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People Who Have Only Seen One Episode of 'Lost' Will Never Understand It

by Bob Sassone, posted Apr 5th 2010 3:06PM
LostEaster is one of those in-between holidays, at least in my house. Definitely more important than Arbor Day but not nearly as important as Thanksgiving. So several family members didn't come to Easter dinner yesterday, which means I got to talk to a couple of people a lot instead of several people just a little. Since I work for The Most Awesome TV Blog in the Universe (TM), the conversation turned to television, specifically to 'Lost.'

I don't remember exactly how the conversation went (I wish I had a tape recorder running), but it was very close to this:

Sister: Oh, you watch 'Lost?'
Me: Yeah, it's great!

Sister: So what's going on on it?
Me: _______?

I mean, the last time I saw it they were on an island. That guy who was on 'The Practice' was there.
Me: Michael Emerson. He's a great actor.

So what has happened since then?

Me: Well, the show still has six or seven episodes left, but it seems to be a battle of good and evil. There's an evil guy battling a good guy...

The doctor?
Well, he's a good guy, yeah, but I'm talking about Jacob, who just came on to the show the last season or so. The other people on the island...

The other people?
Me: Well, there were others there, from the Dharma Initiative. It's a long story, but they had been there for decades doing experiments. The castaways fought them for a while and then several of them eventually got off the island, but when they went back...

Why did they go back?!?
Me: Well, the doctor felt really guilty about leaving their friends there and the rest had reasons to go back, plus they had to go back, it was their fate. But when they went back they found themselves back in 1977 and had to blend in with the Others who were living there. Then they had to blow up an H-bomb so they could reset the timeline.

Now it looks like they have split the timeline and there's an alternative reality where the plane never crashed and they're living their lives. But there's weird things happening: they're looking into mirrors a lot, they're kinda recognizing people they've never met before, there are bruises on their bodies and they don't know how they got there.

It looks like one of them has been chosen to take care of the island and keep the bad guy trapped there. There's the the doctor, the big guy Hurley, the Korean couple, the guy in the wheelchair...

The bald guy? He's good, right?
Me: Well, he used to be, but he's not the same guy now. He's evil. He's dead and then the smoke monster took his form...

And when I said the words "He's dead and then the smoke monster took his form," I realized that no one who watches 'Lost' "once in a while" or "just a few episodes" could ever really understand what's going on.

It's not like 'Gossip Girl' or 'Criminal Minds' or even 'American Idol.' Sure, it would help immensely if you had seen the show and knew the basic plot, but even someone who hasn't seen any episodes could follow a summary of the plots of those shows (this guy slept with this girl because of this, this woman got killed because of this guy, this singer was booted off because the audience thought he did a bad job, etc.).

But you can't explain a show with smoke monsters and time travel and alternate realities and two plane crashes (sister: "wait...they crashed on the island TWICE?") and donkey wheels and former good guys being taken over by...something and other people coming to the island ("how did the castaways get on a helicopter?!?). I think I did a really good job in explaining the show to a complete novice but I still must have sounded like a mad man.

Which reminds me, the next family get-together we have I'm going to try to explain 'Mad Men' to her.


Someone said that the title 'Lost' also describes how fans of the show feel, so you can imagine how lost someone who doesn't watch the show feels when someone tries to explain it to them. I could have done a complete PowerPoint demonstration, with flowcharts and clips of the show and maybe puppets to act out the most important scenes from the show over the past six seasons and even a personal summary from Matthew Fox himself and it wouldn't have helped.

Some shows just can't be explained to people. Some shows you just can't "dip into it" and expect to understand and enjoy. 'Lost' is one of those shows. You either have to buy the DVDs and watch every single episode in order or you don't watch it at all.

When 'Lost' first started, we all thought it was just a show about people trapped on an island after a plane crash. How would they survive? Would they fight? Who would die? How would they get rescued? Oh, we knew mysterious things would happen, maybe even dinosaurs and quicksand and maybe pirates or hidden treasure, but we couldn't have guessed where this show was going to go, which is one of the reasons it's so fantastic and works so well.

I don't know if my explanation made my sister want to watch the show more than ever or if she just sighed with relief that someone explained it to her so now she doesn't have to watch it (even if she doesn't understand it). The ham was great though.

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I watched the March 16th episode with my 92-year-old grandmother who, needless to say, has never seen the show even once. I told her in the beginning to please not ask me any questions. I told her it was impossible to get her up to speed in 10 minutes. So, she resorted to commenting on Claire's terrible hair do and Sawyer and Charlottes sex romp. I guess that is better than having to explain the smoke monster to a nonagenarian.

