WOO IN REVIEW TIME TRAVEL CONTEST - Lost: 'Because You Left' and 'The Lie'

This review contains information on the plots of 'Because You Left' and 'The Lie'. If you have not yet seen these episodes and do not want spoilers, read no further. The episodes are also available online here. HOWEVER, for those who HAVE NOT SEEN THE SHOW: YOU CAN STILL ENTER THE CONTEST. Scroll to the very bottom of this article and read numbers two and three for information on how to enter with no Lost knowledge whatsoever.lostintro

Lost, if you haven't seen it, is pretty impossible to explain – especially now that we've entered season five, and the lives of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 are so muddled with random eerie island crap that watching an episode in the middle is the equivalent of flipping open a Bible repeatedly, citing a single random word from each page, and then trying to moosh them together into a storyline that makes comprehensible sense.

Things happen so quickly during each episode that you may find yourself stranded on your own island of confusion. So, if you have never watched the show you may want to go ahead and rent the DVDs rather than tune in now. 

The series was created by J.J. Abrams, and Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse are the main writers for the show. I assume the whole group dropped acid a few moments prior to the show's creation, because that's the only way I assume a person could fathom of genetically altered polar bears that hang out on a tropical island and a smoke monster that shows you your past, judges you, and then either kills you or apparently gives you superpowers – or, at the very least, an uncanny ability to tell when it's going to rain, and an irrepressible urge to hold your hands skyward when you're right.

The series began with one of the most expensive pilots ever created (it cost between ten and fourteen million dollars), an unbelievably dedicated cast, and crazy sentient-island antics. It hooked people the way that Dan Brown did with his novel The Da Vinci Code by giving a series of mysteries and cliffhangers that had the audience drooling for more. Lost was pretty much guaranteed a loyal fan base, and the members jealously guarded theories and spoilers in secret Lost Forums so hidden that you had to solve puzzles to even be granted access as a member.

The show also hosted forums that featured areas for each actor in the show, and, as a member, you could pose questions to the cast and they would actually answer online.

And during the downtime of the show, particularly during the summer, the Lost fun didn't stop. The Summer Lost Games were introduced to keep the attention of the fans. During reruns of the Lost episodes, if you kept an eye out, you would see a fake commercial for the Hanso Foundation which would give a URL or a phone number. Visiting the URL or dialing the number revealed a series of puzzles, sort of like Volvo: The Hunt

So, though you would think that a show so insistent that you start from the beginning of the series would never increase the number of fans, Lost managed it by granting exclusive access to the cast, creating secret groups of hardcore fans, and revealing its mysteries even when the show wasn't airing new episodes.

Lost fans, therefore, are kind of a rabid breed. 

The popularity of Lost took a dive, however, in season four – when the writer's strike kept fans waiting a bit too long for the next piece of the puzzle. The episodes of season four were not the best; and all seemed a little rushed to get the content of the season out in as few episodes as possible. Heroes also had this issue, proving, it seems, that it is more important to spew out a storyline so you can give up and move to the next season than actually retain the interest of the fans. 

In some kind of crazy ripple effect, the problems have carried over into season five of Lost, which premiered last night with two new episodes: 'Because You Left' and 'The Lie'. 

All I can say is... Lost has begun to buckle under the weight of its own ego.

I have applauded Lost in the past for educating its audience while keeping the show entertaining – something that Dan Brown and Heroes both failed to do. Nearly every episode of Lost has featured a moment where one of the main characters is holding a book, and the books chosen always have something to do with the plot of the episode – only you must read the selections to find out how. For instance, one episode contained a shot of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. This was at a time when the Lost characters were often seeing things they believed could not be real, and their hallucinations were personal – there was no outside observer to tell them if, say, Hurley's imaginary friend was really imaginary. In order to figure out the association between The Turn of the Screw and the plot of Lost, you would have to go read it and discover that the governess who was seeing ghosts in the novella was the only one to witness anything strange. And if you searched deeper, you would find controversy between literary critics who tried to decide whether the ghosts were actually there or if the governess was insane.

The show also featured books like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Lancelot, The Third Policeman, A Brief History of Time, An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, and A Moveable Feast. A reading list constructed solely from books featured on Lost would leave you extremely educated in literature. 

And that's completely ignoring other educational elements as well – symbols on the island, like the bagua from the I Ching, the swan symbol from Desmond's hatch, and the number 108 had fans everywhere clamoring for reference books to discover that The Odyssey's Penelope had 108 suitors (and that the Lost character, Desmond, had a girlfriend named Penelope), or that the bagua has been called a symbol of the creation of the world, or that in Greek tradition the swan is the symbol of the muse.

Many of the Lost characters were named for philosophers, including Hume, Rousseau, and Locke

Some of the names were anagrams, like Ethan Rom. Some were literary references, like Charlotte Staples-Lewis (C.S. Lewis). Some were named for scientists, like Daniel Faraday. And suddenly, because of Desmond's hatch, much more of the world became aware what a Skinner Box was. lostfaraday

I remember particularly, when I was a member of the super secret Lost forum society, poring with maybe twenty other people over texts of Egyptian hieroglyphs, desperate to discover the meaning of the symbols shown on the countdown in Desmond's hatch. I remember excitedly posting that I had discovered parallels between Lost and The Mysterious Island, by Jules Verne.

This chapter of Lost seems to have closed. In the first two episodes of season five, I didn't notice any deeper additions of this nature. Of course, I was having difficulty looking very hard because of the brain meltdown their understanding of time travel forced upon me.

And that is the true topic of this Woo in Review. 

