Saturday, July 25, 2015

LOST AGAIN (S2E1) Series Re-Watch - Season 2, Episode 1, "Man of Science, Man of Faith"

Day 44

The first eye-opener of the second season is Desmond, in the hatch, although we don't know who he is yet.

And Hurley mentions his Chicken Shack gets hit by a meteor. Or rather, meteorite. It sounds like a non sequitur what he mentions it, but we actually see it happen in a later episode flashback.

The conflicts and rivalry between Jack and Locke that defined itself in the previous episode really puts itself into action here. Jack is a man of science, medicine, and logic. Locke trusts in faith, fate, and the island to tell him what he needs to do. This division more or less defines the rest of the series, as far as these two are concerned. At various times they divide the survivors into two camps, each following one or the other of them.

The theme of miraculous healing works on and off the island. Even years before the crash, Jacob was watching Jack and manipulating 

LOST AGAIN (S1E24) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 24, "Exodus, Pt.2"

Day 44

This weeks eye-opening is a baby. A baby? What kind of baby? A baby baby!

Sorry, let me start over.

This weeks eye-opening is a baby. Which baby? Looks like little turnip-head, although he's actually already awake and fussy.

Not counting the brief glimpse at the end of last week's episode, we see the Black Rock here for the first time. Of course, it's the centuries old slave ship that brought Richard Alpert to the island during a tsunami, crashing through the statute. We'll actually see the remnants of that statue for the first time later this episode. The Black Rock is the scene of many of the series pivotal moments, including the death of Locke's father and the flashback to one of the first appearances of the Man in Black.

"You've got some Arnzt on you." Best line of the series.

Danielle Rousseau's baby was taken from her 16 years ago. She nearly lost her sanity in the time since. When Claire is left behind on the island, and Kate takes her baby home, Claire nearly loses her mind as well.

We see Michael trying to get his mother to take care of Walt for him when they return to the States. Michael's mother will end up taking care of Walt after Michael is lost on the freighter.

It's worth commenting on how interesting it is to see the other stars of the show pass it and out of each others lives at the airport, waiting on the plane. None of them know each other at the time, but will come to know each other intimately starting a few short hours from then. It's interesting to think about the anonymous people that pass in and out of our lives every day. But for a few different circumstances, those people could be one's friends, enemies, or even lovers. We know the Candidates and the rest of the passengers were brought together for a specific purpose, but it's still true.

Sun's conversation with Shannon about whether they were on the island because they were being punished is one that is brought up many times by other characters. That idea fueled many fan theories about the island being a form of Purgatory.

For all the "bad luck" obstacles life, fate, or the Man in Black threw in Hurleys way, any one of them could have kept him off Oceanic 815. But he overcame them all and eventually became the one fated to take Jacob's place. In fact, nothing sums it up better than when Hurley says, "Please, for the love of all that's good and holy in the world, let me on this plane." Hurley is good and holy. Thus, the island.

Locke's story about why they were all brought together to the island is basically absolutely correct. He doesn't know about Jacob for the Man in Black, specifically, so he believes the island itself is responsible, but it's basically the same thing. The concept that the island demanded a sacrifice in Boone may not be incorrect in the abstract. If you consider Jacob and the Man in Black both to be two halves of the island's identity. Jacob chose to protect certain candidates, in the Man in Black decided to take one that was unprotected. Of course, Locke was an unwitting dupe in his plans.

LOST AGAIN (S1E23) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 23, "Exodus, Pt.1"

Day 44

It's interesting when you think about it, Walt really has very little time that he spends with Michael before they're separated. A week or so in Sydney, and a month+ on the island. And then he was captured from the raft. After they escape there's time, but not before then.

The excavated outside of the hatch area looks very much like it did in the past, in Dharma times, when the hatch was actually being constructed.

The scene where Sawyer tells Jack about his encounter with his father is probably the closest the two of them ever get on the series. There's always a mutual respect, in some ways, although of course they're never close. Their rivalry over Kate and both characters' general stubbornness keeps them from being close allies. But it's good to know and see Sawyer has a bit of a heart.

Michael has a line he says to Jin, "No, this one goes here, that one goes there." This is a memorable line Han Solo says to Chewbacca in "The Empire Strikes Back." Only Star Wars geeks would probably get the reference, but there you go.

I never quite understood The Man in Black/Smoke Monster's reason for causing such commotion when moving through the jungle. It wasn't a large creature like he was pretending to be, so why the theatrics? Scare tactics? Intimidation? Probably, but after a while the effect is lost when you never see it. And intimidation and fear weren't quite what he wanted - just death.

Dr. Arzt had a chance to save himself when he left the group to return to the beach. The smoke monster chased him back, but in light of what eventually happens to him, he probably would have rather taken his chances.

The launching of the raft is one of the most triumphant moments certainly of this series, and of any series I've ever seen. The music especially is gorgeous. Knowing what happens to the raft and the people on it tempers the moment with heartbreak.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

LOST AGAIN (S1E22) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 22, "Born to Run"

Day 43

Charlie tells Kate that when they are eventually rescued, they'll all be famous. He's actually correct. The six survivors are called the Oceanic Six. Only Charlie is not one of them.

I want senses when Locke touches his arm that they are trying to open the hatch. He mysteriously warns Locke against doing so. We know Jacob and the Man in Black control the actions of various people on the island, dead or alive. Whether one of them is controlling Walt, giving him special insight, or something else is never quite clear. It's also not quite clear why either one of them would not want the survivors getting into the hatch at all.

LOST AGAIN (S1E21) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 21, "The Greater Good"

LOST was a revolutionary television show that aired on ABC from 2004-2010. Utilizing unique storytelling techniques, an extensive mythology and capitilizing on the burgeoning social media scene to boost popularity, the LOST experience can now be viewed as a whole. I will be attempting to re-watch the entire series episode by episode, and will comment on each episode in terms of the complete story - foreshadowing, recurring motifs and character growth. I hope you enjoy the commentary and watch along with me.

Day 42

Walt is concerned about sharks attacking them while they're on the raft. There actually is a shark lurking nearby with the Dharma symbol tattooed on its fin.

Shannon holds Locke at gunpoint in the rain in the middle of the jungle, and fires the gun. Only a few episodes into the second season she herself will be shot by Ana Lucia, in the rain, in the jungle. Ana Lucia herself will be shot several episodes after that.

LOST AGAIN (S1E20) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 20, "Do No Harm"

Day 41-42

Kate being the one to deliver Claire's baby is full of subtext and foreshadowing. Kate eventually raises Claire's bab when they get off the island.

The same of Claire's delivery is also the moment that one of the candidates witness again as they travel around in time. I am ashamed to say I don't remember which one but I think it may be Jin.

Jack angrily tells Sun, "Don't tell me what I can't do." This echoes Locke's mantra. It's not unusual to see Jack and Locke exhibiting the same degree of stubbornness, but it's usually not so on the nose.

Jack's wedding to Sarah it's one of the very few times his father actually gave him decent advice.

Little Aaron was born about the same moment that Boone died. There were no references later on in the series about any connection between the two, but it would have been interesting. If Shannon hadn't died, they might've thought about it.

Jack learns about letting go in this episode, but I'm not sure if either he didn't learn it well enough or needed this experience to fully let go at the end of the series. I think it's the latter.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

LOST AGAIN (S1E19) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 19, "Deus Ex Machina"

Day 39-41

Locke's concept of faith is greatly examined in this episode. The dichotomy between faith and science is another one of those basic building blocks of the whole series. Locke trusts that a higher power gave him back the use of his legs, and the power is somehow tied to the island. He has no rational basis for this assumption, save that his legs do work and there is no rational explanation. When his faith is tested by his failure to open the hatch, he begins to lose feeling in his legs.

