The Cost of Living

Jen liked it. I didn’t. I can’t think of another episode of “LOST” where our opinions so clearly diverged. Jen felt the show was finally putting out after playing hard to get for so long, and liked that nagging questions were finally addressed. I thought the whole episode was awkwardly paced, poorly written, and amounted to an embarassing stumble in what has otherwise been a surprisingly strong season. Yes, some very big reveals were served up, and for those starved for answers, “The Cost of Living” was probably filling. I just wish it could be more filet mignon, and less Big Mac. And with the promos for next week’s half-season finale unabashedly proclaiming it the best episode ever, I’m very, very worried.

Mr. Eko died. And suddenly, he was a bad person and deserved his violent fate. Up until now, his presumed journey toward redemption was nuanced and dramatic. His drastic switch to evil tonight was jarring and rushed. There are rumors that Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje wanted off the show (or was no longer wanted on it), and perhaps Mr. Eko’s demise was neccessarily abrupt. They went down the checklist: Why was he in London? Why was he inspired to build a church? Even so, of all the character deaths so far, the end of Mr. Eko’s story arc was immensely unsatisfying. Even if the real world forced the hand of the show’s creators, I expected better.

Perhaps Mr. Eko’s backstory and death was unceremoniously shoved into an otherwise promising episode. And indeed, what transpired on the island was significant. But even those moments seemed uneven. Drastic editing, or poor writing? I’d guess the former, but what made it to the screen hints at the latter.

All right, all right, let’s start with the juicy stuff.

We see the smoke monster. There’s nothing hidden and mysterious about it now — it looms large and kicks ass. And Mr. Eko’s conversation with Locke about what each saw confirms the tantalizing doublespeak by Damon and Carlton a while back, implying that “the monster” doesn’t look the same to everyone. Locke adds a bright, white light to his previous description of something immensely beautiful. But the creature that stalked and finally executed Mr. Eko was very much the opposite.

We get a peek into yet another station, this one containing a man with an eye patch.

We learn, as suspected, that Ben is dying, that Jack has the upper hand, that Juliet’s resemblance to Sarah was no coincidence, and above all, that Juliet dislikes Ben enough to enlist a near stranger to end his reign and his life.

There were little things I liked, too. I imagine only Michael Emerson could deliver the line “shot to sunshine” and still appear menacing. Ben’s exchange with Jack about believing in god was surprisingly effective. And while the funeral scene and its white tunics was bizarre, a random oldies tune always makes things all right. And it implies our Others have some kind of spiritual bent… or Viking link.

But.

Nikki and Paolo? They truly make me want to kick over the television. Their lines are so contrived, it’s almost like they were superimposed on the episode like “Clippit,” spelling things out like we’re all idiots. That scene in The Pearl where she points out the other monitors, and Locke goes “D’oh!” was about as painful as any I’ve seen in this show.

But even some of our old friends seemed to be missing their usual grace. Hurley is used to spell out exactly why Locke isn’t like Jack in the inclusiveness department. Locke responds to the man in the eye patch with a cheesy quip (“I guess he’ll be expecting us!”) that would’ve made the late, great Jerry Orbach wince. Sayid just seemed dopey, dropped in primarily to be told, “Don’t confuse coincidence with fate.”

And the way in which Juliet got her secret message to Jack? I suppose it was clever. But I wasn’t feeling it. Along with everything else, it seemed about as subtle as a Mack truck.

True, “The Cost of Living” is the lead-in to the half-season finale, and traditionally, those episodes have been weak… basically a catch-all bin to put down some markers in advance of the big show. I guess to really appreciate next week’s episode, we basically needed to know that Juliet wants Ben dead, that there’s another station with a creepy man inside, and that the smoke monster is back. And now we know, and now we wait.

Whew. To be fair, Jen’s busy writing her NaNoWriMo novel right now, so obviously this analysis is biased quite strongly in my grumpy-ass favor. I’d earnestly love to hear from those of you who loved “The Cost of Living.” Because I’d rather think I just missed the point and got it wrong, than think “LOST” could take such a wrong turn.

