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Royals Rumblings

Oct 26, 2023

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The Royals haven't lost on a Thursday since May 4th. Five week unbeaten streak on my watch, so I’m doing my part.

It may be an off-day, but The Star keeps delivering quite a bit of Royals news. I gave them a lot of grief in the offseason for not having a beat writer and not publishing much. But they’ve done a good job once the season started.

There is a little concern that the smoke from the Canada wildfires could impact the Royals series in Baltimore.

Major League Baseball games have been affected in recent days. Games in the New York and Philadelphia area were postponed this week. On Thursday, the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore areas saw hazardous conditions. As a result, Major League Baseball halted the Washington Nationals home game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Royals are still expected to play on Friday... The forecast looks considerably better on Friday.

The Royals brought back their Father's (Day) Trip:

The Royals held this week's special batting-practice session for the fathers, fathers-in-law and brothers of the players. It's a part of the club's annual Father's Trip that includes a week-long journey to Miami and Baltimore.

The Royals began hosting this event in 2013, but it had been on hiatus the past few seasons. After three years away because of the pandemic, it's back.

Several dads are along for the trip, including Pasquantino, Bobby Witt Sr., Tom Duffy (infielder Matt Duffy's father), Mervyl Melendez (MJ Melendez's dad) and Brett Singer (father of pitcher Brady Singer).

Blair Kerkhoff chronicles the history of stadium votes in Kansas City. He goes through each and every vote, going back to the Muni in 1931:

In 1931, in the midst of the Great Depression, Kansas Citians were so enthusiastic about a new arena that they voted overwhelmingly to approve all 16 projects on a 10-year plan that included an auditorium and stadium.

Nearly 90,000 went to the polls for the election of May 26, 1931. Each project, including a new city hall, a Jackson County courthouse and an airport expansion, needed a two-thirds majority to pass. And pass they all did, with the auditorium approved by the widest margin: 80%.

Kansas City was beside itself. The headline on the front page of the Kansas City Times the day after the election read, "Yesterday was Kansas City's day — perhaps the greatest day in its history. Isn't it bully!"

It's an interesting walk through history and it also reminds you that what gets voted for isn't what gets built, even 100 years ago. The more things change...

The Royals announced that next Monday (June 12) will be Chiefs Night at the K:

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, Royals part-owner and Super Bowl LVII MVP Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce and more Chiefs players will make appearances at the game. KC Wolf and Chiefs cheerleaders are also expected to appear.

The Royals also announced that Kelce will throw out the first pitch. It’ll be a chance at redemption for the tight end, as his first pitch for the Cleveland Guardians on Apr. 7 just missed the mark.

This one got mentioned in the comments yesterday, but this NPR story deserves its own headline in Rumblings: Black coaches and players say Kansas City Royals’ academy to grow local talent has lost its way

"It's not for the African Americans in the inner-city. For baseball, it's more for people out in Johnson County and kids that have money," said Hall, whose son Allante went on to play catcher in the Minnesota Twins system after his time with the Expos. "There's others that do feel the same way, that it wasn't really designed for the urban kids," he said...

An employee discrimination lawsuit filed against the Royals last year suggests otherwise. It alleges former Royals Vice President Kyle Vena planned to transition the Academy away from its mission of providing opportunities for underserved youth. After the ownership team led by John Sherman took over the Royals in the fall of 2019, the word "underserved" was replaced in the Academy's mission statement with "urban."

Mitch Maier takes time out of writing letters home from summer camp to talk to Anne Rogers about the minor leagues: Let's hit on a couple of notable injured players. What's the status of utilityman Nick Loftin (Triple-A), lefty Asa Lacy (Double-A) and two young players in Single-A, lefty Frank Mozzicato and infielder Brennon McNair? (Note: Mozzicato and McNair went on the injured list last week after colliding during practice. Initially, it was thought that Mozzicato would be sidelined for about a month, but now he is only expected to miss one or two starts. McNair will be out for a week.)

Maier: "Loftin had been dealing with pain in his (right) knee, something he was playing through, but it got to the point where we said, ‘Let's get it taken care of.’ So a very minimal-type procedure with his meniscus. I would say we’re expecting right around the All-Star break is when he should be returning.

"Asa's throwing bullpens in Arizona, transitioning to lives. There is no definitive timeline for him, but we’re hoping to get the bulk of the second half of the season. But at this point, it's too early to necessarily put an exact timeline on it.

"Frank and Brennon, we’re lucky that it wasn't bad. During BP, the hitter hit a popup kind of in shallow left-center field. They both just went for the ball. Unfortunately, they hit head-to-head, which was the scary part. Frank had a couple of small fractures. Brennon had a broken nose. After seeing a face and ENT specialist in Kansas City, it ended up not being as bad. We knew McNair would be OK because it was just his nose. But for Frank, there was a concern because it was the eyebrow area, so you worry about the intensity. But they’re both already cleared to resume baseball activity."

