Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

June 7, 2012

Back to the Island 2.18 – Dave

Filed under: back to the island,reviewage,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 10:54 pm

I attended my first short story critiquing circle last night, courtesy of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild. It was a wonderful experience, to sit down with other writers to work through each others’ stories, talking through what worked, what didn’t and finding all the bits that don’t make any sense. To my certain discredit, I inflicted my eye-straining Twitter-inspired story on them. Much to my surprise the group took it in stride and came through with some very cogent analysis. Not to mention pointing out some blindingly obvious ideas and solutions that not once during the writing and editing of the story itself ever occurred to me. There was a consensus that the sense of creeping menace worked which i was not at all sure about) and that the jokes were funny.

It was a very rewarding and somewhat intoxicating experience. Apart from the very direct benefits of coming out of the other side with a better story (pending another rewrite, of course) there is something deeply satisfying to the process of helping someone else to make their work the best it can be. I tend to feel most at home in collaborative environments, and this was certainly that. I walked out (into a crispy sub-zero Canberra evening) feeling refreshed and invigorated and inspired to keep writing.

Many thanks to Mitch, Cat, Mik, Shauna, Ian and Donna – I’ll be back next month. I just need to write a new story before then, I guess.

Meanwhile: Here’s the next episode of Lost reviewed. I had been stalling on reviewing this one, having convinced myself that it was terrible. When I finally did watch it, I realised that I was deeply incorrect.

Back to the Island 2.18 – Dave

“The second you closed that window, your brain popped a gasket. You went back into your little ‘coma thing’ and that’s where you are this very second – in your own private Idaho inside Santa Rosa.” – Dave

Summary: Hurley starts seeing a mysterious figure from his past and rightly begins to doubt his sanity.

The Best Bit: Every scene with the impish, goading Dave (Hurley’s id made manifest, appearing whenever Hurley is tempted to gluttony, is played by Evan Handler) is a delight. But it is his sinister turn, confronting Hurley with the idea that he has never left the Santa Rosa Mental Health Institute and gleefully insinuating and demonstrating that the only way Hurley can break the delusion is to kill himself, where the character shines. The climactic revelation, that Dave is not as we led to suppose one of the Island’s many ghosts, is a horrifying insight into Hurley’s overwhelming guilt and subconscious self-hatred.

The Worst Bit: This is one of those rare episodes where the ongoing plot feels like an intrusion – and yet the scenes between Henry and Sayyid, in particular, are riveting. Even caught out as a liar and probably a murderer, Henry sticks to his guns, denying responsibility so plausibly that even Ana Lucia, who does not have a good track record when it comes to impulsive handling of firearms, has enough doubt in the extent of his guilt to intervene to prevent Henry’s summary execution. Had she allowed Sayyid’s implacable certainty to run its course, the series would have taken a very different course. Anyway, what I am saying is that the worst bit of this episode is the astonishingly tense and in every way awesome conclusion to the ongoing question of whether Henry Gale is an innocent balloon enthusiast or an Other. In another episodes these scenes would be a riveting centrepiece. In ‘Dave’, they are an almost annoying distraction.

The Mythology: The Numbers figure large in Hugo’s background of course, and here they hang a lantern on it – the core of Dave’s argument undermining Hugo’s sanity is the sheer implausibility that he happened to win the lottery playing the Numbers, and the Hatch just happens to have the Numbers stencilled on it, and the Swan Station computer requires that the Numbers be entered every 108 minutes (108 being the sum of the Numbers, if that hasn’t come up before now). He draws the logical conclusion that Hugo’s obsession with the Numbers is an aspect of his comatose delusional state, back in the psych hospital.

The Literature: Nobody has time for reading in this episode. There’s too much going on.

The Episode: I don’t think there’s another episode in the entire series on which I have changed my original opinion more than ‘Dave’ (no, I see no particular irony in that…) The first time around, ‘Dave’ seemed like a shallow in-joke, indulgently poking fun at Lost fandom’s obsessive theorising about the nature of reality on the show. “It’s all a dream” was a pretty popular hypothesis at the time. The show seemed to mock the audience for asking the very questions it raises.