There are several moments in Locke's flashbacks over the first couple of seasons where we are teased into thinking that particular incident is what caused him to originally lose the use of his legs. Getting hit by a car is the first of these teases.

We find out much later that Locke's mothers belief in John's special nature is due partly to Richard Alpert's intervention when Locke was a child. Alpert was extremely long lived and was directed by Jacob to visit Locke in his childhood to determine if he was a candidate.

Locke's vision of the Beechcraft airplane crashing in the jungle was of course a real event on the island. They stumble upon the wreckage of the old plane in the next episode The plane itself was carrying Mr. Eko's brother and a load of drugs and crashed on the island several years prior. We will meet Mr. Eko next season.

It's kind of a shame we never got a flashback from Boone of his nanny, Theresa. But Boone doesn't last much longer anyway. So we never get to see exactly how she falls up the stairs. Too bad.

Locke's father turns out to be the "Sawyer" that our Sawyer is searching for, who brought about the death of his parents. This may be the most toxic cross-character relationship on the show.

Boone again says "we got to go back" when trying to help Locke walk.

Anthony Cooper tells Locke, "See you on the other side, son." This is fairly similar to Desmond's farewell to Jack, "see you in another life, brother." At first I thought it might be significant, but it's such a common phrase it probably is not.

The subplot about Sawyer needing glasses kind of slipped my mind, mostly because once he gets the glasses they don't last that long. He doesn't wear them very much in the future. But then, there's not as much time to sit and read so it would make sense.

Though Locke and Boone don't realize it, they and the Beechcraft or very close to another hatch: the Pearl station. It will be discovered a couple seasons later.

Boone makes contact with Bernard and the Tailies over the plane's radio. In an episode next season, we'll see Bernard receive Boone's transmission in a flashback. At the time, I remember wondering if there was some sort of parallel universe/time travel involved and they were talking to themselves. I guess they were in a way. 

Locke's life to this point has been a pattern of faith and betrayal, faith and betrayal. It's amazing that he's kept at it. But eventually his fate will be rewarded when he sees the light in the hatch.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

LOST AGAIN (S1E18) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 18, "Numbers"

Day 35-36

The significance of The Numbers are too widespread to even begin to list here. Their overall meaning is the numbers of each of The Candidates, as we will find out much, much, much later in the series.

I'm not sure living out the rest of his life as a demigod on the island is exactly the luckiest thing to happen to anyone, But I think Hurley probably ended up with the best deal of all the passengers all he wanted to do was help people with the money that he won, and with the island's powers he ended up doing just that.

Our first glimpse of the mental institution where Hurley spent so much time is in this episode. We see his "friend" Dave that he hallucinates later on the island. Who is not seen is Libby, who is later revealed to have also been a patient at the institution. In fact, her character had not even been invented yet.

Friday, July 17, 2015

LOST AGAIN (S1E17) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 17, "...In Translation"

Day 32-33

This weeks eye-opener is Jin, although he isn't waking up, he's just staring out at the ocean.

Sun and Jin are probably the characters that change the most from the beginning to the end of the series. There almost unrecognizable in the first season.

Big cross-character flashback: we see Hurley on TV in Korea. It goes quickly so you have to be sure to see it. We know now that it's reporting his winning the lottery – apparently it's big news even overseas.

We also see where Jin got the dog that he gives later to Sun. It was a gift from the Korean secretary to Mr. Paik.

Sawyer and Jin would become pretty close in their time working for Dharma together. Of course in the beginning of the series it's not uncommon to see a number of relationships go up and down. They would settle down into familiar patterns as the series went on.

There's an interesting parallel that I didn't see in this episode before. Maybe I'm just dense. Sun intervened by slapping Michael when Jin would have done much worse to him. Similarly, Jin intervenes by merely beating up the Secretary when the hitman would have killed him.

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait... Did Michael just fist bump Walt? Was that a thing in 2004? Hey, maybe you're getting old when you're not even close to sure when fads actually started.

Walt's question to Locke about whether his father was cool, is so full of ironic subtext that we'll find out later, it's not even funny. It's like asking a survivor of the Titanic, "So, was the ship nice?"

Poor Hurley. Everybody's got a girl but him. But at least he has his tunes. Until the CD player dies. At least eventually Libby will show up. But then she dies. Poor Hurley.

One of the main, most obvious running themes of LOST is the concept of characters having daddy issues. Jin is the only character we've seen so far who has a positive relationship with his father. Does no one else in the LOST universe grow up to be like their father? And while were on the subject, I feel the show lost an opportunity when it was revealed Jacob and the Man in Black actually had mommy issues. Maybe the rewatch will shed a different light on this, but it feels like the show needed to be brought full-circle by showing them having issues with a father.

LOST AGAIN (S1E16) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 16, "Outlaws"

Day 29-30-31

This week's eye-opener is young Sawyer. In his flashback. In Knoxville! I wonder what part of town the Ford family lives there. I'm just going to say, here, he lives in Fountain City. Because maybe me and Sawyer were buddies in elementary school and I just don't remember it.

"It'll come back around" is the phrase the jungle whispers keep saying. As I said in a previous entry, we know The Others are watching the castaways. But I seriously don't recall what the whispers meant and why they were whispering. Maybe it will become apparent again.

Do you know this about just occurs to me. Only three or four weeks have passed since the series started, and this is the 16th episode. Each episode we pretty much see all the cast members in different clothing. I know this isn't Gilligans Island, and they don't have an infinite supply of clothing. And I do know that they do wash their clothes quite often. But it seems to me, even with the ripening after a few days, if it were me I would probably wear the same clothes several days in a row before changing. I mean, what's the purpose? So what if you wear the same shorts and T-shirt three days straight on a desert island? There's probably three or four other people that will smell worse than you anyway.

I never understand "I Never." And I never played it in college. I played Pool of Radiance, Ultima IV, and D&D. Does that count?

It would've been interesting if Locke's story about his sister had included something about his father. It would've made Sawyer's conflict about killing the wrong man very ironic. Sawyer killed the man he mistakenly believed was responsible for his parents' death, when it was actually was Locke's father.

In the light of how Christian Shepherd ends up bringing Jack back into the light, and how much he pops up in the other castaways flashbacks and past lives, It would've been interesting to see him play even more of a role in the past. A very firm connector between all the castaways (or a large number of them ). Their "constant."

Claire is obviously pregnant with a manatee.

Sawyer jokingly calls Jack, "sheriff." Which is ironic because a few years later - in the past - sawyer will become sheriff of the Dharma station.

The whole with about the Red Sox never winning the series comes back around a couple seasons later when Ben shows Jack video of the Red Sox doing just that.

Monday, July 13, 2015

LOST AGAIN (S1E15) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 15, "Homecoming"

Day 27-28-29

it's funny, the episode' very first image is Charlie waking up as they bring Claire back into camp, but it's not an eye-opener scene. Funny that they would skip a perfect opportunity.

Amnesia – the most popular trope there is.

Ethan's casual cruelty and his seemingly superhuman strength… Are they products of his and The Others' affiliation with Jacob and/or the Man in Black?

Sometimes it's hard to tell whether the character' actually experiencing a memory, when we see a flashback during the episode, or if it's just insight into the past of the character. This is one of the rare instances we actually see the character (Charlie) react to the flashback that has just played. Specifically, Charlie remembers getting sick while trying to demonstrate the copy machine. He then reacts in disgust to the memory in the present. That doesn't seem to happen very often.

LOST AGAIN (S1E14) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 14, "Special"

LOST was a revolutionary television show that aired on ABC from 2004-2010. Utilizing unique storytelling techniques, an extensive mythology and capitilizing on the burgeoning social media scene to boost popularity, the LOST experience can now be viewed as a whole. I will be attempting to re-watch the entire series episode by episode, and will comment on each episode in terms of the complete story - foreshadowing, recurring motifs and character growth. I hope you enjoy the commentary and watch along with me.

