Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Death of Girl Number Two

(Apologies to fans of “Lost.” If you haven’t seen the new episode, beware: this post spoils some major plot points. Get on iTunes and spend the $1.99 it costs to catch up. If you don’t watch “Lost,” then you should. But read on anyway as I attempt to make this unknown show nonetheless entertaining for you.)

I’d like to think I’m not often surprised. I guess that’s probably true, but when something does actually catch me unawares, I’m happily put in my place.

Just a few days ago, I was bouncing from one website to another and found the site. Part of a larger site promoting the work of author Gary Troup, this page explains a little about a book called The Valenzetti Equation. I honestly can’t remember what I clicked to get here, but I gave it a once-over and left without looking at the rest of the site. Later, Spencer told me that the bookstore is now carrying a new book by Troup: Bad Twin. It took me a few seconds to realize that the author of this new book was the same as the one for the Valezetti Equation. The more remarkable thing is that Gary Troup is allegedly one of the people who disappeared on Oceanic Airlines Flight 158 — the unlucky airplane that the television show “Lost” is based around.

I like meta. For example, I loved being temporarily fooled a few years back by the Evan Chan mystery that ended up being ten times cooler than “A.I.,” the movie the game was designed to promote. And there’s evidence that suggests these kinds of tie-ins click rather resoundingly with consumers. For example, the show last season featured a scene in which a character was shown reading Flann O’Brien’s novel The Third Policeman. Sales of the book have been up ever since. I think that is neat.

So I have to like the idea that this Gary Troup had emailed the manuscript for a P.I. novel called Bad Twin to his publisher shortly before boarding his flight to Los Angeles. The wise guys behind “Lost” have slipped the manuscript — which seems to have survived the crash, even if Gary himself didn’t — into two episodes of “Lost.” In one, Hurley can be seen leafing through it. And in last night’s episode, “Two for the Road,” Sawyer had just gotten within ten pages of the end when Jack snatched the papers from him and tossed them into the fire. (Sawyer’s a jerk, you see, and had it coming. Long story.) But even the subtle presence of this unseen character can’t match the even bigger surprise I got at the end of the episode.

You might remember earlier post, “I Love Television, But Television Doesn’t Love Me Back,” in which I bemoaned the death of Shannon on “Lost.” I still maintain that Shannon was a worthwhile character, even though the show has managed to keep my interest in spite of her absence. Last night, in the final moments of the episode, the newly returned Michael — who has spend the bulk of this season lost in the jungle, looking for his missing son — betrayed his nice guy exterior and shot two regulars, presumably to death.

You see, the widely hated meanie Ana-Lucia had just failed to bring herself to shoot the group’s current hostage, a member of the longtime inhabitants of the island called “The Others.” Michael said he could shoot the hostage, as he now hates the group responsible for taking away his son. Ana-Lucia have him the gun. Michael looked down for a while, then said he was sorry. When Ana-Lucia asked what he had to be sorry for, Michael turned and hot her in the stomach. Fellow castaway Libby then walked in, looking for blankets needed for a picnic with Hurley. She could barely get out a shocked “Michael?” before the newborn traitor shot her twice.

That’s basically how the episode ended. If I’m to believe my eyes and ears, Ana-Lucia is for sure a goner. The preview of the following episode shows a character saying “She’s dead.” If that weren’t enough, TV Guide’s Mike Ausiello put a column online immediately after “Two for the Road” aired on the west coast. It explains that Michelle Rodriguez, who played Ana-Lucia, signed on for the role with the condition that she’d only be on the set for a year or so.

No one as yet is sure what has happened with poor Libby, played by Cynthia Watros. You might remember Watros from supporting work on “Titus” or as the Christa Miller replacement during the last season of “The Drew Carey Show.” She’s an understated actress who I think is better suited to dramatic work than comic stuff, and I think I like her more and more every time I see her. Unfortunately, we viewers know next to nothing about her. While last night’s episode marked the second one to feature the pre-island life of Ana-Lucia, Libby hasn’t had a single flashback episode yet, so we know next to nothing about her. And to lose both Ana-Lucia and Libby — both of whom were introduced earlier this season to the show as survivors of the long-missing tail section of flight 815 — would seriously knock the show’s gender ratio out of whack.

There’s a chunk of gossipy goodness in this possible double homicide that’s especially worth noting. Both Rodriguez and Watros were arrested near the show’s Hawaii set earlier in the year for drunk driving. And though ABC officially denies that Ana-Lucia’s death and Libby’s wounding/possible death have nothing to do with the actresses’ extracurricular activities, it’s hard for the shows me or, apparently, other “Lost” viewers with internet access, to see the act as a stern public service announcement against DUI: do it, and die. Sometime later. By being shot. By the guy who played Mercutio in the Baz Luhrman “Romeo + Juliet.”

Really, whatever keeps people sober behind the wheel, I suppose.

In short, even me, a guy who follows the show very closely and occasionally peeks as spoilers was shocked by this twist. For a show to eliminate a major character like that — not during sweeps and not during a season finale, even — is daring. You assume that being park of the shows central love quadrangle — Ana-Lucia, Sawyer, Jack and Kate — would protect you, but the producers disagreed, much to their credit. I can usually smell a foreshadowed death coming a mile away, but this one left me with my jaw on the floor.

Good on you, people who make “Lost.” You made a TV junkie re-evaluate your whole game plan with the show. You’ve got me on the edge of the seat to see what will happened with the two remaining shows left this season. What’s most impressive: you’ve warranted yourself a post.

Also: In light of the episode’s events, “Two for the Road” is a darkly wonderful title.

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