Time travel has, for quite some time, been treated as a playground for writers where Logic has been selected for the role of kid-who-has-boogers-and-eats-dirt-that-no-one-wants-to-be-around. With a time travel deus ex machina, you can do anything, say anything, and make anything happen, Logic be damned. Or at least not invited to your surprise birthday party.

I am going to assume you have seen the first two episodes of season five of Lost, because there is no way to summarize them without summarizing the whole series further than I already have, and mention a few specific things about the magical time traveling island (or possibly magical time traveling persons on the island) that make it seem as though the writers have once again dipped into their acid stores and decided to pen their shooting script in crayon.

But first, let me go ahead and say...

Sawyer's quips are no longer funny. He has now become the kind of jerk that you'd stab with a fork if given the opportunity.

Hurley's child-like qualities are becoming the qualities of a mentally challenged child instead of a big-hearted clumsy man's.losthurley

Go ahead and cut off Juliet's hand. No one cares about her.

If anyone else says, “That will take too long to explain,” or “I'll give you the details later,” or simply does not respond to a question aimed directly at their person, the fans are likely to revolt and burn their Lost DVDs.

And if you paint John Locke as the Messiah, the series can only end one way – white robes and mass suicide.


The central point of the first two episodes of season five of Lost is time travel. The version of time travel they have chosen to use frankly sucks. It makes zero logical sense, and that's why I'm inviting you to look at the following scenario and the choices the Lost scriptwriters have decided to make and write your own concept of time travel. See after the notes for more details on what your entry should include.

JREF staff will whittle the entries down to the three best, and they will be posted in Woo in Review. Commenters will then be invited to vote on their favorite, and the winner will receive a signed copy of Phil Plait's Death From the Skies

By the way, there are going to be quite a few follow-up Woo in Reviews in the near future. Experts with scientific backgrounds are going over the CSI responses, and it looks like we may even soon have an interview with an expert in criminal profiling to follow up the Criminal Profiling Contest. 

To submit your response to the contest, please post it in both the comments to this article and send the entry to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I highly suggest watching the episodes before entering the contest, but I will try to include as much information as you will need to suit the scenarios given on the show. To watch the episodes, just visit the official Lost page. 

Here is the scenario, and the choices of the writers:

The people on the island from the crash of Oceanic Flight 815 as well as Juliet and the scientists from the search party sent by Charles Widmore have been caught in some sort of time jump cycle. They jump from present to past to future to whenever the island, or time, or God, or whatever feels like taking them.

For some reason, as soon as the time jumping occurred, the island disappeared (from the perspective of individuals not on it). 

The camp on the beach that the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 created disappeared when they jumped to the past, presumably because it was created by the survivors, and, since there had not yet been a crash, the camp could not yet exist. The writers decided that a Zodiac boat some survivors were in could travel to the past, because the survivors were in it at the time. The Zodiac continues to jump times along with the survivors, even though no one is sitting in it any longer. 

Also, the clothes they were wearing traveled with them, despite the fact that all the survivors had gotten all their clothes from luggage on the crashed plane, which had not crashed yet. Presumably, this is because the individuals were wearing the clothes. However, even though the Zodiac time jumped because people were in it, the tents that people on the shore were in did not, and neither did blankets they were sitting on or tarps they were sitting under.

Locke investigated the crashed drug smuggling plane and was shot by Ethan Rom, who he met way back in season one. Locke, after being shot, was approached by Rom who looked at him closely. Locke told him his name. Then, just before being shot in the face by Rom, Locke time jumped again. We can assume that Locke disappeared directly in front of Rom's face, and yet when Rom and Locke first met in season one, Rom did not say “Hey, aren't you that guy I shot who disappeared right in front of my face?”

Locke then jumped to the future, where Richard, one of The Others, found him and treated his bullet wound. The bullet had not, by appearances, aged. Because he treated the wound and pulled the bullet out, we can assume that, had Locke traveled backward in time instead of forward, the bullet would not have ceased to exist even though the incident where it had been fired had not yet occurred.

Richard also gave Locke a compass that he said to present to him when they run into one another again. It is assumed that even if Locke jumped backward in time, he would still have the compass, despite the fact that the moment where he was given it had not yet occurred.lostben

Faraday said that it would be impossible for the time jumpers to change anything, even if they were bounced into the past, because from their perspective they know how things happened already and that cannot be changed. For instance, they cannot go back in time and kill someone they knew was still alive in the present, because they know that the person is still alive. Because of the butterfly effect, however, any move the time jumpers make should alter the course of the future. Faraday is either wrong, or there is no butterfly effect.

Faraday is, however, able to talk to Desmond and alter the course that way because Desmond already had time jumping powers and, it is assumed, lives somewhere outside of time. However, despite this conversation happening in the past, Desmond doesn't remember it until three years past the date he left the island. 

The Others, for some reason, do not time jump with the Losties even though they were all on the island at the time the 'event' occurred. 

You have three options in your entry. 

1. Rewrite the above plot points from the first two episodes of season five of Lost in a way that explains all the plot points logically. In other words, state how time travel on the Lost island must work given that these things happened.

2. If you believe that time travel is possible in reality, write a comment explaining how, why, under what circumstances, and what would be possible.

3. If you believe time travel is impossible in reality, write a comment explaining how and why it would be impossible. 

You will have four days to comment with your response (the contest closes 12:00am on 1/26), and remember to send a copy of the entry to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for consideration. Please note in your entry which of the three options you have chosen to take. The three top entries will be posted at 12:00pm 1/27, and voting will close at 12:00pm 1/28.

REMEMBER: The prize for this contest is a signed copy of Phil Plait's Death From the Skies, so let's see some awesome time travel scenarios!

Thanks everyone for participating, and I look forward to reading your thoughts. Not in the psychic way.