Day 26-27

The next eye-opening is Michael, calling for Walt.

Locke tells want to respect his father. Very ironic, knowing the kind of relationship Locke has with his own father, as we find out later.

Michael is more of a jerk than I remember him being. This goes beyond inexperienced parenting, it's a real character flaw. At this point, knowing what he will do in the future to betray his fellow passengers, including killing some of them, he seems at this point much less sympathetic, even though he did it to ensure Walt's safety.

If Walt did actually cause that bird to fly against the window and kill itself in the flashback, is it possible he somehow also willed his mother to take Ill and die? Not on purpose, of course, but subconsciously because… I don't know. But it seems an interesting coincidence. Walt's "abilities" are never fully explained in the series.

LOST AGAIN (S1E13) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 13, "Hearts and Minds"

Day 24

Our next eye-opener is Boone, on the beach, spying on Sayid and Shannon.

The first major character flashback crossover is Sawyer appearing in Boone's flashback, in the Australian police station. Most of these crossovers involves supporting characters, and are more subtle, although this one is hard to miss.

When LOST first aired, the Boone/Shannon relationship was very odd. They were brother/sister, but there was a faint romantic undertone to their interactions. I have to say, on re-watch, I don't see it as much. Knowing they are not blood related, it may just be too difficult to have set that aside. But in fact I really didn't see much tension between them at all at this point. Maybe it was just in everyone's head.

Sayid's malfunctioning compass gives us our first hint of the island's special electromagnetic properties. We will see you eventually it's strong enough to bring down the plane and move through space and time.

I understand most of Locke's wilderness survival training was learned in preparation for his walkabout, but I wonder where in his Webelo manual he learned to make hallucinogenic healing salve.

I totally bought into Boons hallucination the first time I saw this. I really thought Shannon was dead. Sometimes I'm slow about these things.

Boone and Shannon's relationship was a lot more complex than I remember it being. I'm glad, I really only remember it being dysfunctional. Seeing it play out again makes it kind of tragic. I feel a little better towards their characters than I did before.

LOST AGAIN (S1E12) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 12, "Whatever the Case May Be"

Day 21-22

The waterfall pond makes its first appearance. We of course see you again much later as the location the Ajira 316 survivors appear.

The shows most indecipherable pairing starts here: Shannon and Sayid. 11 years later and I still can't figure it out.

I can't help but think the scene with Sawyer trying to break into the suitcase by slamming it on a rock reminds me of that commercial with the gorilla I think it may have been intentional.

That "fish movie" made with "computers," of course, is "Finding Nemo." Which, ironically, occurs a good bit in Sydney, Australia.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

LOST AGAIN (S1E10) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 10, "Raised By Another"

DAY 15-16

This week's eye-opening opening is Claire in a dream. There's some interesting foreshadowing of Locke with jet black eyes. The smoke monster will consume him eventually.

Claire's psychic warns that she must be the one to raise the baby, and it must not be raised by anyone else. And that danger surrounds the baby. Of course Kate is the one to raise the baby, until he's three years old. Claire is left behind on the island by herself for three years. Little Aaron seem to turn out OK. The psychic's prediction, while certainly there was danger surrounding the baby, really turned out to not be true in the specific.

Clara mentions her dad when talking to the prospective adoptive parents in her flashback. It seems like a throwaway line, but she's referring to Christian Shepherd. Sometimes these little facts just jump out at you when you least expect them.

This is the first of the flashbacks that the characters explicitly refer to in present time. Claire tells Charlie about the psychic they discuss whether he was accurate or not. It's also the first flashback to have a semi-direct connection to the show's mythology, at least it seemed to at the time.

I think they missed an opportunity when they didn't introduce Ethan earlier in the season. We saw a glimpse of him last episode, And some dialogue with him earlier in this episode. It would've been fun if they've made you think he was a semi regular, like Rose.

LOST AGAIN (S1E9) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 9, "Solitary"

DAY 12-13

Sayid's discovery of the metal cable buried in the sand is the first indication of some sort of technology on the island. We find out later that it is the power cable supplying the Looking Glass Dharma station that's underwater.

We meet our first two island residents in this episode. Danielle Rousseau has been on the island since her science expedition crash here 16 years ago. Ethan Rom is also an island resident, but is posing as a survivor. Supposedly he is been amongst the group from the beginning, although we haven't actually seen him until now.

Danielle mentions a number of details from her past, including her husband, Robert and her daughter, Alex. We meet Alex before too much longer, but the rest of the details are fleshed out in flashback much later. We actually meet Robert and see the music box before it was broken.

I have to say that Mira Furlin has such amazing poise and dignity in her carriage. I loved her on Babylon 5 and she does a great job playing Danielle Rousseau here as well. I need to remember to find and watch other things that she's been in.

We also learned of the presence of The Others on the island. Both in the past and in the present. Danielle believes they carried a sickness that caused the rest of her science team to go insane and die.
We also hear the first reference to the Black Rock, which we will see is actually the ship that carried Richard Alpert to the island and washed up in a tidal wave. For many episodes we think the Black Rock is exactly that, a black rock.

The writing on the back of Nadia's photograph says, "You'll find me in the next life, if not in this one." This is very similar to Desmond's farewell to Jack, "See you in another life, brother." The concept of life, afterlife, and other lives beyond these plays out until even the finale.

I'm not sure we ever found out exactly what The Others were whispering about. And why they were whispering in the first place. We know they were watching the crash survivors at a distance. But I'm not sure the whispers ever became particularly relevant in the grand scheme of things.

LOST AGAIN (S1E8) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 8, "Confidence Man"

LOST was a revolutionary television show that aired on ABC from 2004-2010. Utilizing unique storytelling techniques, an extensive mythology and capitilizing on the burgeoning social media scene to boost popularity, the LOST experience can now be viewed as a whole. I will be attempting to re-watch the entire series episode by episode, and will comment on each episode in terms of the complete story - foreshadowing, recurring motifs and character growth. I hope you enjoy the commentary and watch along with me.

DAY 9-10

Here's something that happens often in movies and TV shows where someone is knocked out by a blow to the head. When they try to tell someone what happened, they always seem to be able to remember right up to the point they got hit. Seems like I recall hearing that blows to the head often call short-term memory loss. But Sayid remembers everything. Ah, TV.

Sawyers letter makes it seem he is the one that the letter was written to, possibly by the son of the woman in the flashback. We know he is the boy who wrote the letter, and took the name Sawyer from the man who caused his own father to kill his mother and then himself. And that the older Sawyer is actually Locke's father. That little triangle and the steps that are taken to resolve our Sawyer's quest are one of the most interesting in the early part of the series.

Nice continuity – when Jack takes a swing at Sawyer, he holds his shoulder in pain. The one that was dislocated in the previous episode. I also noticed Michael limping in the previous episode, a result of where he was gored by the boar in the episode previous to that. You don't get that kind of continuity on The Love Boat.

Jack and Sawyer's fistfight is the first of several throughout the series, culminating in an extremely bloody one in a later season.

Hurley's hero-worship of Jack brings us his first of many pop-culture references: "Jedi moment." Love it. When they find themselves back in Dharma times, Hurley is determined to pre-write "The Empire Strikes Back" for George Lucas. Too bad he didn't just try to rewrite "The Phantom Menace."

Everything became worthwhile when Kate, reading the envelope from Sawyer's letter, gives a big shout-out to Knoxville, Tennessee. I spent a good amount of time the next couple of seasons trying to pinpoint Sawyers brief live in Knoxville. I'll speak more of it as it happens later on.

LOST AGAIN (S1E7) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 7, "The Moth"


Kate, Jack, and Sawyer love triangle really starts up in this episode.

You know there's not much mythology or long-term character development in an episode, when it's about halfway through and you only written one line of commentary.  OK, I will say this. I wish all of us who have problems with determining their self-worth got an opportunity to prove it, As Charlie does rescuing Jack from the cave-in.

