This site has no agenda, and its author has no chip on his shoulder. He promises not to whine about "fatherhood equality," and he'll do his best not to sound superior. He is, afterall, just a dad. Instead, he promises to tell good stories about his three kids. That's about it.
TiVo Warning: Details of Wednesday night's Lost season finale will be discussed. Proceed at your own risk..
I have to admit that there were moments this season when Lost seemed to be lost. When the show was at it's best, it seemed like each episode ended the same way: the closing title would plunk onto the screen, and my mind would immediately begin racing. What did we just learn? What does that mean? How can this twist possibly be resolved? Is that character really dead?? And the next seven days couldn't pass quickly enough as I waited for my next dose.
There were times, though, when the end of the show was just the end of the show. Instead of sitting deep in thought for a few minutes, maybe zipping the TiVo back to watch a few key scenes or review the flashbacks, I'd just click over to SportsCenter. The show seemed stagnant, and there were those who felt it had lost its way.
On Wednesday night, though, the geniuses came out swinging and delivered the best two hours of television I've watched in a long, long time. In case you've forgotten, Lost is the best show on TV. (Alright, people tell me that the Sopranos is a decent watch, but I'm one of the few holdouts. Forgive me.)
But back to the Island. Even if you've only watched a little of this show, you know that the flashbacks are what pull everything -- and everyone together. For a while now, as I've become more attached to the characters, I've started to realize that we've gotten to know Jack and Kate, Hurley and Sawyer, Jin and Locke, and all the rest in just the same way that we get to know our real-life friends. At first all you have is the present tense -- all that you observe -- but little by little you learn the history. You get stories about prom dates and high school hangovers; triumphs and disappointments; secrets and dreams. Eventually the line between past and present begins to blur and all that's left is one continuous history.
And so it is that all of these people, or at least most of them, have secured a place in our lives. This week's season finale offered a perfect example. I was puzzled by the first flashback almost immediately. Jack's cell phone wasn't right. It looked suspiciously like my RAZR, a model which was certainly not available three years ago. This error -- for that was how I saw it -- bothered me. And even though we eventually learned that these flashbacks were actually flash forwards, explaining the modern phone, that's not really the interesting thing.
As I viewed the flash forwards throughout the night, I was struck by how much Jack's suffering was bothering me. When he stood on the bridge preparing to jump to the concrete below, I wondered what could have driven him to such a point. Later, as he seemed to hit rock bottom in the pharmacy, it was actually hard for me to watch. Thankfully, though, as these scenes dissolved back into the reality of the island, with Jack heroically leading our tribe to the radio tower and eventual rescue, I was comforted by the reminder that he was okay. Everything was okay.
And then came the bombshell at the end, which made everything worse. Suddenly the entire episode was turned on its head as I realized that Jack wasn't the hero anymore. The flashbacks which I had thought were showing me all he had overcome were instead previews of what he would become. As soon as I worked through the shock of this and understood that it meant that they really would get off the island someday, my attention shifted to Jack.
As the moral center of Lost -- sure, he strays from time to time, but he's still pretty much true north -- he's the one we've been following since the camera first pulled back from his blinking eye in the opening scene of season one. We want them all to be saved, but more than anything else we want Jack to be the one who leads them home.
All of this explains why my reaction to Jack's downward spiral was so strong, and probably why Kate looked at him with such sadness and pity as she left him at the airport. We care about Jack. It's difficult to watch as he contemplates suicide and wallows in drug addiction because he has become much more than just a character on a television show. He is -- along with Kate, Sawyer, Sayid, and all the rest -- a part of our lives.
Like any good story, whether it's Hamlet or The Cat in the Hat or Seinfeld, it's the characters that enter our hearts and minds and keep us coming back for more. With Lost, it's no different.
If you watch any of the reality televison competition shows, you know that the attraction isn’t the competition so much as the outsized personalities and the drama they create. We watch the Bachelor because we wonder who in the world would be willing to choose a wife over the course of several weeks, and we puzzle over the women who would allow themselves to be chosen. We tune in to the Apprentice not because we want to gain insight into big business, but because we can’t wait to watch the junior businessmen and women cut each other up in the board room.
And so if you watch these shows, you probably know the reigning King and Queen of Reality, Rob and Amber. If you’ve been living under a rock (or more accurately, if you’ve been living a normal, well-adjusted life free from the addictions of television), here’s a short course: Boston Rob first appeared on Survivor: Marquesas where his abrasive personality and cocky attitude made him a star. Amber showed up on Survivor: Australia a few years later. Neither won, but both were interesting enough to earn an invitation to Survivor:All-Stars, where they formed an alliance, controlled every aspect of the game, and fell in love. Having ridden their romance to the final two, Rob proposed to Ambah on the final episode, moments before the votes were read. (Amber won the million, but it hardly mattered; the Robfather got the girl and her money, too.)
The power couple then did exactly what you might expect -- they continued riding the wave. They got married on national television and then jumped at the chance to compete on another show, the Amazing Race. They lost. Next they produced their own reality show, Rob and Amber: Against the Odds, in which Rob convinces Amber to move to Las Vegas so he can pursue his dream of becoming a professional poker player. In the final episode of that show, the couple received a call inviting them to take yet another shot at a million dollars on the Amazing Race: All-Stars.
And that’s where I came in. It’s ironic that Rob wears his Red Sox cap wherever he goes (he even had Amber wear a matching one on Amazing Race), because the two of them are really more like the Yankees: you either love them or you hate them. Not surprizngly, I love them, so I packed my TiVo with their Against the Odds show and the Amazing Race.
Against the Odds falls into that genre of reality TV that makes you wonder two things: one, just how hard is it to get your own show? and two, why exactly am I watching this? There are no games, no one is voted off the island, and nothing really happens -- but I watched and loved every episode. Whether I was watching them pick out cars (Rob: convertible Porsche, Amber: sensible SUV) or furniture, I simply couldn’t tear myself away.
There was a downside, though. Whenever you look this closely at someone, you can’t help but see the warts. As much as I love Rob, he’s kind of a neandrethal. When he chooses not to answer his phone while playing poker, he explains it away: “My cell phone kept ringing, and I knew it was Ambah, but I was working!” And as clever as Amber appeared on Survivor, here she seems sadly vapid, saying things like, “I’m really excited that Rob wants me to come watch his tournament!” Truth be told, I liked them a lot better when they were playing the role of Mr. and Mrs. Puppetmaster in the jungles of Borneo.
But like I said, I couldn’t get enough, even with the warts, so I jumped into the Amazing Race with both feet. Predictably, all of the other competing pairs hated the Chosen Ones, but Rob and Amber still managed to dominate the early stages, smirking all the while. But sadly, just as they were threatening to turn the race into a victory tour, their tragic flaws did them in. To their credit, though, they even managed to lose with the smirks firmly in place. Consistently cocky to the end.
All of this, of course, begs one question: why do Rob and Amber do this? There’s a big financial incentive (million dollar prizes, a free wedding, etc.), but is that it? Fame is a powerful drug, and these two are clearly addicted. I can’t blame them, though. My wife and I appeared on a reality show several years ago, and although we had other motives, I like when we’re recognized, even though it rarely happens. Rob and Amber are certainly recognized every single day, but I bet they still like it.
But don’t judge. Afterall, what’s worse, the addicts like Rob and Amber, or the people like us who are addicted to them?