Gotta be honest. With the initial vague wording around the incident, I was kindof worried that Mozzicato's injury was the type of injury that resulted from a non-pitching hand colliding with the face or other extremity of a teammate. Sounds like that wasn't the case.

Blog roundup:

Here's a couple "around baseball" notes that I’ll try to connect to the Royals.

MLB Pipeline has a listicle of "Each team's best prospect in Rookie ball":

Royals: Austin Charles, SS (No. 17) Charles isn't like most 20th-round picks. The California native was a two-way prospect entering last year's Draft and was ranked as MLB Pipeline's No. 109 talent in his class. The Royals signed him away from a UC Santa Barbara commitment with a $429,500 bonus and made him a full-time shortstop. Now able to focus on one job, Charles will try to make the most of his athleticism in the ACL with a particular focus on making consistent hard contact.

The Marlins just left town and Luis Arraez went 7 for 12, bringing his season average up to .403. As we all know, it's been a long, long time since anyone hit .400, Ted Williams in 1941.

Mike Trout is off to his slowest start of the season and one of the coldest streaks of his entire career. Maybe age is finally catching up with him at 32. But he's still worth 1 win more than the best Royal. And still one of the best players in the game, even if this is his "new normal":

He's currently playing at a 5.4-WAR pace, and it's hardly a stretch to think he can get back above 6.0 (last year he was at 6.1 while missing a quarter of the season). If he's no longer the very best player in the game — Ronald Acuña Jr., Aaron Judge, and Shohei Ohtani would be three I’d put on the podium, in some order — he's still one of the best and most exciting. I think we can figure out a way to live with that.

This one is totally unrelated to the Royals, but I love the call on Elly De La Cruz's first career home run:

ELLY DE LA CRUZ CRUSHED458 ft114.8 mph

As promised last week, I was going to split up that Lost section into 2 days worth as last week's almost topped 10K words(!). The overall impressions stayed behind whereas the episode capsules were moved to this week, including the one for the finale.

Episode Capsules

As noted above, there might be some overlap between what I said [last week] and what's in the individual episode capsules. Also, they’re not the cleanest writing - there's going to be some sloppy prose and duplication of transitions. You’ll see my verbal crutches and repeated transitions in full force without me going back and editing them out. Sorry about that.

Seasons 1 and 2

Didn't watch any eps, which is a shame as there were so many good ones, especially in season 1 like Locke's walkabout or Sawyer and Kate's backstory or the polar bear or the smoke monster. Season 2 and the tail section were less good but still had great elements and the introduction of the Others. Desmond, the hatch, the numbers, and the explosion – we skipped all of that, sadly. I remember the first couple of seasons gave me nightmares for a while. We should have watched more but my idea initially was just to watch a couple of eps from Season 3 and call it good. When we started watching, we were drawn back in.

Season 3

3.01 "A Tale of Two Cities" - Tried to catch up with the first two seasons and started here. I really wanted to see the scene at the start of the season where we were in Hawaii where that was filmed. It was just like we remembered it. The episode does the great juxtaposition of The Others and their suburban-like book club lifestyle and the survivors of Oceanic 815. I remember the first time we saw it, we were a little disappointed but, looking back, it's a brilliant pulling the curtain back on The Others. While we were awash in the nostalgia of how good it was, I also remembered some of the frustration that we’ll get a lot less of, watching it as we’re doing. There was some flashback plot with Jack's marriage falling apart and him thinking his dad was sleeping with his wife and it was just slow and draggy and frustrating. We originally watched all of Lost in 2009 in syndication, catching up just in time to see the series end in 2010. I don't know how people watched this week to week – there was the week-to-week speculation that must have been fun. But, man, the show could drag, too, and provide some substandard answers. The polar bear was one of the iconic scenes from the first season but we’re only given a throwaway explanation, overshadowed by the visual of Sawyer and Kate in the cages and their new fight for survival against The Others.

3.08 "Flashes Before Your Eyes - Desmond episodes are the best. Sure, Henry Ian Cusick was good, but I think he was helped by being given some great writing. The premise of this one is simple: Hurley thinks Desmond can see the future so he enlists Charlie to try and get Desmond drunk and get the truth out of him. It's a fun premise but Desmond episodes tended to reveal a lot of secrets about the show.

Lost did three things amazingly well: casting, creating the flashback formula, and extreme serialization and all three are on full display here. First, the casting is brilliant and, while most of the actors and actresses in Lost didn't go on to bigger and better things (Michael Emerson is the only one maybe), they did circulate around TV for the next decade. Like contemporary Heroes, they turned up everywhere from CSI villains to guest stars on SyFy and at least half worked on Once Upon a Time.