I do like that the creators of the show decided to acknowledge the fact that the survivors of the crash did so with minimal injuries. Which should have been completely impossible. And they know that. So we can move past it.

Scott and Steve make their first appearance. Or is that Steve and Scott?  There interchangeability is a running gag for several episodes. Until they die.

I don't think I realize this previous episode, but did they ever test the water in the cave to make sure it was pure before drinking it?

This online rewatch commentary isn't about reviews of the episodes, so I won't really talk much about it. Only that it was nice to have a straight episode to sit and watch without a lot of thought.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

LOST AGAIN (S1E6) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 6, "House of the Rising Sun"


Fourth eye open: this time it's Sun. 

In the caves we see the two skeletons (Adam and Eve). Speculation on their identities raged for many seasons until we finally found out they are the Man in Black and his "mother." The black and white stones they find initially mirror the backgammon stones, but also symbolize the light and dark aspects of the Man in Black, Jacob, and their mother.

Charlie yells that he's allergic to bees, but is stung many times and suffers no apparent ill effects.

Sun's revelation that she can actually speak English was a big surprise. I didn't see that coming at all.

Charlie's guitar and guitar case are an early symbol of recurring motifs. Hurley must bring a guitar case with him on Ajira Flight 316 later in the series to complete the circle.

Watching the episodes in quick succession makes it easier to remember things that happened a few episodes back, especially since little time has passed on the island. Jack, in desperation, ask Kate what she did. She reminds him that he had the chance to find out already. That did happen a few episodes ago. If you watch the show with a week between episodes, you might not remember that. Or perhaps you might. Depends on how good your memory is.

One of the best parts of the series is seeing the passengers interact with each other and the rest of the crowd at the airport before my flight. Seeing parts of other characters flashbacks interwoven amongst their own is very cool. Eventually you hope to get a complete mosaic all that went on.

This split of the survivors into two camps, the beach and the caves, is foreshadowing of another, more contentious split later on. Right now the split is over logistics. The one later on is ideological: Jack against Locke.

Seems very odd for episode entitled, "House of the Rising Sun," to not include at least part of the song, "House of the Rising Sun." But we did get was Willie Nelson. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. And Hurley, why are you wasting the batteries on the Walkman?

LOST AGAIN (S1E5) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 5, "White Rabbit"


Third eye opening first scene. This time we started a flashback, and it's Jack again. 

Charlie says he can't swim. No, mate, you can't. And you can't breathe underwater.

Jack saves Boone from drowning, although his days are still numbered. Boone becomes the second one to say, "We've got to go back!" 

How Boone manages to keep his eyeliner, mascara, and blush in perfect shape so soon after almost drowning is beyond me.

I know we end up finding out that our main cast was called to the island by Jacob. Maybe he was good, maybe not, but I still think the loss of innocent lives like Joanna, the drowned girl, in pursuit of finding someone to take over leading the island, is inexcusable.

The first time we see Christian Shepherd in the flashback, he's holding a drink in his hand. Funny how our first glimpses of characters sometimes completely defined them. Ultimately, Christian becomes somewhat of a wise presence in Jack's life, especially at the very very end. But here in Jack's first flashback, he's a monster.

When re-watching the show, and knowing everything there is about that show, it's easy to forget when you know things and when you don't. I almost forgot that at this moment, we don't know Christian Shepherd is supposedly dead and was in a coffin in the cargo hold of the plane. Although Jack is shocked to see him in the jungle, we don't yet know Jack thinks he seeing a ghost.

Here's something I've always wondered. Do people ever actually have hallucinations as real as Jack might be having? At this moment, Jack knows his father is dead. He's a man of science, he knows he isn't seeing a ghost. It's either someone who looks like his father, and his pretending to be his father, or he's having an hallucination. That's a medical person's two choices. We see people on TV having "hallucinations" all the time, using actual actors in the same room or location together. But if someone is having an actual hallucination, does it possibly look that real? Isn't it obvious detail after a while, that you're having a hallucination? Maybe it goes into a person's state of mind. But I think if I saw someone standing in the jungle as clearly as Jack sees his father, there's no way I would think it wasn't at least a real person.

Locke literally saves Jack's life. That's pretty significant.

After a couple of episodes of Charlie flirting with every girl in camp, we finally settled on scenes between him and Claire. It's very sweet. I love to see when a person's personality changes when they meet "the one".

I never noticed Charlie's tattoo that says "living is easy with eyes closed." That's a Beatles quote from Strawberry Fields Forever.

Jack dances around the fact that the man he is chasing is supposed to be dead, when he's talking to Locke. This preserves the mystery and the reveal later, but it's a forced withholding of facts when he doesn't have to. There's really no reason for Jack not to mentioned to Locke that his father is dead, but he obviously skirts the fact.

Locke tells Jack he's not a big believer in magic, but that's not true. He just doesn't realize faith in magic are interchangeable. He's always believed in magic, but never had the opportunity to admit that he did. Now that the "magical" island has healed him, he has given himself permission to believe.

Locke's description of the "the eye of the island" being beautiful refers to the monster. With what we know of who the smoke monster really is, I'm not sure what beauty it is he's actually seeing. But then I guess that's actually the point.

Jack's memory of identifying Christians body in the morgue is what begins a series-long dissertation on Daddy Issues amongst the survivors.

There's nothing creepier than a doll, submerged under shallow water, staring up at you. No, wait. Jack finds an open, used, but empty coffin. I take it back.

At the end of the episode, Jack give his famous "live together, or die alone" speech. I'd just like to take a moment here to recommend that philosophy to the entire world. Thank you.

LOST AGAIN (S1E4) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 4, "Walkabout"

DAY 4-5

Second eye opening of the series belongs to Locke. 

The first half of the first season dealt much more with basic survival and practical matters. How to find food, fresh water, shelter, and fend off wild animals.

Sayid's objections to burning the bodies is not very practical, and from the beginning he seems to be a practical character. I think the series was trying to paint him as a religious man, because of his objection to burning the bodies, and reminding Jack of religious issues, but it didn't go much more than that.

Watching tough-guy Sawyer fight with roly-poly Hurley is one of the funniest things in the show. Especially a couple seasons later when Hurley really gets the best of him.

Locke's first flashback is golden. I was even almost full again into thinking he was military. Terry O'Quinn has played many such rolls in his career, and is as natural as a military commander as office nerd.  Or Starfleet Admiral for that matter. We also meet one of the first of the cross-characters, Randy, who shows up in Hurleys flashbacks.

Kate says she's a vegetarian. We'll just see about that.

The episode told us right up front that Locke did not have use of his legs, but we missed it. His story of the double amputee that climbed Everest was a perfectly normal story in his situation. We also get the line that defines Locke's character first here, "Don't tell me what I can't do."

Locke is the first character that the smoke monster reveals itself to. They will become intimately acquainted in the future. Well, Locke's body will. 

We have our first Christian Shepherd sighting. This may be the weirdest thing of the series thus far, seeing a man in a suit standing on the beach by himself.

The reveal of Locke's paralysis in his flashback was jarring at the time. Obviously it loses some of its impact now, especially since the clues are now easily recognizable. But it's still amazing. Locke's since of the island and the smoke monster as redemptive and healing sets him on an early path much different than the other survivors.

Thoughts after four episodes:

1) No sign yet of Ethan even in the background actors. Nor do we see Frogurt or Arnst. None of these other survivors have been cast yet. And of course no Nikki or Paulo.

2) There is just a mess of amount of plane fuselage lying all over the beach. I don't remember seeing all that in later episodes at the beach. Is that explained? Or did I just overlook it?

Monday, July 06, 2015

LOST AGAIN (S1E3) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 3, "Tabula Rasa"

DAY 2-4

Locke's wheelchair makes its first appearance.

