I double-checked, and tonight’s episode of Lost was not directed by George Lucas. It just felt that way a few times, with its "special edition"-like splicing in of newbies Nikki and Paolo into old footage.
While that was a nice piece of editing, particularly in the crash scene, it has to be asked: Is this a dirty trick on the part of the show’s producers? We all knew that the actors playing Nikki and Paolo, Kiele Sanchez and Rodrigo Santoro, weren’t really there the first two seasons. Did the episode have to be structured in such a way that makes it appear they were?
Or, to put it another way, does the stuff we learned — about them and about the island — justify monkeying with the show’s history?
I’ll let you all debate the answer to those questions down there in the comments. Me? The intercutting frankly made me cringe. For about half the episode it felt like the show was using the fancy editing to justify the existence of two characters (three, really: Daniel Roebuck’s Arzt figured prominently in some of those scenes — and was it really necessary to bring Boone and Shannon back just for that?) that have been unpopular this season.
On the other hand, I enjoyed the way the episode played with the flashback structure a little bit (plus, Billy Dee Williams!). It was a smart move not to give Nikki and Paolo a deep, years-ago flashback; we’re just not invested in either of them like that. But by focusing mostly on the time after the crash, we got to see things from a slightly different angle, a la "The Other 48 Days" last season.
And, thanks to Paolo’s sneakiness, we now know what was on Ben’s mind when he got himself captured and hauled off to the hatch. We see him and Juliet in the Pearl station, talking about how to get Jack to perform surgery on him. Juliet quite reasonably wonders how the hell he’ll accomplish that. His reply: "Same thing I always do — find out what he’s emotionally invested in and exploit that." And in about 60 seconds, we have an explanation for Walt’s kidnapping, the luring of Michael to the other side of the island, and why they also grabbed Sawyer and Kate. Plausible? Not especially. But I’m sure it made sense to Ben in his head.
Conveniently, Paolo was in the bathroom hiding the diamonds at the time, so we got to hear the whole thing.
Nikki and Paolo’s situation also gave rise to the revelation that it wasn’t the Others who abducted Sun, but Charlie (at Sawyer’s behest). Which is fine, I guess, although aside from Sun giving Sawyer a slap, it just sort of laid there. Hopefully we’ll get to explore it more somewhere down the line.
Once again, ABC’s promo department made sure we weren’t surprised by the deaths of Nikki and Paolo — and I do think it’s safe to assume they won’t dig out of the sand. They pretty much brought their demise on themselves, too, which I imagine suits the better part of Lost fandom just fine.
So we’re back to the original question: Does what we found out through Nikki and Paolo make their creation and two-thirds-of-a-season of presence on Lost worthwhile?
Let us know what you think.