I give you the list. But please note, there is an announcement at the end of this post. If you don't want to read through the entire list, please skip down to the announcement, because it has a direct bearing on where this little Lost part of the web will be heading this season.
1. Supplication. Elements: A persecutor, a supplicant (someone pleading humbly), and a power in authority, whose decision is doubtful
• Pre-crash, Locke wanting to go on a Walkabout and later wanting to become an Other.
• Pre-crash but on the island, Ben wanting to join the Others as a boy .
• Michael getting Walt back.
2. Deliverance. Elements: An unfortunate, a threatener, a rescuer (the reverse of Supplication).
• The Freighties arriving to seemingly rescue the Lostaways.
• All the times Charlie was saved.
3. Crime Pursued by Vengeance. Elements: An avenger and a criminal.
• Pre-crash, Kate killing her (step)father.
• Sawyer killing Locke's father Cooper in the Black Rock.
• The Others attacking the DHARMA Initiative / The Purge.
• Off-island, Sayid's life as an assassin after Nadia is killed.
4. Vengeance Taken for Kindred Upon Kindred. Elements: Avenging kinsman; guilty kinsman; remembrance of the victim; a relative of both.
• Locke setting up Cooper's death.
• Pre-crash but on the island, Roger blaming Ben for his mother's death, and Ben killing Roger.
• Off-island, Sayid taking revenge for Nadia's death.
• Pickett taking revenge for Colleen's death.
• Off-island, Sun's corporate take-over of her father's company, Paik Heavy Industries
5. Pursuit. Elements: Punishment and Fugitive.
• Pre-crash, Ana Lucia running from her manslaughter in LA.
• Pre-crash, Kate running from killing her stepfather and boyfriend.
• Pre-crash, Eko escaping Nigeria.
6. Disaster. Elements: A vanquished power; a victorious enemy or a messenger.
• The lost children: Walt, Aaron, Zach, Emma, Alex, Karl.
• Pre-crash, the Purge of the DHARMA Initiative.
7. Falling prey to cruelty or misfortune. Elements: An unfortunate; a master or a misfortune.
• Victims of Ben's machinations (Juliet, Jack, Locke, Roger, the DHARMA Initiative, the island).
• Pre-crash, Kelvin was in the Defense Intelligence Agency during the Gulf War, and turned Sayid into a torturer in order to extract information from a captured Iraqi officer. He does so by showing Sayid video of a nerve gas attack on Sayid's home village, an attack ordered by the officer in question. Kelvin convinces Sayid they need him because Sayid can speak English and Arabic, and it is only after Sayid commits torture that Kelvin reveals he spoke Arabic all along.
• Pre-crash, Desmond being duped by Kelvin about a Desmond not being able to leave the Swan station because of some disease.
• Ben's fall from power on the island.
8. Revolt. Elements: Tyrant and conspirator.
• Pre-crash, Ben working with the Others to take out the DHARMA Initiative.
• Locke working with Ben to stand in Jack's way of getting everyone off the island.
• Sawyer's long con to take the guns.
9. Daring enterprise. Elements: A bold leader; an object; an adversary.
• Sawyer, Jin, Michael and Walt trying to get off the island on a raft, and being overtaken by Mr. Friendly and the Others.
• Charlie re-establishing communications in the Looking Glass station.
• Locke and Ben moving the island before Keamy and the mercenaries can implement the secondary protocol.
10. Abduction. Elements: The abduction; the abductor; the guardian.
• Jack basically abducted out of the air by Ben via the crash in order to repair his back.
• Pre-crash, Juliet abducted by Ben via subterfuge.
• Children abducted by the Others: Alex, Walt, Zach, Emma, attempts at Aaron.
• Sawyer, Jin and Michael abducted by the Tailies.
11. The Enigma. Elements: Interrogator, seeker, and problem.
• Emily appearing to Ben.
