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Lost Book Club: 'Through the Looking Glass'

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Jen Chaney and Liz Kelly
washingtonpost.com Staff
Wednesday, January 30, 2008; 12:00 PM

Jen Chaney and Liz Kelly -- co-authors of washingtonpost.com's weekly "Lost" analysis (in season) -- continue the "Lost" Book Club series with a discussion of Lewis Carroll's "Through the Looking Glass," another book that may hold clues about the past, present and future of ABC's "Lost."

Start reading now. Then, join Jen and Liz on Wednesday, Jan. 30, at Noon ET (just one day before the premiere of "Lost's" fourth season) to discuss this final book in the discussion series.

Liz Kelly's day job is Celebritology blogging, while Jen Chaney presides as Movies editrix. Both consider "Lost"-watching a passion.

Visit washingtonpost.com's "Lost" hub.

The transcript follows below...

Liz Kelly: Okay, so "which dreamed it?" Jen or Liz? Or the Red King, who I certainly would guess is the unseen author in the case of "Through the Looking Glass" and the myriad writers/producers who create "Lost."

It's funny. As I finished up reading the book last night, I had a vision of the final "Lost" episode a few years from now and having the camera follow the actors as they leave the set and return to their trailers, suddenly assuming their real world personas and shaking hands with JJ Abrams. Wouldn't that be an ending: It was just a dream, folks -- just a show... but what a show it was.

I'm interested to hear where Jen and everyone else comes down on Carroll's influence on "Lost's" plotline. We can also, of course, talk about tonight's ABC airing of an annotated version of last season's finale and, of course, tomorrow night's season opener.

Jen?

Jen Chaney: Oh, Liz, don't say that about people walking off the set in the last episode. That reminds me way too much of a Christmas episode of "Moonlighting" where they did the exact same thing. Not that I don't love me some David Addison, but I really don't want my fourth wall breaking.

(Speaking of Agnes DiPesto, didn't she write "Jabberwocky"?..)

Reading "Looking Glass" actually made me appreciate the genius of that season finale even more. Just as Alice's experience in the looking-glass world often delved into mirror images, so did the finale. It makes perfect sense, doesn't it, that once you go through the looking glass in the "Lost" universe you would get a mirror image of a typical episode -- one with a flash-forward instead of a flashback? The fact that the episode closed with a plane taking off above Jack's head (as opposed to one crashing down) only added to the effect. Genius, really.

All of which is a long way of saying that I'm so excited about tomorrow's premiere, I might pee in my pants.

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Liz Kelly: Jen, please don't pee your pants. At least until the chat's over.

Jen Chaney: I'm trying my best. All this Coke Zero probably isn't helping...

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Looking Glass World: Some things I noticed:

There's a black and white theme in this book, seen in the black and white chessboard and the black and white kittens. This reminds me of the black and white rocks, etc. in "Lost."

In chapter five, the crow is described as a great black cloud and people hide from it, like Smokey on Lost.

Chapter 4 suggests the entire story is just the Red King's dream, and Alice insists that she -is- real, just like Libby did when Hurley thought the island was his hallucination.

My copy of the book notes that Carrol had a special affinity for the number 42. The number 42 appears several times in the Alice books: there are 42 illustrations in Wonderland, and the King of Hearts mentions Rule 42. In Looking Glass, the White King sends 4,207 horses.

Jen Chaney: You rock, my friend. Fantastic observations all around. For me the most potentially important connection is the stuff about dreams or hallucinations vs. reality (see the last line of that closing poem: "Life, what is it but a dream?"). The fact that our Entertainment Weekly buddy Jeff Jensen raises the issue of Dave in his most-awesome cheat sheet today also leads me to believe this theme will continue to play a role.

Theories about the island existing solely in Jack's mind have been dismissed before. And I personally don't buy into that either. But I feel like there is something to this notion of there being two realities, or a reality that isn't quite what it seems. That said, if "Lost" ends with Hurley waking up in bed next to Suzanne Pleshette (may she rest in peace), I am going to be really ticked.

Liz Kelly: Ya, cuz it'd make much more sense if Jack woke up next to Tom Poston, considering.