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79 Responses to “The Cost of Living”

  1. Bryan says:

    I don’t think people would hate Paulo and Nikki as much if they actually wrote some good dialogue for them that added some insight into their characters, or even added something to the story. They just seem like a couple Leiutenant Smiths right now, soon to be devoured by the evil monster after beaming down to the planet’s surface.

    Actually, I just wish the writers would write some good dialogue for ANY of the characters. It really has been sliding lately and this episode was the worst.

  2. Brian says:

    I don’t understand the negativity about this episode… I’ll admit it wasn’t one of the best, however, the previous few weeks people couldn’t stop gushing about how excited they were that “Lost” was back to its season one form. Four winning episodes followed by one mediocre episode shouldn’t ring the death knell for this great show.

    Perhaps more importantly…. does anyone else remember when the Tailies found the “Arrow” hatch and Eko found the Bible with the removed film clip from the “Swan”? Didn’t they also find a glass eye? If I remember correctly they did and that could explain a bit about ol’ Patchy. Does anyone else remember that glass eye?

  3. John says:

    Aside from all of the reveals – and nots – I am perplexed at the emensity of the island. I know the ‘magnet’ may have been shielding it from radars and such, but DAMN its huge! Its a small continent.

    No posible way for a land mass that size not to go unnoticed. Unless, people do go there regularly and Benry has the boys take care of them.

  4. Brad says:

    OK guys give Paulo and Nikki a little slack. They represent the audience who knows nothing about the show. We’ve been watching LOST for 2 seasons, but if there are any new viewers to the show then they have no idea what is going on.

    That is why there is seemingly forced dialogue… for example:

    When Paulo asks about the plane and Nikki says that’s where Eko’s dead brother is… all of it is said this for the benefit of the guy who has no idea what’s in the plane…

    When Nikki explains the Pearl as a viewing station connected to other stations of the Dharma initiative, it’s not for Lockes benefit, but for the viewing audience who doesn’t have a clue…

    Some people are showing up late to the party, but we are glad they came. The downside is we have to endure seemingly bad dialogue…

    If everyone would go buy or rent the DVD’s this wouldn’t be a problem, but alas…

    My other comment is… regardless of the hand Eko was dealt in life, he commited terrible sins… and justice demands payment.

    Eko’s greatest sin was the fact that he was unrepentant and justified his wrongs. The island let Eko judge himself.

  5. esbaker says:

    OK, I agree with you Brad that Eko was urepentant and justified his wrongs, so the island judged him and killed him. But throughout Season 2, he was showing signs of repent. So when did he change his mind? Last minute? Just before dying?

  6. Brad says:

    I think Eko may have appeared repentant in Season 2, but his heart never changed. That is the true test of repentance. I think in season 2 Eko wrestled with the guilt of his brothers death more than he was sorry for the wrongs he had done. (if you can seperate guilt and repentance)

    Maybe when faced with judgement and having to make the decision to own his sins and repent of them or justify them and deny having lived wrongly… he chose to justify them. Just a thought.

    I wonder what would have happened if Eko had not followed Yemi/smokey into the woods after his anti-confession?

  7. Yemi says:

    . ~ Eko ~

    . He walked softly
    . and
    . carried a big stick

    . ~ Rest in Peace ~

  8. jim says:

    Nice going, Brian, they certainly did find a glass eye in the Arrow hatch. I haven’t seen or heard (on podcasts) any other reference to this old clue. (I guess we suffer from clue overload with this show!)

  9. jjj says:

    I agree that the show is skipping around too much and not explaining things at all that could use a line or two – and overexplaning things that they need not. Charlie’s waltzing back to the main group, and to Claire, after the hatch blew up was ridiculous. Did he even look for Locke or Eko? I doubt it – he certainly didn’t seem to care they were missing and neither did anyone else. Sayid also could have had a line or two to Locke about what happened on the boat – and would have been nice to see Sun and Jin for a moment.

