It’s that time again, kids, when I take your Lost questions and answer them to the best of my ability. I call this little feature "Letters from the Flame," after the communication facility that factors into an episode recapped by yours truly just yesterday. During Season 5, I hope to make this a weekly feature, but here in the off months, it’s more of a periodic treat.

As always, these questions come directly from you, the Zap2It community, and I’m happy to report there are a lot of first timers asking questions this time around. I’d love to tell you I have prizes for first-timers, but that would assume I have things like a "budget." However, feel free to suggest prizes for future editions and I’ll pass them onto the powers that be.

One more housekeeping detail before starting: I’ve started up a Twitter feed for this blog.
I highly encourage you to sign up for this feed, as I’ll be
live-blogging each episode come January in real time via this method.
In addition, I’ve been posting my scattered thoughts about episodes
viewed during the We Have to Go Back campaign as there, and will post a
myriad of Lost-related goodness in the weeks and months to come. This
won’t in any way replace this blog, but should augment it nicely and
allow for a different approach to Lost than this site allows.

sales pitch over. Onto the questions!

What do you make of these new characters Nikki and Paulo? It seems they walk among the Lostaways, but they are not one (two?) of them.

They walk, alright. And talk. And take frequent bathroom breaks.

I mentioned this the other day, but when Season 3 first aired, I justified everything involving these two by assuming that when the sky went purple, the world as we knew it in Lost fundamentally reset in several ways. One of those ways? Rose and Bernard turned into Nikki and Paulo, and only we the viewing audience knew the elderly couple ever existed.

The parallel plot to this lies in Season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in which reality is rewritten and a character new to the audience was somehow familiar to everyone in the show. I felt like Lost was doing something similar here, leaving us the viewing audience to wonder why the Lostaways were treating these two freakballs as if they’d existed all along. Obviously, I was wrong, but I was wrong about a lot of things during Season 3.

Do you believe the eventual demise of Nikki and Paulo was written in the original script or a late add to season 3 because of fan backlash?
Jeff M

Well, depends in what mood  you catch Darlton when asking that question. The writers clearly had an interesting idea: how would red shirts view the events inside of Lost? Movies such as Spielberg’s War of the Worlds and comics such as Marvels explores this Everyman perspective to great affect. The problem with Lost is that we already had a specific vantage point through which to watch the events of the show, and introducing Nikki and Paulo into the mix just called attention to the artifice of the program rather than allowing the audience to become immersed it.  More succinctly: it’s really hard to get engrossed in an episode of the show when you, like Sawyer, keep asking, "Who the hell are you?"

Now, had "Exposé" aired as a standalone episode, would we view these characters in the same way? That is an intriguing question. Lost could have produced a single-episode version of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, in which Nikki and Paulo stand not as singular a-holes but representatives of all the stories we haven’t been told due to the show’s focus on a few primary characters.

I think their interaction/involvement with several seminal moments in the show’s history then becomes less of a stunt and more a statement of all the people we the audience might ignore in our everyday lives. The person next to you on the bus, the woman buying a frozen yogurt, that kid pancaked by a bus while trying to update his Facebook status on his iPhone…all of these people have stories we can’t possibly know, and  "Exposé" could have been a commentary on how interesting those stories could be if only we interacted with the strangers among us.

Instead, as is, it’s simply goodbye and good riddance. All of this is an academic question at this point, but one I still ponder. In any case, they’re dead, so yay and stuff.

At what point in the Season 3 narrative do you think Locke made the decision to destroy every possible way to leave the Island or communicate with the outside world?
Other Sean

You can totally see it in his eyes in "Enter 77" when Sayid mentions the submarine. It’s like the moment all the stormtroopers received Order 66 in Revenge of the Sith. The switch goes on, and it’s all carnage and mayhem from there.

All jokes aside, it’s clear that Locke innately understands the need to shield the Island from outside interference from the moment he realizes there’s potential to actually leave it. He just goes about it an extremely Beavis and Butthead way.

Why does Jack act so weird from the moment we see him playing football with Tom up until the episode before the finale?

First off, the proper way to phrase this question is, "Why does Jack act so wierd from the moment we see him playing football with Tom (who throws like a girl) up until the episode before the finale?" Now that we have that out of the way…

I posted this question primarily because I want to see if this perspective, which I held first time through as well, holds up as we make our respective second/third/fourth time through the season. I can give you my thoughts now, with the caveat that I haven’t quite gotten to said girly football throwing yet.

My sense of things concerning Jack in Season 3 boils down to the basic fact that something inside Jack snapped the moment he snipped Ben’s kidney sac. The Jack that we knew before that moment was replaced by someone else, someone that looked and talked and sorta acted like Jack but without anything containing trust or even empathy. What’s left possesses some semblance of morality, but his desire to rescue his people once reunited with them has as much to do with needing to be "right" as anything else. I think while in New Otherton, his plan was simply to get off the Island and return with a hunting party. But after Kate’s return to rescue him and his subsequent reintegration into the Lostaways culture, he retreats even more, seemingly unable to trust anyone with anything except Juliet, the person to whom he’s pinned all hopes of ever leaving up until the point he radios the Kahana.

If you look at the character of Jack Shephard, and compare it against the traditional heroes contained within Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, you’ll see precisely how unique he is within the realm of the traditional hero. There are seventeen steps in this monomyth, but here’s Campbell’s short form: "A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man." Well, our hero in this case comes home with a less than decisive victory with the power to bestow booze into his liver. So what happened?

In a sense, the Oceanic 6 are a direct,  rebuttal against the monomyth, but also a meta-textual assault against audience expectations. Back during the first few seasons, everyone assumed "getting off the Island" was the final act in the Lost story. Everything in the show’s progression built to that nominal endpoint, and as such, expectations for certain events were predicated on their distance from this assumed endpoint. Season 3 confidently used that expectation against its audience, not only to provide the season’s shocking ending, but strip away any preconceived notion of what the true story of Lost really is. And just as we are reconfiguring our notions of what Lost is, characters such as Jack Shephard have to consciously recast themselves within a story that really has no antecedent, in which nothing is ever truly decisive..not even death.

I have one more question lined up, but my answer is so ridiculously long that I’m saving it up for tomorrow. Trust me: it’s worth the wait. In the meantime, thanks to everyone who posed questions for this installment of "Letters from the Flame!"

Ryan also posts every 108 minutes over at Boob Tube Dude, then peruses Zap2It’s Guide to Lost Facebook group. He also encourages you to join the all-new Zap2It’s Guide to Lost Twitter feed. Pretty soon he’ll have as many platforms as Ben Linus has passports.

Posted by:Ryan McGee