Speaking of Once Upon a Time, that show from Lost writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz was one of many shows that took the flashback model from Lost and incorporated it heavily. It's not that flashbacks haven't been used in the past but not as heavily like this where they served as the basis for most of characterization.

Thirdly, while The X-Files set up modern serialization in TV drama, Lost took it down the field, making it impossible to miss an episode. The X-Files was made in the early days of the internet where theories were exchanged on usenet and chats were done in AOL Instant Messenger. But The X-Files also only had 6-10 anthology episodes per season. Every episode of Lost was indispensable. DVRs were a thing now so you didn't have to worry about missing an episode.

This ep also has Desmond leaving Penny, after being scared off by her dad in the scene with the expensive whiskey they’re getting Desmond drunk with. It also has Eloise Hawking eerily predicting the future. And Desmond revealing that not Claire, but Charlie is being Final Destination’d.

3.22/23 "Through the Looking Glass" – This is one of the greatest episodes of TV ever. For most of the season, Lost drips tiny bits of plot around characterization through current events and flashback backstory. Also, unlike most shows, the average episode actually leaves more Chekhov guns on the stage than before it started, somehow. The season finales are often the opposite and this was the best of them all. If you uttered "Not Penny's Boat" to the a certain age demographic, they would know exactly what it meant. Charlie's heroic death was brilliantly done, foreshadowed by the previous episode we watched, and erasing all the frustrating Charlie-loves-heroin plot from before.

There's action as the Survivors finally get the upper hand on The Others, winning most of the battle on the beach. It's the first time that Ben's plans are unraveling as he realized Juliet has betrayed him. He sends Mikhail to kill his own people (including a young Lana Parilla) as well as Charlie and Desmond in the Looking Glass station. There's Naomi, her sat phone, and our first hints that something isn't right. The middle gets a little bogged down by some heroes-in-transit and splitting up but it feels more shell game than stall. Ben reveals that Rousseau is his adopted daughter Alex's mother.

But, in the frantic end, Ben pretends to have The Others kill the Survivors on the beach Hurley (and the heroes in transit) saves the day, Mikhail blows up The Looking Glass, "Not Penny's Boat", the sat phone works, Locke kills Naomi but not before Jack gets a call to the freighter, and it looks like the Survivors will finally be saved. But then the huge twist: Jack's suicidal hero flash backs were not flash backs at all – they were flash forwards and "Kate! We have to go back!" It was the pinnacle of Lost and it was every bit as great as I remembered.

Season 4

4.01 "The Beginning of the End" – After the last episode, this is a bit of a comedown. It's a lot of denouement of the last season. Not only that, but the island splits up… again. Jack takes a number of the Survivors but Locke convinces the rest, some of which feel contrived (Hurley). I guess I get why they felt the need to keep splitting the characters up, to give more threads to weave the plot tapestry, but it's a bit frustrating. We also have more of heroes-in-transit going through the forest. Meanwhile, the Flash Forwards start painting a bleak picture of the future with soon-to-be-suicidal Jack visiting Hurley, who is in a mental institution.

Plotting during the first three seasons of Lost was hard. As mentioned before, they were basically creating a new formula. Each season was something like 3 hours of plot advancement, 3 hours of character advancement, and 10 hours of character backstory. That's hard enough to balance, keeping people interested across an entire season while also putting together cohesive episodes. This gets double hard with going forward in time. At least with the flashbacks, if something didn't work with a character, you could organically change it a few episodes down the road. With the flash forwards, the puzzle is nonlinear and if something doesn't feel like it's working, you have to retcon it, which feels like cheating.

4.05 "The Constant" – It's not my pick (Through the Looking Glass is), but, for a lot of fans, this is the best episode in the series. This episode that seamlessly blends the science fiction the show is morphing into with the brilliant character drama it's always been. Back in "Flashes Before Your Eyes", we get a different type of flashback, a "time slip", where Desmond's mind goes back to the wrong time. Here, that plot device is used to the extreme as Desmond keeps shifting back and forth through time from the 2004 present (it was filmed in 2008, but this is when the show started) and 1996. The curtain is pulled back a little on the freighter as we find a familiar face return (Michael) and more about the people running it, specifically Keamy. On the island, Faraday starts explaining a little about how the island is in a different time than outside the island. We also get a sprinkling of high stakes as each trip through time brings Desmond closer to aneurysm. The ending even adds another layer with Faraday's journal having the words "If anything goes wrong, Desmond Hume will be my constant." But the scene that everyone remembers is where Desmond calls Penny on Christmas Eve – it's just so well done, so touching – it hits all the perfect emotional notes.