    I don’t like the new characters of Niki & Paulo either. It’s not that they were given pointless dribble for dialogue – but the point I think most people are making is that the majority does not want any new characters introduced. We already have the new “Others” characters – Ben, Juliet, Tom and their whole camp. I love that Lost is a show with many characters – but enough is enough already! They don’t need to bring in new people because they’ve killed off others. How about developing the characters we already know and love? Or can’t the writers be creative enough to come up with more backstory for them? We know little about Claire or Desmond, and I would like to see Rose and Bernard again as well. We’ve also hardly seen Hurley this season. It doesn’t seem like a lot of the flashbacks are adding as much to the story as they used to, so maybe the writers think they need new characters – I don’t know, but I wish they would find another way. Less flashbacks and more main story might help – setting up flashbacks for EVERY episode has been fun to watch for the most part thus far, but maybe it’s also created a box that the writers are having a hard time getting out of.

    I’ve been wary about the progression of Lost, seeing as it comes from the creator of Alias – which started out as a pretty good show and just got more and more ridiclous and far-fetched as the seasons went on. I was hoping that Lindeloff would help this from recurring, but maybe he is not enough. I hope I am wrong and the show can pull it all together for us!

  10. scott says:

    Does Juliet’s favorite book being Carrie shed light on her message to Jack?

  11. Tulsi says:

    Perhaps the Others or BenHenry’s men did not ask Jack to operate on him right away when the plane crashed because they didn’t know who was going to be on the plane. They had to send someone to infiltrate and get names of the losties and tailies.

  12. Nieto says:

    Man, what happened to you?
    When did you devolve into a “snobby critic”
    and lose that “thing” that lets you just enjoy the show?
    I used to like your site because it had insight,
    but now its just a whiney blog filled with complaints of how the show doesn’t
    ammount up to your vision.
    I don’t know why i wrote this,
    you’re probably never gonna see it anyway.

  13. Ryan says:

    I’m still a huge fan of the show. I wouldn’t spend so much time thinking about it if I wasn’t. And I’ve said since episode 3×01 that Season Three is incredibly strong, overall. Better than Season Two, at least. But if there’s something that sets “LOST” fans apart from fans of other shows, I’d like to think it’s the fact that we appreciate quality entertainment, that we have high standards, and that we can be honest when something falls short of those standards.

    It’s partially the fault of “LOST” that sets the bar so high, in a way. I can love the show, name some episodes as the best hour of television ever, but still honestly say that “The Cost of Living” or “Fire + Water” were total letdowns.

    Just because I’m a big fan of a band doesn’t mean I’m going to adore every album or song they put out.

    I have high hopes for the show, and haven’t given up on it (though some friends have). One weak episode does not a shark jumping make. But I hope other fans can allow each other the luxury of being disappointed once in a while. We’re watching a TV show, not holding together a secret cult!

  14. Sharon says:

    Hurley or Bernard need to casually sneak in a “Frogurt” when addressing Paolo. Wouldn’t that make everything nice again…

  15. Suz says:

    Since its inception, LOST has been known for its great writing so I don’t undertand why they are having so much trouble writing for the new (and annoying) characters Nikki and Paolo. They both come off awkward. I do not understand why they felt they needed these new characters since we have entered the world of the Others and all those new characters. Aren’t Damon and Carlton watching the dailies to see how badly the two come off? I love this show and I care about it so it hurts to see this giant embarrassment each week!

  16. jim says:

    Hey, a little respect here. Ryan, “snobby”? “Devolved”?
    The words that describe the R.O. style would be, “thoughtful”, “perceptive”, and “user-friendly”!
    And, yes, it’s only a TV show, albeit a really different, thought provoking one. So let’s put on a pot of Kona, pop some popcorn, and chill everybody!

  17. Frank says:

    Sorry about that guys but something important came up.

    Back to what I was saying . . . …. ……………………..
    I do not want to bore any one but look at the show in the long run with that everything happened for a reason and maybe something will come off of Mr Ekos death. Yeah the episode was lacking at times but I feel that they did not pull off Mr Eko death so quiskly. Maybe the island/smoke monster killed him for his feelings and for failing to push the button. Back to talking about the pilot maybe he was killed because the island did not like the fact that the pilot crashed the plane killing the people. As for Eko maybe the smoke monster gave him a second chance during the first meeting. Maybe Mr Eko’s purpose was to uncover the Pearl and help a few of the Losties along the way.
    Other people have already said what I wanted to say so it will be stupid to repeat it. Guys looked at the show as a whole and think what if things happened differently how would of things have turned out.

    With that in mind I say bye and will be commenting after the show.

