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`Lost' appears to be heading nowhere

More is revealed about Hurley, but none of it seems very important. What's the point, other than to fill an hour?

March 02, 2007|Denise Martin | Special to The Times

After a promising rebound episode revealing Juliet's pitiable past, "Lost" returned to its lazy ways this week, offering up the kind of one-hour filler that has become all too common for the series this season.

In Wednesday's episode, we get only a little more back story for affable human teddy bear Hurley, whom the writers consider the show's primary source of comic relief. After a run of episodes at the heavy-on-torture Camp Others, a lighthearted Hurley-centric hour may have seemed appealing. But there's a big difference between light and pointless, and this veered toward the latter.

On hold were the plots involving the island, the Others and their presumed-dead kidnap victims (briefly revealed to be alive last week). More confounding -- almost as much as last week's episode involving Jack's past romp through Thailand -- was the lack new relevant information about Hurley ... except the startling fact that his father is Cheech Marin (in a guest role).

Hurley was abandoned by his father as a child, the effects of which are made clear in the flashback. Dad handed the boy a candy bar right before deserting his family for 17 years. Flash forward: Hurley has plumped up quite a bit. Thanks a lot, Dad!

Hurley's big realization? He needs hope, a mantra his father repeated twice in the flashbacks. Apparently, an upbeat attitude is what will really help him endure this island of mysterious Others and the cloud of bad luck that seems to hover over him and those pesky numbers.

But has Hurley ever been anything but upbeat? He may think he's cursed and, yes, he lost his almost-girlfriend Libby last season, but Hurley is also everyone's best friend on the island. He even built a golf course to take the castaways' minds off figuring out what the heck that Dharma Initiative is, where those jungle polar bears came from or even how to get off the island.

This week, Hurley's positive energy brought a dead VW van engine back to life, which may or may not come into play later on. With the mounting number of mysteries, it hardly matters. The writers' inability to evolve his character, or anyone else's, is the real mystery. There are already many pressing ongoing stories that Hurley could have benefited from becoming a part of.

So with just the slightest hint of something more exciting to come -- Kate luring Rousseau into a rescue mission for Jack by mentioning she's seen the French woman's stolen daughter -- the episode is the perfect illustration of this season's failure to simultaneously move the island's stories along while advancing characters whose names aren't Jack, Sawyer or Kate.

There's no telling if "Lost" can recover from the ratings tumble it's taken this season, but it might help the show to reserve its flashbacks for points worth making and characters with secrets worth revealing.

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