• Desmond slipping in and out of time (and backgrounds of scenes changing as a result).
• The numbers.
• The Valenzetti Equation.
• Moving the island.
• Ageless Others.
12. Obtaining. Elements: A solicitor and an adversary who is refusing, or an arbitrator and opposing parties.
• Getting the dynamite from the Black Rock.
• Ben getting himself caught by the Lostaways and setting Jack up to operate on him.
• Locke seeking knowledge of what happens when the computer isn't reset.
• Desmond looking for a way back into Penny's life.
• The DHARMA Initiative looking for a way to solve the Valenzetti Equation.
13. Enmity of Kinsmen. Elements: A malevolent kinsman; a hated or reciprocally hating kinsmen.
• Pre-crash, Cooper conning Locke out of his kidney.
• Off-island, Sun's takeover of her father's industries
• Pre-crash but on the island, Ben killing Roger.
14. Rivalry of Kinsmen. Elements: The preferred kinsman; the rejected kinsman; the object (desired person).
• Pre-crash, Jack and Christian were in professional competition with each other.
• Walt attempted to find a father-figure in Locke rather than Michael.
• The multi-lateral power struggles between Jack and Locke, Jack and Sawyer, and Locke and Ben.
15. Murderous Adultery. Elements: Two adulterers; a betrayed husband or wife.
• Sawyer's parents.
16. Madness. Elements: Madman and victim.
• Locke's mother Emily.
• Danielle Rousseau.
• Regina (the Freightie who went mad and jumped overboard wrapped up in chains).
17. Fatal Imprudence. Elements: The imprudent; the victim or the object lost.
• Boone's death.
• Alex's death as a result of Ben negotiating with Keamy
• Pickett's taking out his wife Colleen's death on Sawyer leads to Juliet shooting Pickett.
• Pre-crash but on the island, Kelvin doesn't notice that his hazmat suit is ripped; Desmond follows him into the jungle and whacks him. (Not clear that Kelvin is dead.)
18. Involuntary Crimes of Love. Elements: The lover; the beloved; the revealer.
• Mistaken hint / narrative mislead that Christian was seeing Jack's ex-wife Sarah.
19. Slaying of a Kinsman Unrecognized. Elements: The slayer; the unrecognized victim.
• Pre-crash, in an ER flashback, Jack chose to save Sarah, his future wife; this choice meant he let Shannon's father, Adam, die.
• Ana Lucia accidentally kills Shannon.
• Michael panics and accidentally kills Libby.
20. Self-Sacrificing for an Ideal. Elements: The hero; the ideal; the "creditor" or the person or thing sacrificed.
• Both Locke and Ben are willing to commit (or arrange) patricide in fealty to the Others and the island.
• Eko actually becomes a man of god in honor of his brother's sacrifice.
21. Self-Sacrifice for Kindred. Elements: The hero; the kinsman; the "creditor" or the person or thing sacrificed.
• Michael commits murder in order to get Walt back.
• Sawyer spends his adult life in pursuit of the man who conned his parents and caused their violent deaths, and does so as a con man.
• Pre-crash, Claire was going to LA in the first place to make sure her baby could have a better life.
• Pre-crash, Kate becomes a felon in order to protect her mother from her (step) father.
• Pre-crash, in Australia, Sayid tried to give his friend Essam a chance to escape a terrorist cell bust.
• Jin's father, a fisherman, may not have been Jin's biological father, but despite his poverty, he raised Jin as his own. Jin is prepared to do the same when he is unsure if Sun's baby is his or not.
22. All Sacrificed for a Passion. Elements: The lover; the object of the fatal passion; the person or thing sacrificed.
• Ben's obsessive/possessive attitude toward Juliet, the island, and his leadership role leads to his eventually losing his grip over the island inhabitants.
• Pre-crash, Charlie loses his faith and his brother to heroin.
23. Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones. Elements: The hero; the beloved victim; the necessity for the sacrifice.