On reflection, I don’t think me-back-then could be any more wrong. ‘Dave’ illustrates its central character’s psychological complexity with gentle understatement and deft use of metaphor, driven by three stirring performances from Jorge Garcia, Cynthia Watros as Libby and Chandler’s Dave. Hurley and Libby form a genuinely touching romantic connection which feels far more sincere than some of the audience-pandering hookups elsewhere in the season (like anyone at all feeling an emotional connection to hot-but-prickly control freak Ana Lucia). There’s a great scene where Hurley is finally the one who beats hell out of Sawyer for being an insensitive dick. And the last-second reveal that Libby was Hurley’s fellow mental patient is still pretty jaw-dropping.

‘Dave’ isn’t a cheap shot at the audience at all. It’s a sophisticated psychological drama wrapped around a puzzle that asks as many questions as it answers, demanding attention and thoughtful consideration from the audience. It’s (intentionally or otherwise) a metaphor for Lost itself. It’s probably going to far to say that it’s the heart of the series, but Hurley certainly is, so I’m running with that. Ten, ten, ten.


  1. Sorry I haven’t had anything to say. I guess I am still feeling hamstrung by not seeing to the end of the series. I was traumatised by wholesale slaughter of interesting characters around this point and was disappointed not finding out more about Libby’s story. I guess I thought for a while that there was some spiritual benchmark that the characters had to meet – or maybe fall under – before they were allowed to die on the island and was trying to figure out what it might be in each case, but my model didn’t seem to work. (Just thought today that Dante’s Mt Purgatory is another weirdly supernatural island not appearing on any maps with levels within levels of complexity). But I concur: this was one of my fave episodes. 🙂

    Comment by Dr Clam — June 29, 2012 @ 2:22 pm

  2. Well, I am trying to review each episode on its own merits rather than refer forwards to the end of the series. Or even the end of the second season which [spoiler alert] is when the wholesale slaughter happens. [Oops]

    Libby’s unrevealed backstory is the only unanswered question for the entire series which I think remains arguably important and was actually not answered (but it probably isn’t important either). I may have to come back to this point in the far distant future after I’ve finished this review series.

    Did not think of that about Mount Purgatory.

    Comment by lexifab — July 2, 2012 @ 1:06 pm

  3. I think honestly anyone reading your reviews who is vulnerable to spoilers has peculiar popular-culture priorities and deserves what they get. So feel free to tell me it turned out to be the fault of those damn Pygmy Marmosets, when they tried to embody the Secret Message left in The Beatle’s White Album as a being of pure Phlognm-Nature, and I’ll just nod and pretend I understand. 😀

    Comment by The Once and Future Dr Clam — July 2, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

  4. (Hey, I’m trying to preserve the delusion that you’re not the last person left reading these reviews! Give me that at least 🙂 )

    Crackpot spoiler-I-mean-theory time: It is, of course, all Vincent’s fault. We know this intuitively from the very first minute of the pilot, but alas we can only appreciate what it all means after everything has ended.

    Comment by lexifab — July 2, 2012 @ 9:18 pm

  5. Serious answer though – the purpose for me for this is to try to understand how Lost works (and where it sometimes doesn’t) as a consistent narrative. One of the reasons for not referring forwards is to see if I can spot the cracks, where things are contradictory or forgotten or poorly addressed. And also to see if I can nail down the places where the reality between ‘making it all up’ and ‘moving towards a specific ending’ becomes thin.

    Because I find it a compelling question which I should write over one hundred essays about… (Umm, when I put it that way it seems kind of an odd project, huh?)

    Anyway, I may start cheating at some point, but probably not until after we get to the middle of Season 3, when the 2008 writer’s strike changed the circumstances in which the fiction was being created. This is appropriate on a number of levels, I feel.

    Comment by lexifab — July 2, 2012 @ 9:25 pm

  6. “Because I find it a compelling question which I should write over one hundred essays about…”

    Urk, when you put it that way the descriptor ‘totally insane’ comes to mind, rather than ‘odd’…

    I’ll try to preserve the illusion from now on, I promise! I’ve decided to trust my sub-conscious and assume I will spontaneously start re-watching from the beginning at the right time to sync with your reviews of episodes I haven’t seen yet. I’m pretty sure wee got distracted into watching something else shortly into season 4…

    Comment by The Once and Future Dr Clam — July 4, 2012 @ 4:21 pm

  7. Feel free to tune out between the start and middle of Season 3. I anticipate those being the hardest to rewatch, let alone summarise.

    Comment by lexifab — July 4, 2012 @ 10:35 pm

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