As you both note, lots of similarities to be found in the book and our show. But one thing that really bothered me about this story -- and I really loved it for many other reasons -- was the notion that there are NO RULES. That anything can happen. It gives the creator (be that an author or producer) license to make anything happen. And, as a reader, I cry foul. It may have worked for Lewis Carroll, but LindeCuse had better tie this show up in a nice, clever, sense-making bow or I will go ballistic.

Anyone have any thoughts about Alice's progress from reality to reality each time she crossed a stream. Is there an equivalent in the "Lost" world?

Jen Chaney: Just a quick though: I think LindeCuse play by a much stricter set of rules than Carroll does here. So I don't think we have to worry that all of a sudden Sawyer is going to start talking to a slab of mutton. Although, honestly, I would happily watch Josh Holloway talk to pretty much anything.

In the context of Alice, I thought her passing from stream signified a journey toward maturity or adulthood. The obvious equivalent in "Lost" is that the viewers cross a "stream" every time we jump forward or back in time. Not sure about the characters, though.

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Washington, D.C.: Here's a question that my friends and I have been debating endlessly -- why did Charlie lock himself in the room (where he would drown) rather than running out of the room and closing the door behind him? Having watched the scene over and over, I can say he certainly had time to do so. We have some theories:

1. He was afraid that Desmond would stop at nothing to break into the room to hear Penny's video, and if that had happened, both Desmond and Charlie would have died.

2. He believed that he had to die, given Desmond's prediction, to save Claire.

3. He felt that he had to be 100% certain that Desmond survived, so that he could carry the message "It's not Penny's boat" to the other Losties.

Any other thoughts?

Jen Chaney: I'm curious to see what Liz says.

My interpretation -- and I just rewatched this episode last night, and probably will again when it airs tonight, because I'm just that much of a dork -- is that the answer is 2. When he first arrives in the Looking Glass station, he shouts out that he is alive with great relief, thinking Desmond's prediction won't come true. But as soon as he spots that equipment and the flashing yellow light, he resigns himself to his fate. He knows he has to die to save the others, not only based on Desmond's prediction, but also because of what you suggest in point 3. Desmond is the only person who can tell the Losties that Naomi is a liar.

That scene is so wrenching, though. You so want him to get out of that room. I think that's why so many viewers have fixated on that scene and had a hard time accepting what happened.

Liz Kelly: I agree with Jen, here. He believed it was his fate. That his death would ensure Claire's survival -- and baby Aaron's (that is his name, right?).

Interesting, though, considering all the railing against fate Desmond himself has done. If Des can buck the odds, why not Charlie? Maybe the producers knew Evangeline Lilly was cooling to real-life (now ex) boyfriend Dominic Monaghan.

Jen Chaney: I would hope the producers and writers wouldn't be that cold-hearted about letting Monaghan go. They set up that storyline before that relationship went south, I think (hope?).

Now, if Monaghan had been arrested for DUI, you know THAT would have been the reason for his death.

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Cleveland, Ohio: The plot structure of "Through the Looking Glass" is based on a chess match. Recently, there was mobisode of Lost called "King of the Castle" about Jack and Ben playing a game of chess.

Can you think of any other blatant chess analogies? And if Lost is symbolic of a chess game, which characters represent which pieces?

Liz Kelly: I'm, sadly, not the biggest chess fan, so any inside baseball from that realm may well be lost (hehe) on me.

Although not addressed in the book, I think one general analogy is the idea of playing a shortgame vs. keeping the endgame in sight. I think last season we saw that transition happen for our "Lost" writing team.

Anyone chess whizzes out there willing to share some theories?

Jen Chaney: Yeah, my 7-year-old nephew is way into chess. I'm still trying to figure out Yahtzee.

Generally speaking (and not just in "Lost"), chess analogies are the classic go-to metaphor when one character is trying to outstrategize the other. Hence that mobisode, which underscored the fact that Jack and Ben were trying to stay one step ahead of each other in terms of the plan to get Jack off the island.