Now that Jack in Hurley know that Kate is wanted by the law, we're not quite as sure if she's a good guy. We see in the flashback that she's on the run, in Australia, but we don't know any details of what she did. Jack doesn't seem to care but it freaks Hurley out.

First use of one of The Numbers: Kate's reward is $23,000.

Walt seems to make it stop raining instantly. While we do know he does have some powers, this is more in line with what he can do. There's a webisode from much later in the series that shows what Walt could do when he was in custody of The Others. 

There are a number of two-person relationships that for me between all of the cast. The one that forms between Locke and Charlie is one of the most profound. 

In a repeat of cakes airplane flashback once again we see the poor woman fly up and slam to the ceiling of the cabin for about the third or fourth time. I think it's high time someone wrote some fanfiction about that character. We also once again see the bag from the overhead compartment nail the Marshall in the head. That I could go without seeing again. The effect of the tail section breaking off and falling away for the plane is an awesome effect. I also would hate to be one of those guys that get sucked out, especially the one who didn't have his seatbelt fastened. How embarrassing.

With Sawyer realizes he screwed up in killing the Air Marshall with one shot, it's a very rare look of contrition on his face. Throughout the series he's supremely confident, self-assured and unapologetic. But this is a rare time when he realizes he really messed things up.

The Air Marshal is the first actual character with lines to die on screen.

Jack says that three days ago they all die. What he means is that their past lives no longer matter and they have a blank slate. What actually happens is that this begins a multi year argument I'm on fans that they all indeed died, and the island is the kind of purgatory. In the end, this turns out to be more true than not.

The very end of the episode features an element common to the first season, and ending musical montage. This one is all about reconciliation and connections. These musical montage is eventually go away as the second and third seasons come around. The same pattern happens in The Walking Dead as well.

We also see a rare fade to black.

LOST AGAIN (S1E2) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 2, "Pilot, Pt. 2"


(00:00) Second flashback of the series - it's pretty obvious that Charlie is an addict from the very beginning. What's less obvious is if he's a good guy or bad guy, judging from his appearance.

Charlie breezes by Jack from the previous flashback. Never ceases to amaze me how they got all these flashbacks to intersect.

I know there's a great video out there that shows the plane crash from all angles in real time, but I don't remember it taking this much time in Rose and Jack's flashback as it does in Charlie's before the plane starts to crash.

(04:07) I know part of Shannon's schtick is that she is vain and is deluding herself that rescue is coming. But again, they lay it on really thick as to her vanity and immaturity in the Pilot.

Just a sidenote, but Claire looks much better as a blonde that she does as a brunette in Once Upon a Time.

Sun really appears to hate Jin in the beginning. It's amazing where the two of them end up in their relationship.

It's not obvious from the very beginning that the dog is not a native of the island, but then you see Walt carrying the leash. Then Walt finds the pair of handcuffs that Kate got out of. You think they still be open unless she slipped her hands out while they were closed.

(08:03) Interestingly, Jack's first interaction with Locke was cooperation, but his first with Sawyer is conflict. Also, Sayid's Red herring of an Arab being involved in the plane crash is a sign of the brief time since 9/11 when the show first aired. I'm not sure if it was starting now if people would have the same paranoia. I guess that's a good thing. Kate reacts to the handcuffs - obvious in retrospect but not so much at that time.

Hurley is a peacemaker, a reconciler. Very much defining his character. We also hear Sawyer's first nickname insult, of course directed at Hurley.

Sayid extends his hand for Hurley to shake and his pinky is outstretched. Is that a Middle Eastern custom?  Also, the Republican Guard was a lot fresher in peoples minds in 2004 that it might be now.

Even I thought the cheesecake shot of Kate bathing in her underwear was gratuitous. Not that I'm complaining, mind. Also, knowing Sun speaks English this entire time it is interesting. 

(14:53) I really find Jin's Attitude towards Sun confusing and disturbing early on. We know Jin is a good guy and will ultimately prove himself to be a good person, but even cultural differences don't explain away cruelty and domination. You don't suddenly just become a good guy, you have to be a good guy all along but had trouble showing it. Doing cruel things even because it's part of your culture, makes it difficult to believe you can actually become good.

The polar bear in the comic book was a huge red hearing for a long time. There was much speculation that Walt was causing these things to appear on the island by power of thought. If that was the case why not superheroes as well? Speaking Spanish, of course. But we will see our polar bear very soon.

Shannon's first encounter with Sayid is, of course, very immature. Their being forced together as a couple even to the last episode, is still one of the shows greatest mysteries to this day.

We see Sawyer's first reaction to his letter. I still get a kick out of the fact that he lived in Knoxville Tennessee.

Waltz first encounter with Locke is filled with symbolism and foreshadowing, using the backgammon board to represent good and evil. Echoes from this scene are used throughout the entire series. Jacob and his brother, Locke and Jack, Ben, many other people are shown to have qualities of good and evil.

This is also Locke's first scene with dialogue and of course it's with Walt. Their destinies will coincide many times in the seasons to come.

Jin's Magic see urchin food seems to bring life back to Claire's baby. I don't recall this little scene from before. I don't think anything was made of the food having properties of magic.

Wow, Emilie de Ravin (Claire) looks really young. Of course this is 11 years ago and I've seen her in another recurring role for the past five years.

Claire guesses correctly that her baby is a he. Could it be magic? Could it be ESP? Or could she just have a 50-50 chance?

Sawyer is pretty dang fearless, even with a gun, in the face of a rampaging, white.... Whatever that is. Of course, it's a polar bear, but it's huge.

How did Boone know there was a pilot to be killed? I guess they shared the full story off camera. I think I recall that being a continuity error caused by a scene that was cut.

(27:36) Hurley as comic relief comes early and often.

Finding out that Kate is actually the prisoner in the man with the shrapnel is the US marshal is one of the small mysteries that sometimes get solved fairly quickly. The show does a good job wrapping the small mysteries inside the medium sized mysteries, inside the large mysteries. With a few exceptions, each mystery pays off just about what it should.

Off, I remember now that Kate remove the handcuffs on the plane so she can put the oxygen mask on. Two things: first, even though she's in custody we see she's not all bad because she saves the Air Marshall's life by putting his mask on. She didn't have to do that. Second, I'm not certain if she took the cuffs off both her hands completely. That still doesn't explain how they ended up in the jungle, re-closed.

Rousseaus's message is not given by the actress that plays her later on, I don't believe.

Knowing all that we know now, it's hard to build up any sense of real mystery, but at the end of the second episode we may have come to the point where there is no greater sense of that question of where are we...

LOST AGAIN (S1E1) Series Re-Watch - Season 1, Episode 1, "Pilot, Pt. 1"

LOST was a revolutionary television show that aired on ABC from 2004-2010. Utilizing unique storytelling techniques, an extensive mythology and capitilizing on the burgeoning social media scene to boost popularity, the LOST experience can now be viewed as a whole. I will be attempting to re-watch the entire series episode by episode, and will comment on each episode in terms of the complete story - foreshadowing, recurring motifs and character growth. I hope you enjoy the commentary and watch along with me.

DAY 1-2

(00:00) Jack opens his eyes for the first time  - we see the very first instance of a very common recurring motif. Also Vincent's first appearance, a common supernatural--ish element.

Strange unidentified shoe hanging from tree. First odd out of place element. I believe it turns out to belong to Christian Shepherd. 

Jack breaking through trees to get to beach and seeing entire devastation of plane crash one of series' finest visual elements, only a minute or so into the entire series. Really sets the tone of the show,  Demonstrated right off that this was no ordinary TV show. Very cinematic.

Jack as leader, Jack As doctor, Jack as savior established very early in series. Jack has the plan, Jack will carry it out and ask others to help him.

