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Keep Your Two Quarters

May 25, 2010
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When I was a kid, I went to a friend’s birthday party and witnessed what I thought was the greatest magician in the history of the world. He didn’t do anything big and flashy, but he pulled off sleight of hand tricks that I just couldn’t figure out. Unfortunately, my glow of admiration faded to an irritated redness by the time his act was over. You see, half way through one of his best tricks, he forgot what he was doing.

He had been making impossibly large oranges and grapefruits appear and disappear into and out of impossibly small cups. I understand the mechanism now, but, when I was ten, this was the work of the gods being done right in front of me. That is until something went wrong. At one point near the big finale, after pulling close to a dozen large oranges out of four tiny tea cups, he picked up an over-turned cup to reveal… nothing. I saw his eyes dart back and forth before he smiled nervously and patted the side of his shirt – still, nothing. In what I see now as desperation, he pulled a shiny nickel from his pants pocket, covered it with the fruitless cup, and yelled “Ta-da!” as he lifted the porcelain to reveal… two shiny quarters.

Of course, these days, I can make coins appear and disappear in and out of places whenever I want. It’s simply not that hard. But, if I were to make my living as a full-time magician, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t cover up for a wonderful show (that had no proper ending) with nothing more than a couple of shiny quarters.

Unless I was a producer on “Lost”.

Yes, it’s my turn to bash “Lost”. Ok, not the whole series. The first 120 episodes were great – plot holes and logical inconsistencies included. The finale, however, pissed me off to the tune of two shiny quarters. After six full seasons of feeding me heroin and making me beg for another fix, the finale came. My wife and I looked forward to Sunday night all week. We rearranged our schedules and even our kids so that we could be glued to the television from 7:00pm to 11:30pm, certain that in the end, all of our debates, research, conjectures, and endless dedication would be rewarded with the final revelation of just what the Island really was.

Now in most of the sixth season’s episodes, answers came quickly and there were fewer and fewer mysteries to be solved. Of course, they were keeping some of the biggest mysteries for last, as they should. For every “where’s Walt?” there was a “but who was there before Jacob’s adoptive mother?” For every “how did Jacob travel off the island?” there was a “what happens if Smokey leaves?” And, of course, there was the question of the flash-sideways. Were we really seeing two alternate realities resulting from a rift created by the hydrogen bomb? Why are things so different – so much better – in the flash-sideways? How is going to a concert going to get all of the sideways Losties back to the damn island?!

In the end, at the last moment of opportunity for the creators of “Lost” to really impress the world, they forgot the trick. While everyone waited for the giant orange to finally come out of the last teacup, they balked, and tried to cover it up with two shiny quarters’ worth of purgatory. They literally said, “Hey, look over here! Never mind that stupid island stuff you’ve been studying for the last six years! See how shiny these two quarters are?! You weren’t expecting that, were you? Yeah, that’s right – two shiny quarters, just like every other magician/hack writer has done before – aren’t we clever?”

No, gentlemen, you are not clever. Coming up with a deeper and more meaningful revelation of the Island as the connective tissue of physics, philosophy, and humanity would have been clever. Suddenly deciding that it’s just another cheap religious mechanism on par with most after school specials and summer bible camp 16mm films is just dumb. And lazy. And a real kick in the crotch.

Keep your two quarters. I’m going back to reading books.

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