• Ben couldn't be with the Others until he killed Roger.
• Locke can't be with the Others until he kills Cooper.
• Locke shows Boone that he has to metaphorically let Shannon die.
• Before Aaron was born, Claire was unsure whether she was to raise her baby or give Aaron up to someone else.
24. Rivalry of Superior and Inferior. Elements: The superior rival; the inferior rival; the object.
• Ben and Locke over the island.
• Locke and Jack over the survivors.
• Possibly Ben and Jacob over the island.
• The Others / Hostiles and the DHARMA Initiative over the island.
• The Lostaways and the Others over part of the island.
• Jack and Sawyer over the guns.
• Pre-crash, Michael and Susan over Walt.
25. Adultery. Elements: A deceived husband or wife; two adulterers.
• Pre-crash but on the island, Juliet and Goodwin.
• Pre-crash, Christian Shephard with Carole Littleton, Claire's mother.
• Pre-crash, Sawyer's mother with Cooper.
• In a way, Kate and Sawyer while prisoners of the Others, as seen by Jack on the closed captioned television.
• Pre-crash, Jin's mother was with many men.
• Pre-crash, Sun with Jae.
26. Crimes of Love. Elements: The lover; the beloved.
• Pre-crash, Boone and Shannon's crypto-erotic relationship.
• Pre-crash, suggestion that Kate's (step) father may have violated her.
27. Discovery of the Dishonor of a Loved One.
• Pre-crash, Sun learning that Jin's mother was a prostitute (who tries to blackmail Sun) and Jin's father was alive and a poor fisherman.
• Jin learning that Sun had an affair with Jae.
• Ben chafing at Alex and Karl's relationship.
• Pre-crash but on the island, there's the suggestion that Roger punished Ben by blaming him for Emily's death.
28. Obstacles to Love. Elements: Two lovers; an obstacle.
• Pre-crash, Jin and Sun from different classes; Jin made to be a thug slave to Mr. Paik in order to be with Sun
• Pre-crash, Desmond and Penny from different classes; relationship blocked by Charles Widmore.
• Pre-crash, Jack's professional drive gets in the way of his marriage to Sarah, and off-island, his alcoholism and nihilism gets in the way of his relationship with Kate.
29. An Enemy Loved. Elements: The beloved enemy; the lover; the hater.
• Jack and Juliet, interfering with Ben's plans for Juliet.
• Given Charles Widmore's emerging role, Penny — Desmond's beloved — could be considered to be the daughter of an enemy.
30. Ambition. Elements: An ambitious person; a thing coveted; an adversary.
• Pre-crash, Christian Shephard's professional ambition as a surgeon is hindered by his drinking.
• Pre-crash, Jack Shephard's professional ambition as a surgeon is hindered by his father Christian.
• Pre-crash, Charlie's ambition as a musician is hindered by his inability to handle the lifestyle.
• Locke's spiritual ambition is hindered by his naiveté and desire for a father figure, which Ben takes advantage of.
31. Conflict with a God. Elements: A mortal; an immortal.
• Ben's possible power struggle with Jacob.
• Locke's emerging psycho-spiritual connection with the island. Possibly Rose as well.
• Both Charlie and Eko's coming to terms with their Catholicism.
• Possibly each attack by Smokey.
32. Mistaken Jealousy. Elements: The jealous one; the object of whose possession he is jealous; the supposed accomplice; the cause or the author of the mistake.
• Boone initially jealous of Shannon and Sayid.
• Charlie becomes jealous of Claire and Locke.
• Jack, set up by Ben, sees Kate and Sawyer on the closed-captioned television in the Hydra station. Ben hopes to ignite jealousy in Jack, but Jack turns the situation around when he has Ben on the operating table in order to get the other prisoners freed.
33. Erroneous Judgment. Elements: The mistaken one; the victim of the mistake; the cause or author of the mistake; the guilty person.