Charlie Pace wandering near engines is the first of the rest of the major characters seen. He will eventually drown in the underwater hatch. Next Jin is trying to get help for Sun. Michael yelling for Walt (of course). Shannon is wandering in a daze screaming her head off. Various secondary characters running around yelling to each other.

First time we see Locke he is, of course, ambulatory but at the time that means nothing to us. More importantly he and Jack are actually working together to save a passenger.

Next we have our first glimpse of Claire, very pregnant, calling for help.

Constant up-and-down whining of the engine is a huge tension builder. You kind of don't know what it is exactly or what it represents but it's a huge,menacing mechanical noise.  Huge, menacing mechanical noises will become a recurring motif.

Boone giving CPR to Rose.  Or trying to. 

First on screen death as a passenger is sucked into engine and engine explodes. Again extremely cinematic production values.

Hurley wanders aimlessly help Jack take care of Claire. Jack finally gives his name, becoming the first character to be named out loud.

Boone is an idiot. A bit of a buffoon. I think Boone got really short-changed on the show.

Charlie almost killed by falling debris. Almost as if he was charmed. So far Jack has been responsible for saving at least four lives, maybe more.

First Hurley, "Dude!."  First of many.

I realize that, except for Sawyer, Kate, Hurley, Claire and Rose, not a single person in this set of scenes survives the whole series. 

(7:37) When credits finally start, the action slows down into a more dreamlike state. Jack wanders in slow motion through the burning wreckage  We also begin to see passengers still in fuselage who never made it out. Calm moments can be more tragic than tense ones.

Only when immediate danger over does Jack start thinking of his own injuries. At this point we still have not seen Sawyer, Kate, Sayid, Walt, or Sun.

First shot of Jack's tattoos, and his injuries. His scene with Kate is his first real scene with anyone in the show and establishes the beginning of his series-long relationship with Kate from the very beginning. Kate wanders out of the jungle which sets up questions about her whereabouts later on. Note she is rubbing her wrists - she was in handcuffs until recently. Spare bottle of alcohol from plane comes in handy, we'll see why Jack has it also later on.

Sawyer a bad boy from the start. Stubble, cigarette, bad disposition. Pilot haircut an anomaly but we'll forgive that.  This is his only scene in the whole first episode.

Claire with her seemingly-18-month-old-yet-still-unborn baby stands staring into the surf at sunset. Hurley tries to be useful. Locke is no doubt wondering why he has his legs back. First appearance of Sayid helping with fire and striking up friendship with Charlie. Rose longs for Bernard.

Jack tells Kate the surgery story that will help later in the episode and seasons down the road. Not only to help Kate conquer fear, but to get them out of a jam. The incident affected Jack very deeply, but we don't know at this point his father's involvement.

Charlie writes "FATE" on his fingers. We know so far only that he is British.

Shannon is painting her toenails, talks to Boone. We don't know yet their relationship but it is antagonistic. 

Hurley and Claire friendship established early. Also Hurley's general good nature and helpfulness. And generosity, as we don't know anything yet about his lottery winnings or belief that he's unlucky.

Young Walt sleeps under Michaels supervision. Walt is so small compared to where he ends up! Michael suggested as doting father.

Jin's domineering attitude over Sun is a character trait that just sort of goes away as the series progresses. But it's laid on thick early on. I'll be interested to pinpoint where and why his attitude shifts. 

We know the seriously injured man in the suit that Jack is tending to is the FBI agent that was with Kate. But it isn't hinted at yet that Kate was with him, only that she was sitting next to him.

First indication the tail section and nose section broke off and landed somewhere else on the island.  We will find the nose section before the end of the episode, but the Tailies are still a season away.

Crashing and roaring of smoke monster in jungle first sign that something supernatural is on the island. I know I thought for a long time it was going to be some kind of mechanical creature, but of course i was proven wrong.  Falling trees is red herring, we never really see a need for the smoke monster to shake or topple trees, being insubstantial. Fear of loud noise is what draws the main cast together for the first time looking in to the jungle, united in their sense of danger.

(21:16) First flashback of the series - Jack on the plane. Jack flirts with Cindy gets the extra alcohol. It's pretty obvious it's a flashback.  Flight attendants rushing by synchs with Charlie's time on the plane. We find out Rose's husband has gotten out of his seat. When playing really starts shaking for real even though we know what his happened on the ground in the hatch, it's interesting to watch passengers reactions who have no idea what's coming. This flashback sequence is seen numerous times from other peoples perspectives throughout the series, especially the first two seasons.  You can also pinpoint this moment as establishing a  storytelling technique that will dominate televised media for the next 10+ years.

Locke's "mouth orange" trick to Kate early indicator he is a strange person. Although he doesn't end up as strange as he is portrayed early in the show. He comes off as almost a wise mystic in the first couple of episodes but that's not really true. Of course he is supremely blissful about his newly healed legs.

Return of monster sounds in jungle, along with Jack, Kate, and Charlie on a rescue mission set up Jurassic Park like adventure.

(30:13) Still living Seth the pilot is necessary to provide some exposition that other characters would have no way of knowing.  It's still a mystery how the plane could have been blown 1000 miles off course. Even with all the explanations of what happened on the island in the hatch, this still makes no real sense. 1000 miles is still a long, long distance.

Charlie disappears to look for his heroin, although we don't know that yet of course. First of many incidents when someone's actions make no sense at the time, but are explained later.

Poor pilot. Even though we find out later a lot about the smoke monster's motivations and evil nature - although that's debatable - I still don't quite understand its need to kill. Hopefully that will be made more clear in the rewatch. The pilots abduction through the windshield continues to suggest Jurassic Park like monster, as well as the run through the rain soaked jungle.

Jack can't help but be a hero coming back to rescue Charlie.

Kate seems to be a bit of a screamer early on. She is shown to be very tough in subsequent episodes but seems to be pretty needy in the pilot. First visit to our favorite Banyan tree locale. Kate seems to spend a lot of time there in the future. Here Jack's lessons in fear management come in handy to Kate. 

(39:04) Kate says, "We have to go back for him." Foreshadowing of Jack's famous line to Kate three seasons later.

I'll never understand how a Hawaiian jungle can look just like a hike in the Smokies. It's real, they're actually they're in Hawaii. But it's still a little jarring when you're used to Gilligans Island.

Quick focus on the water reflection of the pilots body in the trees above is a great reveal. Pilots dead and bloody body is still really graphic for television. Even in 2004. Even in 2015.

We know that Desmond is below ground in the hatch. Ben, Juliet and The Others in their full post-Dharma village just watched the plane crash and sent Ethan to infiltrate the survivors. Danielle Rousseau watches for strangers and two workers live below the water in the Looking Glass station.   It's odd to think all these other people are all on the island and we have no clue the survivors are not alone.

Next: "Pilot, Pt. 2"

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Cruising on the Carnival Glory


DEC 27th – JAN 3rd (New Year’s sailing)


My wife and I decided to take our fourth cruise with Carnival, this time on the Carnival Glory over New Year’s 2014/2015. The big difference this time being that we were able to take our teenage children along with us: 18-yr-old college freshman son and 15-yr-old high school sophomore daughter.  We actually didn’t tell the kids until Christmas Day.  “Pack your bags, we leave tomorrow!”

Kids open their "cruise" presents, including new flip-flops!

Day 0, Dec 26 (pre-cruise)

We left Knoxville, TN by car at 9am on Friday, December 26th headed to Miami, FL. Our intent was to drive the 9 hours to Orlando, visit some of the public Disney or Universal attractions like Downtown Disney or CityWalk but massive construction traffic south of Atlanta (Walking Dead country) kept our schedule tight. We did make it to our pre-arranged hotel in Orlando but only had time for a quick bite and then to bed, ready to make it the rest of the way tomorrow.