April 06 2010 at 7:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I just summarize each season, it's way easier than trying to explain the show.
Season 1 was about the initial plane crash and it was mostly character development.
Season 2 was about the Tailies and the hatches. Ben and Desmond were introduced.
Season 3 was about the Others. At the end of the season it looks like everyone is going to get off the Island.
Season 4 was about The Freighter Folk invading the Island and at the end of the season a bunch of the people escaped the Island and the Island disappeared.
Season 5 was about time travel so it explained a bunch of the mysteries of the Island and mostly the Dharma Initiative. Also the people who left came back on a new plane. At the end of the season everybody came back to the present day. (You could explain the 3 year time jump, but it's not really necessary.)
Season 6 is about the forces of good and evil on the Island. Everyone is taking sides and it's going to be a war by the end of the season. No one knows how it's going to end, but it is the final season.
Then they'll ask me about Hurley still being fat, and Kate being a criminal, and the polar bears. And that is that. If they're genuinely interested or at least listened to most of the explanation I'll lend them my Season 1 DVDs.
That is how it's done.

April 06 2010 at 6:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Daune Calovini

That's so funny, Bob. Because I tweeted today about not being happy that ABC had my Desmond, bagpipe music AND the word "sacrifice" in a promo for this week's episode.

One of my co-workers saw it and asked in today's staff meeting what I meant. I said, "Well, the last thing we saw last week was that they'd brought Desmond back to the island."

He: BACK to the island? Where was he?

Me: Well, he got off the island for a while and sailed around the world with Penny and little Charlie.

He: I thought this was a show about people stranded on an island.

Me: Well, some of them may have gotten off the island for a while. Last season, it appeared they were rescued, but now I'm not sure. It may have been an alternate reality.

Room: *crickets*

Me: Just know that if something bad happens to Desmond tonight, I'm going to be in a bad mood tomorrow.

Meeting continues...

April 06 2010 at 6:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

There was a neat recap of all first 5 seasons aired before the start of the current season, it was around 45 minutes long, so if anyone who hasn't been watching for awhile wants to catch up, I guess showing them that clip is much more efficient than pretty much anything else.

April 06 2010 at 12:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dan H

Trying to explain Lost to someone is like trying to explain the Mona Lisa to someone. Explaining it does no good...you have to see it...experience it. You may like it, you may not like it, but someone else telling you about it is a waste of time.

"Its the painting of a woman with a half-smile kind of looking away"

"Well what is so special about that?"

April 06 2010 at 8:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It comes down to two paths. People who want to escape and be entertained, be hand fed things... and People who want something more from life who search for meaning and are willing to put in the effort, have patience and sacrifice, and work towards a rewarding goal.

I watch films to be stimulated intellectually, emotionally. I want films and TV and art to challenge me and make me think about everything differently. That's why Lost is worth watching.

April 06 2010 at 1:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to RLP's comment
Richard Lawler

LOL. There is no work involved or rewarding goal coming from watching Lost. Namechecking old books is not intellectually stimulating when the core story is so nonexistent.

The reason why you can't explain Lost to anyone now is because it makes no sense. That's not good.

April 06 2010 at 4:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I watched a recent episode with someone who hadn't watched since about season 2. After it was over, she asked me "Did any of that make sense to you?"

I had to answer no - but I'm sure it will by the end!

April 06 2010 at 1:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I agree completely. I've only caught a few episodes of Lost and every time I hear someone talking about it I feel lost. I'm not sure I'll ever watch the whole series but if it has a great ending and people love it then I may watch the DVDs.

Side note: I'm always slightly annoyed when someone asks me to catch them up on a show I watch regularly. The worst part about it is that most of the time a friend will start asking all sorts of questions while I'm trying to watch a new episode premier. I can't possibly summarize a whole season during commercial breaks...so shut up while I watch and I'll lend you the DVD later!

April 05 2010 at 11:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tim McCleese

Last night I dreamed I was attacked by a polar bear. Please someone explain that to me.

April 05 2010 at 9:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

In Canada it's typically switched, Easter is much more important than Thanksgiving. Probably because our Thanksgiving is about a bunch of guys eating Salted Beef on Baffin Island and Easter is about... Jesus and eggs and stuff.

April 05 2010 at 7:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Argus's comment

Not at my house... but then again, we're not that religious, it's just a fancier dinner for us...

Anyway, I never find myself "Lost" with this show. It can take a bit of time to explain it to someone, but the times that i've had to do it, I didn't feel that "crazy". I guess I just didn't care...

April 05 2010 at 8:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was just being humorous. It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with Easter being a four day weekend for a lot of people in Canada, and Thanksgiving only being a three day weekend (wheras in the States Friday is typically a write-off day.)

April 05 2010 at 9:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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