4.09 "The Shape of Things to Come" – Watching only selected episodes like this really condenses the show down. Most of the drag is gone but we also miss a lot of the inbetween details. Keamy leads an assault on the island and plans to kill everyone there except for Ben. Jack finally gets Faraday to admit they aren't here to save the Survivors. Speaking of which, that's one of the things I really remember about this season – all 4 of the "new" cast members were just "twitchy" – they were all a bit off. I mean, knowing their backstory, it makes sense: Faraday is the mad scientist slipping through time, Charlotte was originally from the island and spent her life trying to get back there, Miles is a spiritual medium, and Keamy is a psychopath mercenary. But this all led to season 4 being weirdly on edge in a show that was already always on edge.

Beyond that, the show was just shifting. The first two seasons where a character driven survival drama in a weird location. Seasons 4 and 5 started leaning hard into science fiction. Season 3 bridged those two and contributed significantly to why it was the best season. A lot of people got lost in that seeming "bait-and-switch", even if it seemed natural to the average sci-fi fan. However, the season 6 jump to religious allegory in lieu of more explanation didn't sit well with almost anyone.

This was another one of those episodes where Ben's plans fell apart and his bluff got his daughter Alex killed (after her mother, longtime favorite Rousseau and boyfriend Karl were killed in the previous ep). This breaks the already psychotic Ben and he summons the smoke monster (though it's later retconned that's not how it works), which attacks the attackers. The final flash forward is Ben confronting Widmore in his bedroom. Alan Dale's Widmore is brilliant in all of his scenes up to this point, slightly rattled but mostly hiding it from Ben.

4.12/13 "There's No Place Like Home" – This is actually a 3-parter and it covers a ton of ground, albeit imperfectly, so it's not quite as good as the previous season finale as it takes a long time to get there. There's a helicopter and a boat ferrying people to and from the freighter. There's the bomb on the freighter thread. A number of the main characters on the island split up, including a bleeding Jack. Ben hands The Others over to Locke and tells that to Richard Alpert. Keamy is injured a couple of times but doesn't die until he reveals he has a dead man's switch that will blow up the freighter and Ben kills him anyways as revenge for Alex. There's also a number of flash forward threads like Sun buying a company and working with Widmore, Claire's mother shows up and makes Kate having Aaron uncomfortable, and Locke revealed as the one in the coffin. In the end, the freighter explodes and Ben moves the island. We even get a moment the show had been building up to for 4 seasons: Penny finds Desmond and the Oceanic Six are rescued. If you’re checking boxes for major plot points, it does a lot. However, they’re just not as well done as some of the others so they fall a bit flat.

Also, both this episode as well as the previous season finale are just evil with the concept of hope. In Through the Looking Glass, there's a couple of moments where it looks like everything is going to be ok. I mean, you know that it's really not because there are 3 more seasons of the show. But, for instance, when Jack makes the call – it feels like maybe everything is going to be all right. There's some of that this time, too. They’re found by Penny but too many bad things have followed too many good things too many times – it's Lucy with the football, we’re getting wary as viewers. You can't just pawn people off with small victories like finding water or finding the hatch like in previous seasons – there need to be some big wins now that we’re on the back half of the show. And we know that getting off the island doesn't really amount to anything with Jack screaming that they have to go back.

Season 5

5.01 "Because You Left" – If there was any doubt we were into hardcore science fiction territory, nope. The island, having just been moved last time by Ben, starts lurching forward and backward through time. There's not as much cleanup to do as the previous season as this ending is starting to feel more choreographed, less frantic – there would be more episodes in season 5 to resolve what was left undone in season 4. This starts to feel a little like MCU where each episode is now being used to set up a bigger plot. That makes the big episodes have better payoff but it does weaken each individual episode. This episode mostly served to put the pieces in place for the rest of the season. Also, flashback and flash forward don't have a lot of meaning when the characters are jumping through time.

5.07 "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham" – We tried to decide between this and the previous two episodes and split the difference. We watched the "Previously on" and first scenes for "This Place is Death" and "316" and then watched this entire episode. I mean, the big episode should have been "316" where the Oceanic Six go back to the island but it's not that well thought of so I just skipped to the next pair. Part of the mystery from season 4 was "who is in the coffin" (Locke) and why is he going by Jeremy Bentham. Widmore was who convinced him to try and convince the others. But Locke fails and his crisis of faith scene, explaining his suicide attempt to Ben, is brilliant acting by both. However, then, inexplicably, Locke tells Ben about Eloise and Ben kills Locke anyways and takes away most of the gravity from the previous scene. Also, it doesn't make a lot of sense plot-wise, and people were still arguing about it on the Lost subreddit so I didn't get a clear answer of why it was done the way they did.

