In the years and decades to come, how will Kiele Sanchez and Rodrigo Santoro be treated at Lost-Cons? Heck, will they even bother to show up? Tough to say, although time heals most wounds. Needless to say, were there a Lost convention today, with each Lost actor at an individual table, not many would be lining up to get the autographs of Nikki and Paulo. (They'd be fighting for Shortest Line Duty with Michelle Rodriguez, I fear.) But hey, I'm not here to posit the crowd psychology at a fictional geek-fest: I'm here to talk about the life and death of two of Lost's most infamous characters.
(Read my original thoughts on this episode here.)
4) In Short
"DIE! DIE! DIE!"
Nikki runs through the jungle rapidly. She buries something in the dirt, then continues onward. On the beach, Sawyer still can't beat Hurley at ping pong. The game gets interrupted when Nikki pops out of the jungle and promptly collapses. Before they can get help, Hurley tells Sawyer that Nikki's dead. "Who the hell's Nikki?" asks Sawyer. Amen, brother.
Several Lostaways examine Nikki's dead body. Sawyer and Hurley try to figure out Nikki's last words: something like "power lines" or "Paulo lies" (when he cries). Hurley, Sawyer, and Jin soon find Paulo in the jungle, as dead as Nikki. His pants are undone and his shoes are in a nearby tree. Jin and Hurley think this is the Monster's doing, thanks to Eko's last words. Sawyer's skeptical, and thinks they should investigate them. After all, barely anyone knows their names, never mind their backgrounds. In their tent, Hurley finds a script for "Exposé," and Sawyer finds a walkie talkie that exactly matches those used by the Others over on Hydra Island.
Paranoia sweeps camp as they try to figure out the Others' relationship to Nikki and Paulo. Sawyer thinks they could be right around the corner; Hurley's not so sure, noting the distance between themselves and the Pala Ferry. Sun reminds us all that an "Other" kidnapped her during Season 2, which prompts a lot of "ruh row" looks from Charlie and Sawyer. Anxious to leave, Sawyer pulls out a gun and offers to do a perimeter sweep. The presence of a gun alarms Hurley. The presence of this episode alarms me even more.
Hurley asks Desmond if his "superpowers" lend him any insight into Nikki and Paulo's death. Des explains it doesn't quite work that way, though he did see Sawyer arguing with her earlier in the morning. This confuses Detective Reyes, hot on the trail of a killer!
Back on the beach, Vincent pulls the tarp off the dead bodies. Vincent rules all. Hurley explains his Sawyer theory, which doesn't make sense to Sun at all. She's still hooked on the "Others" theory. When Hurley fetches Desmond to corroborate his theory, Charlie confesses to Sun that he helped kidnap her. It's a painful, painful scene, and almost justifies this episode's existence. Almost.
When Sawyer returns to the makeshift graveyard, Hurley demands that he give back the gun. When confronted, Sawyer denies killing them, and tells them what "sweeping the perimeter" really means. After seeing the dirt under her nails, Sawyer figured she buried something before dying. That something? A small black bag filled with diamonds, which he tosses to Sun.
While Sawyer digs the grave for the unlucky pair, Sun confronts Sawyer about the kidnapping plot. He wants to know if she'll tell Jin; she says she's not interested in digging another grave. She hands back the diamonds, slaps him across the face, and leaves him alone with his diamonds and his shame. Hurley once again takes the role of MC at an Island funeral. Just before burying them, Sawyer sprinkles them with the diamonds. Dirt soon follows, as Nikki's suddenly alert eyes see their last image.
Nikki comes onstage in an adult establishment and performs a strip tease. She sees Creepy Pony Tail Man walk past her, which leads her back to an office. Inside the office? The Cobra, naturally, played by Billy Dee Williams. He's stolen the money intended for the orphanage! Lando, noooo! Nikki shouts, "Razzle dazzle!" and disarms Creepy Pony Tail Man, only to be plugged a half dozen times by The Cobra. Just when you're ready to ask when Lost completely went off the deep end, we realize we've been watching an episode of a television program. Inside a television program. Get it? Yea, I know.
As Nikki leaves the set, her director Howard says she can always stay on the show, even though Lando just totally killed her. We learn that she's merely a guest star on the show, and oh, she's sleeping with the director. You stay classy, Nikki!
84 Days Ago: Nikki and Howard are enjoying a meal cooked by Captain Toilet himself, Paulo. Howard gives her a diamond bracelet, but suddenly keels over dead. Rather than mourn his death, Nikki instantly rips open his shirt to find a key attached to his necklace. Looks like Nikki's been chowing down on more than Paulo's truffles recently. The two go to his closet. Inside? A russian doll. Inside the doll? Something purty.
80 Days Ago: Nikki and Paulo read Howard's obituary while waiting to board Oceanic 815. They celebrate their successful murder with champagne in the airport lounge, with the Russian doll safely ensconced in Paulo's travel bag. They cheer their new life together while watching Shannon and Boone fight their way through the lounge. Nikki asks Paulo to promise they'll never end up like them. You mean "dead on the Island?" Aaah, the irony.