    P.S. Sorry for any mistakes.

  18. Jay says:

    SPOILER ALERT!

    If you’re in Honolulu, you should check out Fort Street Mall in front of Pioneer Plaza (downtown). The “Lost” crew is turning the underground entry to the Satellite City Hall into a London subway entry (as of 11/6/06 at 11 a.m.). It’s looking really cool. Maybe we haven’t seen the last of Mr. Echo yet (think they’ll try to explain more of his experience in London?).

    I work downtown and we got notice that that Fort Street Mall will be closed to pedestrian traffic tomorrow for shooting. Also, last Thursday, they were filming on Nuuanu. They had some old 1940’s looking taxi cabs and an old red phone booth set up. Looked like they were filming more London scenes. There appeared to be some filiming going on in O’Toole’s as well (blacked out all the windows). I heard from a co-worker that they’re still doing some filming on Nuuanu today as well.

  19. Jay says:

    Another note about the London scene being set up right now. I just noticed that there’s a sign on the side of the Bank of Hawaii building that says “Widmore Industries.”

    Also, there’s a scene being shot right now (11/6/06 at 1 p.m.) inside a store on the south side of King street, just a little west of Nuuanu (looks like an antique store). Didn’t see any actors as I walked by, though.

  20. Alex Bock says:

    I can´t stand all these negative comments about Paolo and Niki. As far as I remember John Locke did not said anyhting until his 3rd appearence in the show on that scene when he was eating an orange. For sure Paolo and Niki will obtain more space in this whole story. Rodrigo Santoro is a huge actor in his Country, he made terrific blockbusters such as “Carandiru” (The history of a penitentiary rebellion), “Bicho de sete cabeças” (the history of a drugs addict) and many others as well.

  21. SF Lostie says:

    Here’s a longshot theory…Jack said the xrays belong to a 40 year old man…I can’t forget that Ben (when he was Henry Gale) said the others came to the camp to find Locke. Maybe Locke’s paralysis was caused by a tumor, and the island hasn’t helaed it, but has numbed the pain. Perhaps Jack is being tricked into operating on Locke for some reason b/c he’s some kind of chosen Other. It sure seems like the Others or the island are luring Locke that way.

    Of course we don’t know if Locke’s paralysis was a spinal thing though. Just a thought.

  22. iAndy says:

    Groping for a gestalt here, needing some seriously holistic help to stay focused since the producers are leaving us high and dry for 90+ days. Gilian Anderson said …America did not know what TO DO with her… so she went to England. Will we see ‘Skully in “Lost” next year?? Because this thing is clearly an extra-terrestial (sic) Jurassiac Park wherein some of the animals have escaped??

  23. Jeff says:

    OK, I seem to have interpreted a Locke comment differently than most other people.

    When Locke said “Don’t I feel stupid” to Nikki discovering the monitors could view other stations, it was because last year, in that rage he was in after viewing the Pearl Orientation film, he thought the Pearl was just watching the Swan, and he was devestated to think his “mission” of pushing the button was just some sort of pschological game. The “stupid” comment I took to mean was, even he hadn’t gotten so pissed off, he might ave realized that maybe it wasn’t necessarily the Swan the film was talking about, and he might have kept pressing the button, as opposed to what happend in the season 2 finale.

    I don’t hate the two new characters yet. Im willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for now. Remember, the Lost creators don’t introduce anything new without a plan, and I’m sure their flashbacks will makeus understand/like them. We shouldn’t hate them just because their introduction was slightly clumsy.

  24. remy says:

    Great guys to read you all digging secret. It make me like the show a bit more.

    But man, I hate these scene of violence!!! How can anyone do not complain about this hate that perspire from the ohters! It has nothing to do with the spirit of the show. I’m disgusted by the hate, the violence,the hypocrisie of the caractere.This is not our show.

    I’m disgusted and about to drop this show that does not go to the direction i liked in the show. Of course the story is complicated, but keep your gun down, put your hate away, take the violence out. Their are nice way to make a show clever. the choose now is simply dumb, stupid, makes me puke of hate.

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  27. […] I would write something about my thoughts on the latest episode of Lost but Ryan from the Transmission seems to have covered most of what I would say: The Cost of Living […]

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