5.08 "LaFleur" - A friend talking about how they tried to fill in the gaps in season 5 and I think that's fair. We didn't notice it as much in first watching as we were trying to avoid spoilers and enjoying watching the story and drama unfold. At the time, it felt like they did a lot of sloppy retconning. Upon second watch, it wasn't quite as sloppy, though it did suffer from some of the "unsatisfying" conclusions like, say, the polar bear. But, they really did attempt to explain a lot of the background – like shipping half the cast back to 1977 and filling in the Dharma and Widmore backstory. And using the other half to start exploring the "spiritual conflict" that would be the center of season 6. Not enough of the Chekhov guns are fired overall in the show, but for season 5, more are fired, even longstanding ones, than are left on stage. This was a Sawyer episode and they really ran Sawyer through the ringer this season. First, he finds happiness in an unlikely pairing with Juliet, a pairing that, on paper, just doesn't feel right. Elizabeth Mitchell just does enough to make it work but Josh Holloway does the really heavy lifting – he's not just a pretty face, it's really believable. You really believe that he was actually really happy with his new life in Dharmaville. The end of this episode foreshadows that all getting ripped away. And, yet, the results of the season finale are so much worse. You actually are rooting for Sawyer when he's beating up Jack, then Juliet walks away from him because of some perception about how he looks at Kate ("And you would stay with me forever if I let you, and that is why I will always love you"). And, to end it all, Juliet dies.

5.12 "Dead is Dead" – The backstory continues with the "revelation" of why Ben and Widmore hate each other. Michael Emerson is really good – his controlled, hyper-intelligent sociopath followed by his descent into madness following Alex's death that showed a different flavor of crazy is really believable and really well done. Jacob and religion also really start taking hold in the latter half of the season, especially the finale. The Man in Black, masquerading as Locke, leads Ben to the Temple where he sees smokey posing as Alex and telling him to follow everything Locke says.

5.14 "The Variable" - When I mentioned "sloppy" earlier, this is part of what really feels sloppy: it feels like they break the consistency of the time travel rules. After abiding by "whatever happened, happened" as our guiding time travel rule to the point of even having that as an episode title, Faraday comes back and breaks that with an explanation about how people are the variables but it feels cheap in the way that Mulder "finding" his sister felt cheap in The X-Files. The rules were broken and the only real explanation was an appeal to sentiment. They might have been able to get away with this early on when they were making the rules, but as the explanations are filling in backstory, the space with which the plot can stay consistent within the world is getting smaller and this feels like it's not within it. Then again, the religious allegory part seems to break it a bit, too. Everything else about the episode mostly works, though: Sawyer's regrets, Daniel's inability to warn Chang, and, really, Faraday's death feels really appropriate – shot by his own mother in the past.

5.16/17 "The Incident" – Speaking of sloppy, the season finale is not as memorable as the last couple because of the sloppiness. The significance of many of the moments are muted by the way we got here. It feels way too convenient to just now have Jacob showing up at key points in each of the survivor's lives – that needed to have been set up earlier on. They pick good moments in the characters’ lives and set it up well within the episode but it wasn't foreshadowed enough previously. Jacob's bodyguard burning his cabin, Locke's corpse, and Ben killing Jacob all work, though. Similarly, the bomb plot feels really contrived – sure, the 50s Others just happened to get a bomb, Faraday happens to notice it, happens to know how to disarm it, buries it for decades, and determines it's just the tool to somehow neutralize the pocket of energy that creates the hatch. Even for this show, that stretches things very far. But, again, the rest of the plot is a little off and on. Finding Rose and Bernard is nice, Sayid getting shot felt random, touched on Sawyer and Juliet above and I don't like her change of heart, the Dhama conflict at the Swan site seems real, the shootout at the Swan site seems unnecessary, Jack wanting to fix things and having to drop the bomb work, but the bomb not detonating when it fell and near-dead Juliet, who should have died from the fall or being impaled by metal, somehow sets it off by hitting the bomb with a rock. Oof.

Season 6

6.01/02 "LA X Parts 1/2" – The vagaries of the flash sideways really hurt this season. There were a number of fan theories ( about what it was: alternate timeline created by the bomb paradox, purgatory, a construct of the Man in Black, the flash sideways as the actual afterlife, etc. The official explanation is that it was a place where the characters met after death before moving on. Knowing this coming into the season makes it make a lot more sense. With that explanation in mind, though, we made a list of who was where at the end of season 5:

Dead in 00 previously: Christian, Charlie, Michael, Claire (unknown?)

Dead in 77: Charlotte, Faraday, Juliet, Sayid (almost), and potentially everyone else because of bomb

Alive in 77 (pending bomb result): Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, Jin, Miles, (Rose and Bernard)

Dead in 00: Alex and Rousseau, Locke, Jacob

Alive in 00: Ben, Sun, Frank, Ilyana and crew, Richard Alpert, the Man in Black

Alive in 00 (not on island): Penny and Desmond, Widmore, Eloise, Walt, Aaron

It's hard to get past the "bomb didn't blow everyone in 77 up" so you just have to accept it as a bad plot hole. Sawyer saving and then losing Juliet again is hard. Locke confirming that he's the smoke monster is satisfying. Jacob appearing to Hurley and telling them to take Sayid to the temple works well, if we’re leaning heavy into the religious angle as does everything that happens at the temple. Sayid coming back to life is, well, unexpected as "dead is dead".