Hard cut to Shannon screaming on the beach. It's Day One on the Island, and we're watching the carnage through the eyes of Nikki and Paulo this time. Think Forrest Gump with more explosions. While looking for Paulo, she runs into Arzt and Boone (who's looking for a pen, in a clever touch). When she finds Paulo, she's less interested in the state of her boyfriend than the state of his bag.
75 Days Ago: Nikki and Paulo are arguing about the identity of the monster in the jungle. Nikki's still upset that they can't find their bag, when who should come by and offer help by Ethan Rom. He's menacingly dorky, if that's remotely possible. He suggests that Paulo's bag might be inland, due to the trajectory of the crash. We then witness Jack's "live together, die alone" speech through their eyes.
57 Days Ago: Nikki asks Dr. Arzt why he's collecting so many samples of wildlife. He tells her he's discovered twenty new species since arriving, and figures he'll be the next Darwin upon rescue. He shows her one in particular: a Medusa spider, which may or may not be way important to the plot of this episode. He agrees to draw a map for her of possible trajectories in that he's happy any female at all is talking to him.
As Paulo walks with Nikki towards the bag, we detect dissension among the ranks. They come across the Beechcraft on their way, in addition to the door to the Pearl. How fortuitous! Paulo wants to explore; Nikki just wants her bag.
48 Days Ago: Shannon and Arzt are arguing with Kate about the recently found stash of guns. Arzt hilariously declares, "The pigs are walking!" in a nice reference to Animal Farm. Nikki's curious about where Kate found the case, which leads the pair to the same pool of water from "Whatever the Case May Be." Paulo's starting to wonder if she would even be with him were it not for the contents of that bag. (Short answer: hell no.) Paulo actually finds the bag, but lies about it to Nikki.
32 Days Ago: Paulo hastily chews what looks like the end of his nicotine gum at night on the beach. He starts to dig a hole for the Russian doll, when Locke surprises him. He has some advice for Paulo: "Things don't stay buried on this Island." He suggests that he find a location less prone to erosion. This leads Paulo back to the Pearl station, where he stashes the doll in the bathroom. While there, he hears voices.
Through the crack in the door, he spies Ben and Juliet watching the action inside the Swan. They are not wearing New Otherton clothes, but rather the hillbilly rags from Season 2. Ben explains the plan: use Michael to draw out the three they need for Ben's surgery to happen. After they leave, Paulo picks up a walkie talkie left behind.
9 Days Ago: We see the scene from "The Cost of Living" in which Nikki volunteers to go to the Pearl, prompting everyone to pull a Sawyer and say, "Who the hell is this?" Paulo's confusion over her volunteering to go makes a touch more sense this time, as does the reason Paulo went to the bathroom while there: he was after the contents of the doll.
12 Hours Ago: Nikki's convinced that they will never be rescued. Paulo insists that they will; after all, not finding the bag might have saved them as a couple, right? So always look on the bright side, says the lying SOB. After he leaves her, she finds some of his nicotine gum on the beach. She angrily goes over to Sawyer and asks for a gun, which he denies her. Can I have one, Sawyer? Pretty please?
8 Hours Ago: Nikki leads Paulo into the jungle, where she confronts him about his lies. She wants those diamonds! And to prove her point, she throws a Medusa spider on him. Turns out, this spider induces instant paralysis for eight hours. She takes off his shoe, and throws it into a nearby tree. She then finds them inside his pants. Sadly, she forgot the part about its ability to attract every male spider in the area, which causes her to also get bitten, thus paralysis for her as well. Thus, both were actually buried alive, with her last word actually not "Paulo lies" but "paralyzed." Awesome. Good riddance.
16) The Mythology
Aside from the "Nikki and Paulo discovered almost everything first and didn't tell anyone because they were too busy looking for worthless diamonds," nearly nothing. This was an episode more about "what happened when no one was looking" than any real insight into the mysteries of the overarching Lost mythology.
23) The Moment
They gave Nikki and Paulo the coldest death in Lost history, all but making us the audience confront our bloodlust. It's as if the showed pulled a Maximus and screamed, "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?"
42) In Retrospect
I come not to praise Nikki and Paulo, nor bury them. After all, Hurley and Sawyer have that covered. But just as Shakespeare purportedly had to kill Mercutio to save Romeo and Juliet, Lost had to kill these two. Mercutio was too darn funny for a tragedy; Nikki and Paulo were too ill-conceived for a show struggling to find its way again. This was a sacrifice the audience, not the Island, demanded.
108) In Summary
Is this in and of itself a bad episode? Not especially, but context is everything. After a false start to Season 3, Lost had really found a strong narrative rhythm starting with "Not in Portland," only to have to essentially halt all forward momentum in order to publicly execute their worst creative idea of the year. Kudos to them for recognizing a potential Achilles heel, but it still produces an ep that stands out for all the wrong reasons.
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Ryan also posts every 108 minutes over at Boob Tube Dude, then peruses Zap2It's Guide to Lost Facebook group. He also encourages you to join the all-new Zap2It's Guide to Lost Twitter feed. Pretty soon he'll have as many platforms as Ben has pieces of leftover chicken.