It's also worth noting that in "Enter 77" -- or as I like to call it, "The McPatchy Episode" -- Locke gets sucked into a game of chess at Mikhail's farmhouse. Mikhail says there is no way Locke can beat the computer, which of course makes him determined to do so. Once he does, he unlocks Dharma instructions that lead to him entering the numbers 77 and blowing up McPatchy's place. Cats also play a recurring role in that episode -- very "Looking Glass"-esque.

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Liz Kelly: Speaking of DUIs, we had another in the off season. This time Daniel Dae Kim (Jin) was the culprit. Are his "Lost" days now numbered?

Jen Chaney: Um, yes?

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New York City, NY: Team: At what point is "Lost" trying to be too clever by a half and ruin the experience for the average viewer?

Liz Kelly: Good question. Is "Lost" becoming something only enjoyable to those geeked out enough (and I count myself among them) to pore over a continually expanding universe of pop culture references for esoteric clues? Possibly.

But (and Jen may disagree) I think not. I think "Lost" functions on at least two different levels, if not more. Or perhaps it's more of a continuum. At one end, we've got a pretty good weekly show that lets the casual viewer follow the misadventures of a band of hot-bod castaways through their on-island quest and their often repetitive back stories. (Though that back story part will change a bit in the future. Literally.) One can check in and check out, enjoy Sawyer's one-liners and continue with the rest of life.

At the other end, it's a full on experience complete with a canon of literary references, a mini-empire of related Web sites and more Easter Eggs (little hidden nuggets in each show) than the White House lawn in April. Or March, as the case may be.

The point is, it's kind of a "choose your own adventure" construct. Take it as far as you like. Despite it's slippage in last season, I'd still find it hard to believe that the majority of "Lost" watchers are Tail Section or Lostpedia -- or even Jen and Liz -- diehards.

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Not Shlomo: I must say, I enjoyed TTLG the most of all our selections. A funny, clever and delightful read. The conversation with Humpty-Dumpty was amazing!

As for how it relates to our lust for Lost, I think the final chapter is perhaps the key: "Which Dreamed It?"

Many of us have conceded that there must be at least two parallel worlds to Lost and that things are not as they seem in either -- flipped, if you will. But is one world real and another fantasy? Which one? Who's doing the dreaming? Are we seeing through one person's eye, experiencing one person's dream?

Interesting that last season's finale is bears the title and the two worlds the episode portrays. Dreaming? Waking? And if things are as skewed at they are in Alice's mirror world, our attempts to figure out what's really going on are nearly futile unless we let go of reason.

Liz Kelly: By the way, the title of tomorrow night's season opener is ""The Beginning of the End."

Jen Chaney: I like that that's the title. It tells me that they really are going to start answering some major questions as we head toward a now definitively set end of the series. At least I hope that's partly what it means.

I'm with you, Not Shlomo. (What a funny coincidence. I, also, am not Shlomo.) As I said before, I think this notion of dreaming and parallel realities is important, though I still am not sure why. I refuse to let go of reason, though. I think the "Lost" universe has been created with some sense of logic behind it, as opposed to just nonsense.

One semi-related issue: After Comic-Con, there was a lot of talk about the orientation video that was shown there, the one where Marvin Candle (or whatever name he is going by these days) holds up a rabbit with the 15 on it. (The video is on abc.com, not to mention YouTube.) Anyway, there is a big commotion and suddenly a second rabbit with 15 on it seems to fall out of the sky. This struck me as a clue to what might be going on with flight 815. I'm still convinced -- and I base this partly on Lindelof's reference to the movie "Capricorn One" as inspiration -- that there were two planes. One that publicly crashed with no survivors and the one the "Losties" were on.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Does anyone know if tonight's annotated finale is on the DVD? I bought it but haven't had time to crack it open yet.

Jen Chaney: I reviewed the DVD in December and, unless I missed a major Easter egg (which is possible), there was no annotated finale. Sounds like tonight's will be sort of a pop-up video version with notes, etc.

Which means now I definitely have to watch again. Damn you, ABC!