6.04 "The Substitute" - For season 6, we’re just going to watch about every third episode. The leadup wasn't as bad as I remembered it so maybe I misjudged the show. Also, for all the episodes we don't watch, we’re going to watch the "Previously On Lost" so we get a decent sense of what is going on. While this episode is called "The Substitute", Locke's flash sideways is the B plot: he's a desk worker who lost his job because of the walkabout but lucked into seeing Hurley who helped him get a job as a substitute teacher. But lots of actual "real-time" season 6 action happened during this time. A young Jacob still appears to some on the island while The Man in Black goes recruiting, this time after Sawyer, showing him his name carved into a cave wall along with the other candidates. In the next couple of episodes we didn't watch, Jack and Hurley find the Lighthouse, Jin runs across a crazy Claire, Sayid kills Dogen in the temple, and that allows the Smoke Monster to wipe them all out.

6.07 "Dr. Linus" - The flash sideways part of the season feels like a lot of padding, to retell the flashbacks down another path, but it feels like there was still a lot to explain about the island and this is taking valuable time away from that, a puzzle to distract. It feels like DS9 giving 10 full eps to end the Dominion war but getting bogged down in Section 13 and Vic Fontaine and the like so that there's not enough time to wrap up the Emissary plot that was central to a lot of the show. This one does have a couple of cool scenes like Jack betting Richard that he can't kill himself and then Ilyana confronting Ben about killing Jacob. Going to steal a moment her to talk about Michael Fox – unless you count starring in teen drama Party of Five, he hasn't much ton before or since Lost. They occasionally ask him to do too much, but he's a near perfect Jack Shephard, arguably the biggest role in this giant ensemble cast. I know I’ve stretched the X-Files comparisons too far already, but, for one more, it's almost David Duchovny as Fox Mulder good with nothing else in the career ever getting close. Speaking of acting, Michael Emerson is excellent, once again, with his story of regret about sacrificing Alex for the island and Jacob and his pitiful reason for joining Locke because "he's the only one that’ll have me". The flash sideways where he tries to blackmail William Atherton for his principal job to make the school a better place before backing down to get Alex a promotion is sweet-ish, but, again, padding.

6.09 "Ab Aeterno" - Richard Alpert's long-awaited backstory is the highest rated episode of the season. Frustratingly, the crisis of faith has been a bit difficult for Nestor Carbonell to act as I think he's being pushed to overact at times. But this was more a return to form, similar to his great scene with Jack a couple of episodes ago. The episode is a throwback to previous seasons as there are no flash sideways (one of only two, along with Across the Sea) and not a lot of plot movement in the "present day". Titus Welliver's temptation is good but Jacob's "explanation" of his Man in Black comes up short again – it's lacking detail (he can't be allowed to leave the island) and done in metaphor (cork in wine bottle)

6.11 "Happily Ever After" – Once again, Desmond episodes really are the best and he's a good vehicle to start unraveling the alternate reality of the flash sideways. There's some stuff we must have missed earlier in the season with Widmore's sub, Jin somehow there, and Desmond being kidnapped. But everything else about this episode mostly works: a flash sideways caused because Desmond can withstand electromagnetics? Sure. His flash sideways where he's besties with Widmore is suitably surreal. What Lost does best is jumble up characters and make them fit together. So having frustrating season 2ish heroin-addicted Charlie helping Desmond pierce the veil fits perfectly. Then piling on Eloise as being able to seemingly see between realities – it's just well done. The ep ends with Desmond looking like he's going to be the chosen one to "wake" everyone up in the flash sideways. I’ve seen compelling arguments that Desmond never should have been brought back to the island as his character arc should have been done when he sailed off into the sunset with Penny. However, if you’re going down the Flash Sideways road, I’m not sure what other character could thread this plot and character needle.

6.12 "Everybody Loves Hugo" – Originally, we were only going to watch a handful of episodes like the previous season, but we were enjoying the ride so much that we decided to watch the rest of the show. This ep has another one of those kindof-disappointing but kindof-makes-sense explanation of the whispers sounds that has been there since season one: dead Michael confirms Hurley's suspicion that they’re from people who can't "move on" from the island. Similarly disappointing, Illana just randomly dies from dynamite, Richard's and Ben's joint crises of faith makes them erratic and uninteresting, and Sayid captures Desmond, who is acting weird after events from the last ep, before Smokey tosses him into a well. However, there is payoff of watching an ep with the likable Hurley: the plot with his good life and help from "insane" Libby is sweet and keeps unraveling the flash sideways mystery.

