I don’t know if anybody reading this blog even bothers with my gushing reviews of the TV shows I love, but I have to indulge myself. Tonight’s “Lost” kicked ass. It followed a previous episode that kicked even wider, more deserving ass — one specifically that involved an exploding submarine, a magic room and the story behind how John Locke wound up in a wheelchair. This week’s installment, “Exposé,” centered on Nikki (Kiele Sanchez) and Paolo (Rodrigo Santoro, who may be most familiar as the hunky guy in “Love, Actually” and the apparently hermaphroditic Persian emperor Xerxes in “300”).
Most who follow “Lost” hate Nikki and Paolo. The rest don’t know who they are, as the two suddenly appeared this season as new survivors of Flight 815, forcing to viewers to buy the notion that the squabbling lovebirds had always been on the island, skipping off their own off-screen adventures while the rest — the “Losers,” the ones whose names actually appeared in the opening credits for seasons one and two — did the things that the camera followed. It sucked as a writing ploy. (When “Buffy” invented little sister Dawn in the fifth season, at least the writers copped to the implausibility by literally saying that magic brought her there.) Tonight, the writers did a good job explaining — or as “Lost” critics would put it, “digging out of their self-dug hole” — why Nikki and Paolo weren’t around. Short story: eight million dollars’ worth of diamonds that crashed with the plane. Most impressively, the show actually featured footage from old episodes with Nikki and Paolo seamlessly inserted — lurking in the background at pivotal moments, reacting to events viewers had seen before and popping in at the end of conversations spoken seasons earlier. (An added plus: flashback appearances by Iam Somerhalder and Maggie Grace, whose Boone and Shannon hold the record for being the longest-dead characters on the show. Good to see you, kids.)
Finally, “Exposé” ended with a good twist — if not outright Hitchcockian, then at least Twilight Zonian. Not knowing that the apparently dead Nikki and Paolo are in short-term spider bit-induced comas, the regular Losers believe they have died dead lay the two to rest alongside Boone, Shannon, Ana-Lucia and Libby, under six feet of sand. So Nikki and Paolo get buried alive — along with their diamonds, now worthless among people who’ve probably resigned themselves to permanent castaway status. The Losers even mutter about how they didn’t know all that much about the two. We don’t either, I suppose, but at least two characters more or less shitweaseled onto the show got sent off with a bang.
In all, people like to dump on “Lost.” I can’t stop watching it even when it’s floundering, as it was in earlier this season with five straight episodes of endless Jack-Sawyer-Kate melodrama. Lately, I think the show has taken steps to re-earn a title I would have easily awarded its first season: best show on TV. Yes, even better than recent “Veronica Mars,” on which the denouement of the “Who Killed Ed Begley Jr.?” arc was good but not great. (And I suppose I can’t blame “Veronica” for lacking direction, as I wouldn’t know how to write for a show that might not exist in few months either.)
A small gripe: I can forgive adding characters just to kill them off. I can even overlook the fact that newcomers like Nikki and Paolo got a flashback episode when poor Libby’s backstory still has not been touched since the second season finale. However, I can’t understand why the “Lost” writers insist on kicking off characters in patterns that invite concerns of sexism and racism. I personally don’t endorse either idea, but others do. First, it was equating sex with death, as both Shannon and Ana-Lucia died moments after boning with Sayid and Sawyer, respectively. (Libby came only as close to chaste hugs with Hurley. It HurleyWorld, that’s probably as close to home base as he’ll get.)
Then it was shuffling away all the black characters. In half a season — stretching from the season two ender to two episodes ago — “Lost” promptly rid itself of Michael and Walt (who sailed away on a boat), Eko (who was beaten to death by the smoke monster) and Miss Klugh (whom Mr. Russian Eyepatch recently shot to death). By the time I post this on my blog, I’m sure I won’t be the first person to point out that Nikki and Paolo’s sand nap leaves Hurley the sole remaining Hispanic character on the show. Especially odd is the repetition of adding a vaguely villainous Latina — Michelle Rodridguez in season two, Kiele Sanchez in season three — and then killing them off before their debut season even wraps up.
The good part of all this, I guess, is that very soon “Lost” will have no choice but to start killing whitey.