Liz Kelly: From what I read, ABC decided to annotate late in the game after seeing some other network -- Spike or G4 -- do the same with some older "Star Trek" episodes. And that may be a model that becomes the norm once this show reaches syndication. It doesn't really lend itself to casual viewing so side by side cheat sheets may help to keep folks watching again and again.

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dre7861: Jen/Liz -- The Lost Book Club was a great idea -- Thanks! I hope it resurfaces after the season ends however long or short it is. BTW, great timing with the last book, "Through The Looking Glass" appearing on the day before the season premier and the day the repeat the episode named after our selection -- You planned it that way all along, right?

What occured to me while reading the book is hope much reflections or mirroring has taken place in "Lost." In the Book Club we have already seen "Fearful Symetery" in "The Watchmen" along with numerous mirror images. I've been struck with how the titles of the season premiers and finales have mirrored each other. In Season 2 we began with "Man of Science, Man of Faith," and ended with "Live Together, Die Alone." Both titles present clear polarities of philosophy on how to look at life, whether personal or social. The third season starts with "Tale of Two Cities," with its wonderful tie back to Desmond's love of Dickens introduced in the previously mentioned season 2 season finale. This title represents the arching theme of the third season of the us vs them that the Others represented to our Losties. The 3rd season finale was of course, "Through The Looking Glass," which in and of itself reprsents the duality of this world and the world that lies just beyond. It also keeps the motif of the titles coming from books that began the season. Clearly from the events of that episode the Losties and the switch to fast forwards we have reached a turning point in the story where things will not be how they were before. The alluding to the Carrol book also brings the battle of the red and white chessmen in the book to mind as being an apt metaphor for the battle with the Others. Again I'm stand in awe at just how well written this series is.

Again a big Thanks for hosting this Book Club! Enjoy the Season Premier tomorrow!

Liz Kelly: Thanks Dre, you too.

Speaking of which -- we can all enjoy it together. Tomorrow night we'll be experimenting with a little tool called Yaplet that will let us chat in real time while watching the season opener. Jen and I may be a little quiet as we're busy notetaking, but it will be a free, open chat. Check back tomorrow afternoon for a link.

Jen Chaney: Yes, thank you dre. I stand in awe alongside you.

The Yaplet Liz mentioned will go into effect at 8, by the way, which is when the always crucial (especially during a writers' strike, when there is nothing else to air) recap begins. Liz and I will try to yap a little during that. And of course, you readers can yap amongst yourselves.

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Washington, D.C.: What I really want to see in Season 4 is either Hurley or Claire confront Desmond about Charlie's death. I really hope either one looks him right in the eye and says, "I hope she's worth it."

I know I'm in the minority here but I don't trust that what Desmond did regarding Charlie was right or neccessary. Desmond is too close to these visions to be making life or death decisions. If what Ben said about the freighter people is correct he may have doomed Charlie to death just to bring some really bad people to the island.

Liz Kelly: Yes, well, that brings up the enitre question of who and who is not trustworthy. We all have our hunches -- Jack, for instance, and Sayid -- but we don't know.

A line from the press release for tomorrow's opener reads "Even heroes have secrets" meaning one of the good guys could have a fatal flaw that will throw everything into jeopardy.

Which is all by way of saying that I wouldn't center any speculation about motives solely on Desmond. Each one of these characters has his or her own agenda when it comes right down to it. That's part of what makes the show so nuanced and unpredictable.

Jen Chaney: I'm with Liz on this. I'm hesitant to place all the blame on Desmond. I have a feeling that some seriously bad stuff is going to happen to some other beloved "Losties," mainly because of Jack's refusal to listen to Ben. So you'll have him to be mad at, too.

Yeah, you heard me: Benjamin Linus, The Hero. I suspect we're going to learn more about what is motivating him and realize that, while controlling and kinda freaky, he might not be such a bad guy after all.

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Liz Kelly: Another interesting parallel from "Through the Looking Glass" was the White Queen's assertion that she lives backwards and, in effect, remembers the future and the past. Much like Desmond and September's discussion of "Watchmen" and the Dr. Manhattan character, who experiences all time simultaneously.

