Sunday, February 24, 2008

Do Aaron and Ben count as part of the Oceanic 6?

Piecing together the ever-expanding mythology of LOST is like attempting a crossword puzzle with only the down clues, a sometimes frustrating and often futile exercise. The paradox of LOST is that no one question can (or is) ever answered without two new ones popping up. So last week's episode was refreshing in its answering of some large Kate questions while setting the table for the rest of the season.

We found out both why Kate isn't in jail when she met with Jack at the airport fence at the end of season 3. And we also - presumably - found on who "he" is that would be wondering where Kate was when she excused herself from grizzly-beard Jack. And it wasn't Sawyer or Ben or her ex-husband from Tampa, but a BEH-BEE! More specifically, Aaron. As Hurley said after Rose and Bernard were reunited, "Didn't see that coming."

And for the second straight week before the gravel-pounding sound that marks the end of every Island adventure, we were left to wonder/speculate who exactly are the last two members of the Oceanic 6. Does Ben - under an adopted name from the 815 manifest - count? And more importantly, does Aaron? Let's take a look at these cases separately.

My initial reaction is that Aaron wouldn't be considered a member of the Oceanic 6. But the more I think about it, the more likely I think he is. First, he makes it off the island despite not being born before the crash. I doubt its the Oceanic 6 plus one baby. That designation doesn't seem right. Plus a number of people, namely in red states, would say that Aaron - though unborn - was actually a survivor of the crash despite the fact he was not formally listed on the manifest.

What further convinces me is that some 815 survivors who want to get off the island can't get off. From a narrative perspective, if all the people who want to get off the island do, why should we care that Jack gets back to the Island? Why go back if there isn't anyone there that we want to see saved? And honestly, the number of people left on the Island who are 815 survivors that want to leave is pretty low. We already know that Jack, Kate, Hurley and Sayid want to leave. If Sun and Jin get off, would we really care that Locke and Sawyer (two who want to stay) or Claire, Rose and Bernard (who are now just periphery characters) got off? The writers know we have to emotionally invest in the characters to make the story compelling. We couldn't believe Jack's grief if the remaining stranded survivors were people who WANTED to be there. The way Sun and Jin have been written in the first few episodes has been meant to engender sympathy if they don't get off the Island (picking out a place to live in the US, excitement about having her baby in a hospital, etc.) So if Aaron counts as one of the Oceanic 6, that's one less core character the show has to remove from the Island. I'll apply this same logic for the last member of the Oceanic half-dozen and say that Michael is number six (again, I have no idea where Walt is) and speculate that neither Desmond nor Juliet makes it off. I suppose it's possible that Sun and Jin make it off, but I think that would be damaging to the narrative.

The case against? During Jack's testimony, he said that only eight people survived the crash and that Kate was a hero, helping people to shore and trying to save the other two. That wording would lead me to believe that six passengers survived the crash and made it to the shore, not five manifested passengers and one unborn baby. Beyond that, I don't have much. I'd put the Aaron odds at 3:2.

The other interesting thing about Aaron is that Jack is clearly hesitant to see him. We still don't know the circumstances that lead Aaron into Kate's protection, but I think it's pretty clear that he wasn't taken forcefully. Does Jack know that Claire is his half-sister now? Or that Aaron is his half-nephew? Does Jack make a decision that separates Claire and Aaron before he knows of their relation and upon its revelation, Jack is devastated by his choices more so than he previously has been? Last summer at Comic-Con, the shows producers were asked if Jack and Claire ever found out they were related. They began to answer the question and then abruptly stopped. I think it's pretty clear now why they wanted to avoid the question.

In an interview this week with Doc Jensen, the shows producers tried to make a case that Ben is one of the Oceanic Six, saying that nothing precludes him from being one of the Oceanic Six even though he wasn't on the plane. We know he is at least somewhat powerful (with a net worth of 3.2 million dollars?) and that he has a number of aliases. Who's to say that he couldn't just assume the identity of someone with no friends or family on the plane who would never know any difference? While technically this is possible, I don't think its likely at all. We know the O6 are celebrities and Ben - with all his unfinished business - doesn't probably want any time of attention or scrutiny that comes with the O6 status. My guess is that it's just a red-herring.

An interesting side note to that interview, the producers said by the end of the seventh episode (airing March 13), the O6 will be definitively known. Just something to keep in mind...

While "Eggtown" satisfied a few burning Kate questions, I feel as if it was more of a place-setter for the next few weeks. Coming off of "The Economist", LOST didn't have much room for improvement.

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