6.13 "The Last Recruit" – Even with the flash sideways, season 6 probably has more happening "in real time" than any other season. This ep's flash sideways just move pieces into place. But, on the island, "in the real world", so much more happens: Smokey tells Jack that he posed as his dad (more answers), (crazy) Claire tells Jack that they’re step-siblings, the Man in Black tells Sayid to kill Desmond (but a change of heart is implied), Sawyer steals Smokey's boat along with the main characters but Jack heads back – mirroring Sawyer's decision from season 4, and Widmore's team betrays Sawyer (the only seemingly rational one at this point) and then starts firing rockets at Smokey. However, the big emotional moment in the episode is when Sun and Jin, who were scattered across time, get back together for the first time in three seasons.

6.14 "The Candidate" – This is the windup ahead of the finale. Sure, there's some fluff with Jack and Locke in the Flash Sideways, but three major characters meet their end. Locke tricks them into going onto the submarine with a bomb. However, Sawyer doesn't believe Jack's (likely correct) interpretation of the rules that Smokey can't kill them directly, so he unwittingly assists by setting off the bomb. Sayid gets some redemption for his sixth season heel turn with a heroic death. But even his sacrifice can't save Jin and Son, who die together after spending three seasons apart. It's one of the sadder moments in the show, they way they do it. First, they’ve been apart so long that you’re happy they’re back together, after much growth. Second, Jin could have escaped – we lay that out pretty clearly. Three, they (and Jack) realize Jin is sacrificing himself because if he can't live with Son, he doesn't want to live without her. he deaths felt a little arbitrary at the time, but not when looking back, considering what Locke is trying to do and where we’re heading with the conflict between him and Jacob's chosen. I’m struck at how I don't remember this episode from our watch years ago as it's a pretty darn big deal. So much of the 6th season feels like that because of the Flash Sideways misdirection. It sucked a bunch of the emotion out of the events in "real time".

6.15 "Across the Sea" – This is the other backstory episode that breaks up the season. However, unlike the praised Ab Aeterno, this is one of the most maligned episodes of season 6. It tries to "explain" but doesn't explain a lot, once again speaking more in metaphor than in the concrete. I think some people see Lost fans looking for explanations like Charlie Brown and the football. But that whistles past the real attempts to explain things in the fourth and fifth season. As I mentioned before, in a show full of jarring transitions, the most jarring is the one from science fiction to religious allegory. For the longest time, Jacob was this mysterious, somewhat screwy side plot with the Others. But, at the end of the fifth season, his conflict with the Man in Black is suddenly the focus of the main season, a season when we were hoping to wrap up all (ok, most) of the other conflicts and mysteries between the other characters. I’m not sure there was any way to dramatically balance the scales between that and five seasons of heavy character drama. That's too much weight to put on the writers and on Mark Pellegrino's shoulders. Instead, he's often upstaged in these important scenes as Titus Welliver's Man in Black is just better than Mark Pellegrino's Jacob. And, with that, we got "the smoke monster is an embodiment of evil, created when the embodiment of good threw his adopted brother into a hidden magic cave of light".

6.16 "What They Died For" – We’ve talked a lot about the Flash Sideways and the Jacob/Man in Black conflict already this season, mostly negatively. However, this is the first episode I started really thinking "maybe it’ll turn out alright after all". In "Happily Ever After", Desmond starts to pierce the veil and it's revealed that Charlie, Daniel, and Eloise are already all aware, to some degree, of the actual meaning of the Flash Sideways. However, this is the first episode where I really felt invested in how it would turn out, actively rooting for Desmond's quest to succeed. Similarly, Jack becoming the new Jacob to battle the Man in Black's Locke was where this show was always going to go. For all intents and purposes, this episode is part 1 of the 3 part finale as opposed to a stand-alone. Once again, I was struck by how little I remembered of so many critical plot points coming down the stretch. I, like most people, was so caught up in trying to get my mysteries answered and seeing how it would all end that not much stuck.

6.17/18 "The End Parts 1/2" - We’ve reached the much maligned series finale. Just to sum this up in one place: it's hard to not be conflicted by the Flash Sideways. In many ways, it lends additional meaning to the finale - touching on Lost's main theme about connections between characters, adding an additional layer onto it with the afterlife. In others, it falls flat, a massive distraction from a show that didn't need more distractions, a distraction to cover up from not enough plot and not enough good answers to previous mysteries. Upon second watching, seasons 4 and 5 really did try to explain some of the mysteries of the island, adding twitchy exposition delivery devices like Daniel Faraday in season 4 or slowing the plot down to drop Sawyer and company into the Dharma Initiative for a large chunk of season 5. Yes, there were a number of unsatisfying scientific explanations that weren't too far removed from midi-chlorians, but at least they were attempting to answer the questions of the answer. Much of that ground to a halt as screen time had to be spent on the new Flash Sideways puzzle box in season 6. But, hey, we got a magic pool of light that is the source of all good in the world or something. Oh, and it has something to do with magnets. Sigh.