• Assumption that both Goodwin and Ethan were initially survivors of Oceanic Flight 815.
• When Ben is a prisoner in the Swan station, he's assumed to be a dangerous liar, but ends up saving Locke during the lockdown.
• Locke letting the Swan station computer count down to zero.
• Locke in believing Sawyer during Sawyer's long con to get the guns out of the Swan station.
• Ben in thinking he can talk Keamy into doing what Ben wants, which ends up in Keamy killing Alex.
34. Remorse. Elements: The culprit; the victim or the sin; the interrogator.
• Off-island, Michael for the deaths he caused trying to get Walt back
• Off-island, Jack for leaving the island
• Pre-crash, Christian for leading two lives with two families, leading to his drinking himself to death
• Pre-crash, Hurley believes his weight is what caused a deck to collapse, leading to the deaths of two people.
• Pre-crash, Hurley's father David for abandoning his family
• Locke realizes too late that he caused a destructive electromagnetic discharge when he let the Swan station computer count down to zero without resetting it; that discharge may have even given away the island's position to the Freighties on the Kahana, leading to the island invasion.
35. Recovery of a Lost One. Elements: the seeker; the one found.
• Michael getting Walt back.
• Penny finding Desmond.
• Rose and Bernard being reunited when the Tailies find the Lostaways.
• Off-island, Sayid is reunited with Nadia, but she is later killed.
• By Season Five, the island wants the Oceanic Six back.
36. Loss of Loved Ones. Elements: A kinsman slain; a kinsman spectator; an executioner.
• Pre-crash, Christian Shephard's death in Australia.
• Pre-crash, Ana Lucia loses her unborn baby when she's shot while on police duty.
• Off-island, Sayid's wife Nadia is killed by an employee of Charles Widmore, Ishmael Bakir.
• Shannon's brother Boone dies trying to help the survivors by crawling inside the treed plane, and the plane crashes to the ground.
• Sayid's on-island love interest Shannon is accidentally killed by Ana Lucia when she believes she sees Walt in the jungle, and stumbles across the Tailies.
• Hurley's romantic interest Libby is accidentally killed by Michael.
The Announcement: Some readers may recall that at the end of last season, I mentioned in passing that I was having some vision trouble. It was a bit more than that, and it kept building over the summer. A few months ago I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disorder where my body thinks the myelin sheath around my neurons is an invader. Some of you may know someone with MS, or you may have it yourself. If so, you know that the symptoms are irritatingly random (it was thought I actually had West Nile Virus before the MS was officially diagnosed). Seems I've had it for some time, but it wasn't found until the relapse that triggered the wacky vision. This has meant a number of changes in just what I'm capable of doing right now; sporadic fatigue, uncooperative eyes, and unmovable thumbs have as much say in what I want to write as any episode does. I'm just not working as fast as I'd like to.
That said, it was suggested to me by a number of wise voices that I just pull the trigger on this and make the announcement. That way I don't put any unnecessary pressure on anyone; some weeks I may not get a post up as soon as I would like, or a post may be a bit shorter than normal. I may have to just refer to some themes from some texts, and not go into as much detail (which may end up being better overall). Right now I teach every Wednesday night and Thursday morning, so I'm planning on getting posts up Thursday afternoons or Fridays. If someone is antsy for a missing post, they'll know why it's not up yet.
However, I began all the meds and therapy three weeks ago, and things are getting under control. I've been inside an MRI machine and forgot to take off a belt with an iron buckle; it was like the failsafe in the Swan station, and the machine yanked my belt and my body up off the table. I get to wear a pirate patch sometimes, like Mikhail. If you recall the first episode of the second season, "Man of Science, Man of Faith," you'll remember when Desmond inoculates himself with an injection gun; I get to to zap myself with a modern version of that each day. Honestly, though, this is about all the space I want to take up on this blog about the MS; I'd much rather talk about Lost.