Day 1, Dec 27 (Embarkation)

We made the 3-1/2 hour drive from Orlando to Miami without incident, and parked in the Port of Miami parking garages. There was a lot of back and forth between us on whether to use off-site, cheaper port parking, but due to many negative reviews online we decided to go the safer and more convenient route of parking at the port.

Being accustomed to the process, plus carrying all our luggage and backpacks ourselves made getting on board the ship very easy. We were lucky enough to have received a very low-cost cabin upgrade to a Promenade deck balcony cabin just behind the bridge which was a big bonus.
We have a balcony?  We have a balcony!!
View From the Bridge.  Or View OF the Bridge, rather, from the balcony of our cabin on Deck 8, Forward Starboard (8211)
Our daughter gazes at the water from our balcony, as the wind and setting sun catch her hair in a frenzy.
Beautiful Miami shoreline

Sunset behind us and the trailing Celebrity Reflection

A Sail-away drink!
What have we gotten ourselves into?

After a couple hours relaxing on the deck and enjoying the sail-away from Miami, we had our first early seating dinner in the Platinum Dining Room.  I’ll go ahead at this point and make a few remarks about the main dining room experience.  I was a bit disappointed to have a table for four by ourselves – not that our family doesn’t enjoy eating together (our meals can become legendary for their comedy, music and general silliness) but that a big highlight of our previous cruises was the novelty of having great tablemates from around the country and world to share each evening’s stories with, as well as have familiar faces in the various ports and friends to keep in contact with after the cruise is over.  We would have gladly shared a large table with other couples or families, but were never given that option when choosing our dinner time and location. However, other than that the dinner meals were quite good and there was a nice variety of dishes to satisfy our generally picky family.  Ok, I’m the picky one, but we never wanted for a good meal to end the day. Our waiter and his staff were warm and pleasant (and learned each of our names from the very beginning). The main waiter was from the Philippines and was looking forward to returning there in a few weeks for a visit.  The opportunity to meet and get to know people from all over the world has always been an enjoyable part of our cruises.
Sometimes the dinners on-board ship...

...can get a little raucous!

We visited the Piano Bar briefly, and enjoyed a little sing-a-long with the pianist, but everyone was tired so we moved back to the cabin for the night.

Oh, I almost forgot the bane of every cruiser’s experience: the safety briefing. Mind-numbingly boring typically, although I’ll just say on this trip we got to view the aftereffects of those fine gentlemen who waste no time plunging into the alcohol the moment they come on board.  One in particular made the normally low-key necessary event quite tedious with his raucous and disrespectful attitude toward the well-meaning crew assistants.  My daughter in particular was very tempted to whack the guy on the back of the head after one of his (too him and his buddies only) hilariously inebriated comments, but cooler heads prevailed.  I told her our only consolation was if the ship did go down, we’d be safe in the lifeboats and he’d still plastered to a barstool somewhere, wondering what happened to the bartender and why was it getting so wet?

Day 2, Dec 28 (First Sea Day)

The day began a little rough, as my wife who was battling the trailing edge of a chest cold was affected by the motion of the ship more than usual and needed some down time to adjust.  My daughter, as well, needed some time to get her sea legs so the morning and afternoon was spent by them adjusting while my son and I explored the ship.

I’d like to give a big shout-out to “Guy’s Burger Joint” onboard the Glory – actually one of the best burgers I’ve ever had, especially without all the spicy fixings that were offered as options on the menu. The décor of the corner eatery on the Lido deck was Guy Fieri-California surfer chic, which quite fits the Food Network Star’s persona.  It was a big hit once we all got our stomachs under control, and I looked forward to having another in a few days.

Each Carnival ship has a “theme” that sets it apart from the other ships in the fleet, reflected in the décor, lounge and club names and other aspects of the interior design.  Glory’s was “color” and each of the main areas of the ship had a “colorful” name, such as the Amber Palace Theatre, the Ebony Lounge, Ivory Club, Blue Room (smoking bar), Gold and Platinum Dining Rooms, the White Heat Dance Club, and more.  Many were connected by the “Kaleidoscope Way”, a long promenade below decks that was the main commercial and social thoroughfare of the ship.  Our last cruise on the Carnival Valor had patriotic themes, and I enjoy the way Carnival decides how to differentiate its ships and make each cruise experience unique.

It was interesting cruising with an 18-yr-old – he was old enough to get into any of the 18+ areas or activities, such as the casino or the Adult Comedy shows, but too young to drink and there weren’t too many people his own age on board.  But he’s adaptable and not one who feels lost without constant social activity so he was fine.  In fact, he met up with a couple of young ladies near his age during the course of the trip and enjoyed himself in that regard.

Similarly, cruising with a 15-yr-old girl has its own challenges in making sure she is occupied and finds interesting things to do.  Carnival has a lounge for 15-17 yr-olds but after checking them out a couple of times she declined to participate.  It would be nice for Carnival to spend as much energy providing activities for teens as they do for children, but I suppose you can’t have everything!

Most of the rest of the day was spent relaxing on deck. My wife and I camped out in a hammock on the Serenity (21+) Deck, and enjoyed some hot tub time. I understand the reasoning behind an adults-only sunning area, as it’s nice to have an area with no kids running around screaming, but I think 21 is maybe too old a cut-off. Neither of our kids could enjoy it, but I guess I understand it.

We all attended the evening “Playlist Productions” show in the Amber Palace Theatre, a Motown revue performed by eight talented entertainers.  This evening’s show was enjoyable, but I’ll have more to say about this aspect of the cruise’s entertainment later on.

Gotta love the towel animals....

Day 3, Dec 29 (Second Sea Day)

December in the Caribbean is something new to us, the weather is not quite as hot but the humidity is still evident.  Nevertheless, the 2nd day at sea was hit or miss with the sun and a few squalls came through during the evening hours. Nothing too terrible.

I must say I enjoy the Trivia Contests and always seem to place fairly high in Star Wars Trivia. Yet another solid gold plastic ship-on-a-stick to add to my collection!

It was spa day for my wife and daughter – facials, massages, exfoliations, dishing about guys – whatever women do in the spas.

The evening’s entertainment was “Hasbro, The Game Show” which was decent if a little juvenile.  I was able to get up on stage and participate after answering a trivia question (thank you, Superman and the Daily Planet!) and got to play a Skee-ball type game based on the kid’s game, “Operation.” I won an electronic Simon game!

I have started to wish that Carnival would put their collective heads together and think up some new on-board activities that didn’t involve either, a) trivia, b) drinking and carousing, or c) an interest in self-improvement lectures like acupuncture and yoga. Other than these things and wandering about the ship/laying out on deck, there’s not much to do on a sea day when you’re on a ship that doesn’t have a skydive simulator, interactive video scavenger hunts or water skiing off the back of the ship (my kids’ idea).

Day 4, Dec 30 (Saint Martin)


Five different ships in the Saint Martin Philipsburg port that day.  That's a lot of ship.

Ah, the meat of the trip finally arrives – the ports and excursions!  On the Valor, my wife and I participated in the America’s Cup yacht race when we were in “Sint Maartin” (which is my all-time favorite shore excursion) but this trip we opted to give the kids their first ocean-based snorkeling experience.  There’s truly nothing like sailing through the Philipsburg, SM’s Great Bay in a catamaran on a beautiful Caribbean day that makes you want to move there forever…  After the cruise was over, both kids proclaimed the snorkeling in Little Bay, our first destination that day, to be their favorite part of the cruise.  Unfortunately for me, even though this day happened to also be my birthday, my luck didn’t prevent me from carving several gashes in my lower right leg on some of the rocks while I tried to clean out my diving mask.  Only when I got back to the boat and my wife noticed me about to bleed all over the deck did I notice anything amiss. However, the good folks crewing the catamaran patched me up and I was none the worse.  After snorkeling was finished, they continued on around the southern tip of the island past Cay Bay to Cole Bay for some beach time.