You also have to be able to accept the premise that a show that's been mostly science fiction up to this point can delve into the spiritual. Walk with me here for a moment: I love, love, love, love, love The X-Files, even for all its flaws. If we want to talk X-Files one day, I’m there with bells on! As I mentioned above, it was the prototype that Lost refined. The X-Files had so many issues from David Duchovny wanting to be a movie star and moving the show from Vancouver to LA, Fox jerking around one of their highest rated shows in seemingly a half dozen time slots, and Chris Carter never quite being sure if the show was going to be cancelled so he wrote every season finale as an impossible-to-escape cliffhanger, only to then have to retcon and plot hole their way out. It had so many "jump the shark" moments*, but, to me, the most egregious was in season 7 ("Sein und Zeit"/"Closure"). Mulder's main motivation, the reason why he was the way he was, why he joined the FBI, and why he repeatedly threw away his promising career, was because his sister was abducted when they were kids. That was The Truth that was Out There for him and the show would poke that plot point from time-to-time. Well, Carter (probably rightfully) thought it was past time to end that plot. However, rather than trying to squeeze out an answer about what happened to her, the clues say she basically disappeared. Mulder, is out in a forest, investigating another missing girl case that is similar to his sister's, the music swells, and he gets a vision of the other missing children he's investigating, we know they’re dead, Duchovny badly cries, says "I’m free", and that's all we get. It was an emotional sleight of hand: hey, you’ve got feels so you don't feel frustrated that we didn't give you anything of substance. Wrapping this back around to Lost, I’m torn as to whether the Flash Sideways are necessary to the show to explain what came before it or just a cheap trick to stretch out season 6. But at least there's some real conflict within me, unlike The X-Files.

*remember the old site "Jump the Shark"? Sadly it got bought up by TVGuide and is no more

With all that said, much of season 6 and the finale play so much better when you understand what is going on. The island is real, the consequences are real, and the good-vs-evil struggle has significance (albeit in a somewhat nebulous way). Meanwhile, the Flash Sideways is basically purgatory so the plot elements are less consequential whereas the character connections are what matters. It's frustrating that you didn't know and it wasn't communicated well, but it mostly does what it means to. Similarly, with that in mind, I’d say about 70% of the show was explained, upon second viewing, as opposed to the ballpark 30-40% I had it pegged for the first time I saw it.

After re-watching, I slightly lean towards the Flash Sideways being necessary and another mystery to solve, even if it's unlike the previous ones. It also does one of the thing this show does best: character drama. In a lot of ways, it plays as a greatest hits of the show. Most characters are put into a better life or relationship than their previous one. In the lead up to the finale and, especially, the final episode, a lot of the time is spent "breaking characters out" of the fake reality and then showing a sepia-toned clip show of the best moments for each character. There's real emotion in the scenes for Sun and Jin, Charlie and Claire, and, Sawyer and Juliet. I can see how it is viewed as pure fan service, but at least it's well done fan service.

Sorry to keep on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand’ing this review but it's hard not to. The island mostly takes a back seat to the Flash Sideways. With Desmond's weird EM-immune help, one set of heroes uncorks the island pool, turning Smokey mortal and allowing Jack and Kate to kill him, and then re-corks the island, restoring its magic. Another team of heroes repairs the plane and uses it to escape off the island. Jack dies, Hurley becomes the new, new Jacob and Ben stays as his second in command, having lost everything to the island and seeing atonement. Also, The New Man in Charge short on the DVD works pretty well and tries to tie up a couple more loose ends. Spend the few minutes on it if you’ve made it this far.

In the end, Lidelof and Cuse had an idea where they wanted to go and what they wanted to emphasize in the final season and in the finale. The character drama was much more important than the island and its mysteries and that's where the screen time and writing energy were spent. Though that lens, the finale works but you have to accept what it is and what it isn't. The show wasn't written by theoretical physicists with a corkboard full of plot device explanations. It was written by character writers with a decent dose of the former who teased more than was actually there. And I’m guessing if you asked them, they would say it's not nearly as important. As someone who often likes plot more than character, that's immensely frustrating. On the other hand, the Lost finale does enough right that I don't think it should be nearly as maligned as it was (is?). It gives some closure, even if imperfect, and gives some great moments, even if they weren't all of the ones I was looking for.

I lied last week when I said I’d have more to say about Michael Giacchino. Not that he doesn't deserve it. I just don't have time to do it justice this week. But here's another track off the soundtrack, this time from season 4:

Share Maier: Royals: Austin Charles, SS (No. 17) Episode Capsules Seasons 1 and 2 Season 3 3.01 3.08 3.22/23 Season 4 4.01 4.05 4.09 4.12/13 Season 5 5.01 5.07 5.08 5.12 5.14 5.16/17 Season 6 6.01/02 6.04 6.07 6.09 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 6.15 6.16 6.17/18