And for anyone who wants to get a jump on reviewing the season before tonight's season finale re-airing, visit our "Lost" hub for the last season's worth of analyses.

Jen Chaney: Yes, good call on the Queen. I also noted the following passage from Alice: "Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas -- only I don't exactly know what they are!"

That's kind of how I feel after watching an episode of "Lost."

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Washington, D.C.: What's the deal with the "annotated" version of the season finale tonight?

And does tomorrow's premier start with a clip show review or is it going to be two hours of all new stuff?

And why the heck did they have to schedule the Dem debate on the same night?!

Jen Chaney: Wait, let me make sure I understand you: You're actually contemplating watching the debate instead of "Lost"? Don't you know that "Lost" supercedes everything else that's happening in the world?

As I mentioned about the annotated version, it will involve pop-up text. But as the smarties over at Wired point out, LindeCuse did not write the enhancements because of the strike. So you may get things like: "DID YOU KNOW?: Matthew Fox used to be on a show called 'Party of Five.'"

And yes, you're correct about tomorrow. Recap at 8, the big show at 9. If they really wanted to stretch this out, they'd put Ryan Seacrest on a red carpet at 7, just for the heck of it. ABC, feel free to borrow that idea for next time.

Liz Kelly: Another aim ABC is trying to accomplish with the annotation is to draw in new viewers. As I mentioned earlier, last seasons ratings were a bit off from the high water mark hit in seasons 1 and 2. The suits are hoping to capitalize on the writer's strike by drawing in viewers sick of watching "American Gladiator" and pesky presidential debates. They realize, though, that these people will not stick around if they don't understand what is going on.

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Liz Kelly: Ben as hero? Interesting. I suppose it's possible in a "he was a sheltered precocious kid and still fiercely selfish despite a good soul" kind of way.

Jen Chaney: Well, maybe hero is pushing it. That remains to be seen.

I definitely think that he wanted to prevent Jack from calling the freighter for a good reason. I think that he is so fixated on that motivation that he often does nutty things (like demanding that Sayid, Jin and Bernard be killed, for example). Then again, you could easily say the same about the Losties.

Liz Kelly: I think you're on the right track re: Ben knowing the freighter is a bad idea. But something tells me he knows much more than he's letting on and that, in some perverted way, he likes having that knowledge and liked having the Losties around to play with. Like my cat, who is lately enjoying a puzzling influx of Boxelder bugs into our house.

Jen Chaney: Oh, I never said it wasn't perverse. I think it's possible to be somewhat heroic and perverse at the same time. (Please insert jokes about various politicians here.)

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Two bunnies: Here's a theory -- the "Orchid" orientation video answers a question for us. Just as there were two bunnies all of a sudden, there was some sort of temporal splice near the time of the crash, creating two Oceanic flights. Hence Naomi thinks that the flight, with all its passengers, was found, while a duplicate, containing our beloved Losties, is on the island.

Jen Chaney: Yes, this gets at what I suggested, though I didn't use the awesome term temporal splice to describe it. I like it.

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Liz Kelly: Thanks to everyone for joining us today and over the past several months as we made Jen's dream of a "Lost" Book Club a reality. Kudos to her for the spark and to all of us for doing our homework.

We'll have a special pre-"Lost" post going up in the blog tomorrow around Noon. Then join Jen and I online at 8 p.m. in the Yaplet chat where we'll gear up for the 9 p.m. airing. And, of course, we'll have our post-show analysis to share on Friday.

And, in closing, I'd just like to thank Josh Holloway for existing.

Jen Chaney: Yes, thank you to everyone for all the book club fun. The discussions of "Watership Down," "Watchmen," etc. will all live fondly in my memory. I am still amazed that anyone read the Stephen Hawking book. And by anyone, I mean me.

Tomorrow is "Lost" day. Hooray! Liz already gave you all the details, so you know where to be and when.

Lastly, I echo Liz's gratitude for Josh Holloway's existence. I also would like to give a shout-out to the fake beard Matthew Fox wore in last season's finale. You clung to our Jack's chin with a commitment that was inspiring. Kudos, my fuzzy friend. We hope to see you again soon in another awesome flash-forward.

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