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January 22, 2009


Lost: the meaning of season premiere music

Lost plays Willie Nelson record

Last night's season premiere of Lost began almost exactly like Season 2's first episode: a man whose face is obscured gets up, puts a record on the hi-fi, and goes about his morning routine. The first episode of Season 3 featured a woman playing a CD while doing domestic things around her house.

In the Season 2 episode, the man was Desmond, and it was the first time the audience got to see evidence of regular domestic life, technology, furniture, etc. on the island, so it was a big surprise. The Season 3 episode introduced us to Juliet and life on the island before the plane crashed.

This time, we're used to seeing fully-stocked kitchens and stereo equipment on the island, so the scene wasn't much of a shock. The obscured man in last night's episode turns out to be Dr. Candle, a lead scientist of the Dharma Initiative. According to a theory on Slate yesterday, the first scene of a new season is a little preview of what the rest of the season will focus on. So it looks like Season 5 will be about Dharma, and probably a lot more stuff about time travel.

Since these three season openers are so alike, let's look at the songs that Desmond, Juliet, and Dr. Candle play. Desmond played "Make Your Own Kind of Music" by Mama Cass, a song about forging your own path and staying true to your own unique ideas even if it means you'll be alone. Some lyrics: "You're gonna be knowing/ the loneliest kind of lonely/ It maybe be rough goin'/ Just to do your thing's the hardest thing to do." Desmond is alone in the hatch for what, 3 years or something? And he's on a seemingly impossible but ultimately successful solo mission to find his long lost girlfriend, and also seems to be uniquely able to time travel without having a cerebral hemorrhage.

Juliet plays Petula Clark's "Downtown" while preparing for her book club meeting in her house on the island. It's a sad, wistful song about wanting to be somewhere else--Juliet listens to it and looks at herself in the mirror and cries, and later we find out she really wants to get off the island.

So what does last night's song tell us about Dr. Candle, and the Dharma Initiative? Dr. Candle puts on "Shotgun Willie", a 1973 song by Willie Nelson. After getting through the lyrics about Shotgun Willie sitting around in his underwear, the record starts skipping on the lyric "Well you can't make a record" before getting to the rest of the line, which is "Well you can't make a record if you ain't got nothing to say."

The skipping record is like the whole island that starts skipping around through time after Ben turned the Magic Wooden Wheel at the end of last season. And the lyrics might refer to Dr. Candle's unsuccessful attempt to record his introductory video on the Dharma Initiative (the one we saw a few seasons ago) because he gets interrupted when his construction crew stumbles on the time-travel mechanism that lies inside a hunk of rock on the island. Or maybe Dr. Candle really does have nothing to say and the whole premise of the Dharma Initiative is incorrect, or philosophically wrong?

Or how about this: Check out the rest of the lyrics of "Shotgun Willie": "Now John T. Flores was working for the Ku Klux Klan/ The six foot five John T. was a hell of a man/ Made a lotta money selling sheets on the family plan."

Whoa! The Dharma Initiative is either a white supremacist operation that seeks to use the island's mysterious time-travel capabilities to turn the island into a mono-racial anti-immigrant dystopia (unlikely-- Dr. Candle is Asian, though the rest of the Initiative crew seem really white) or the sort of mocking tone of the song means that whatever utopian ideals the Dharma Initiative has for an engineered society are as absurd as a bunch of ignorant hooligans running around with sheets over their heads.

It's impossible to read too much into this show.

[You can watch last night's episode for free on the ABC site.]

categories: Music, TV
posted by amy at 10:20 AM | #

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That "you can't make a record" line could refer to the people still on the island, and the way they can't influence past events.

As Faraday tells Sawyer, "it hasn't happened, so it can't happen."

Posted by: Tom Coombe at January 22, 2009 1:55 PM

Ah, right! Once you've pressed the vinyl, that's it. Or to use a metaphor matching Juliet's stereo equipment, time is a CD-R, not a CD-RW.

Posted by: amy at January 22, 2009 2:05 PM

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