Great Bay of Philipsburg, Saint Martin.  Or is that Little Bay?  Hard to tell.

I'm going to buy one of these someday and live here.  Just you watch me...

....if the rocks and coral don't kill me first.
Man, those planes land....

...and fly really, really close to you.

Beach respite

Vantage point from my resting spot on the catamaran.  Not too shabby for what would have been a workday, huh?

After returning to the marina, we took a water taxi over to Philipsburg proper for a little exploration of the town-front area.  The MAC store was a hit with our 15 year old daughter!  Sadly, time was short and it was time to return to the Glory.   I love wandering Philipsburg and wish we had had more time there.  We were told the noon excursion was about 2-1/2 hours, so we figured we’d have plenty of time afterward before having to head back, but in reality it lasted almost 3-1/2 hours, so the rest was cut short.
Just another colorful day on the island!
Philipsburg Courthouse

Map of the island.  I think I may see some Dharma Stations...

Even Santa likes a nice island break after the holidays.

One thing we noticed during each of our port visits, was that during the months after the time returns to Standard Time in the US, most ports stay on Daylight Savings Time (or the local equivalent). We were never really told to make sure we stayed on “ship time”, the time all excursions were based on. It was consistently different than the actual local time on the islands.  While my son did wear a watch on occasion, cell phones synch to local time and we were never quite sure what the real, true ship time was. When you have a constant fear of stranding your family in a strange island country while sadly waving goodbye as your cruise ship sails away without you, this can be a nagging worry… Luckily we never actually had that problem.

Back on the ship, one of the highlights of the cruise was “Superstar Live,” the live band karaoke in the Ebony Lounge. Both my son and daughter, who are excellent singers, made their parents proud by performing for an extremely appreciative audience.  Karaoke is a cruise ship standard entertainment, and I’m very glad Carnival chooses to use this unique live style of musical performance rather than standard recorded tunes.

Superstar #1

Superstar #2

My son and I stayed for the adult comedy show later that evening at George Lopez’s Punchliner Comedy Club, which was another step in my transition of parent of a kid to parent of a young adult. Not to get too much into personal family dynamics, but he’s been through a lot of changes in his relationship to his mom and me over the past year, and sharing adult humor with him was an interesting step I hadn’t thought to take.  Regardless, the comedian was a self-proclaimed “nerd/rap” comedian named who used numerous pop culture and kid game references in his act.  Being an “adult” act, the language got raw at times but not too bad.  However, as is the case with most comic acts out there, the language often gets in the way of the comedy and prevents a normally great show from being accessible to all ages. That’s a long-standing rant of mine and has nothing to do with Carnival, really, although I suppose from a marketing standpoint, “adult” shows draw bigger, older crowds and sell more drinks than family-friendly shows, so take that as you will.

Day 5, Dec 31 (San Juan, Puerto Rico)

Today there were at least six ships in port, not to mention one that left and another that docked while we were there.  Busy, busy, busy....

This was a day of good intentions gone slightly bad. In 2012 on the Valor, we were in San Juan during early October, which seems to be a fairly low key time of year for visitors. Visiting the old city of San Juan was a breeze, as the free trolleys came along every 5-10 minutes and could whisk you away to wherever you wanted to go.  We thought it might be fun for the kids to show them some of the same sights and save money on a short excursion. However, it wasn’t exactly the same situation this time on New Year’s Eve.  There were six – count’em, six! – other cruise ships in port with us, including the Carnival Sunshine and the Disney Fantasy,  traffic was jammed up all over and people were everywhere.  While the day wasn’t terribly hot, walking the length and breadth of Old San Juan is not for the faint of heart.  After exploring a bit of Fort San Cristobal in the northeast corner, visiting with some sunning iguanas in an old walled area, and trying to walk to the Fort Felipe del Morro and the old cemetery, we did finally catch a free trolley and rode it for a visual tour of the town.  Heavy traffic and New Year’s Eve revelers kept progress slow and we eventually made it to Senor Frog’s near the cruise port.  Senor Frog’s is a Margaritaville-wannabe restaurant that is family-friendly with balloon animals for the kiddies in the front, and loud, drunken frat party in the back.  Guess where we were seated?

Beautiful battlements and other fort relics in Old San Juan

Me, wife and son why daughter takes the photo...

Christmas decorations still up in many locations.

A scaly native suns himself on a battlement.

I kid you not, we overheard someone on a cell phone walk by and tell the other person this was some "chick with a baby and three weird looking guys."

Nonetheless, after a visit with numerous street vendors we returned to the Glory for New Year’s Eve fun.  While the visit to Old San Juan wasn’t a total loss, it was probably the low point of our trip.
Panoramic shot of several of the ships in port together

These poor folks' friend apparently got raptured and they never even noticed...

Life-size bobblehead guy.  Apparently they were all over town that day.  This one kept putting on and taking off his head as he walked. Very disconcerting....

Don't you have a giant seahorse statue in your town?

The city is very colorful.

Backside of the Disney Fantasy, with Dumbo and Timothy.  Ah...someday.

The night’s show in the Amber Theatre was “Divas”, of which the less said, the better.  Again, more on that later.

A few words about the ship band, The Regulators.  As mentioned before, they played for Superstar Live twice during the trip as well as playing numerous times on the Casino stage in a variety of styles and genres.  I thought they were a decent cover band, not too remarkable, although I wasn’t a big fan of the female vocalist.  That evening they started playing for the New Year’s Eve celebration at 8:30 and apparently played straight until almost 11:45 on the Lido Deck stage as more and more passengers poured onto the deck for the coming celebration.  My daughter elected to bypass the festivities and turn in early but my son and wife and I found a spot on deck and enjoyed the excitement.  The poor girl singer’s voice was obviously about shot by that time of the evening and I felt bad for her – as a vocalist and sometimes vocal coach, I hate to see someone pushing themselves too hard.    

One of the trip highlights for me was seeing all the seemingly thousands of passengers crammed on Lido and all the surrounding open areas of the Glory, celebrating, drinking champagne, and toasting as the countdown reached 2015. 

Mr. Towel Froggy is ready for New Year's revelries.

But my son decided to appropriate the glasses for himself.  Ok, actually I did, and I put them on him myself.


Happy New Year 2015!

Watch the Video



Day 6, Jan 1 (Grand Turk)

Another familiar port, Grand Turk in the Turks and Caicos was a lot of fun.  We arranged beforehand to rent a golf cart so the four of us could tool around the island at our leisure.  Being a relatively small island, and having visited there before, we were easily able to navigate and find our way around. Even driving on the left-hand side of the road was much easier in a golf cart!  In fact, I would recommend taking a golf cart rather than a regular tour if you’ve been to the island before, as it truly does have a good bit of charm when you view the historic spots up close and in person rather than from a bus window.

These little fellows were everywhere we went, and seem to roam free around the island.  They were quite tame and friendly.

Waters were several different amazing shades of blue...

Still in the Christmas spirit

We visited the lighthouse on the northern point, the History Museum which was a kick because the lady working there was an ex-pat from the States.  Also the John Glenn Friendship 7 memorial and the Grand Turk Inn were all charming.  The architecture and street design reminded me a lot of some of the Florida Gulf Coastal communities that I’ve visited (accounting for a difference in income levels).

Recreation of John Glenn's Friendship 7 capsule that splashed down just off shore in 1962
The island's History Museum houses a working model of the lighthouse searchlight
Lighthouse at the northern edge of the island.

One of the beaches features this rusting shipwreck hulk. Is it haunted?  Could be!

The Grand Turk cruise port was built specifically by and for Carnival, and includes a giant Margaritaville restaurant that features a pool and swim-up bar as well as large outdoor dining area.  We relaxed, grabbed a couple Cheeseburgers in Paradise and swam in the beach area near the ship before returning onboard.

So close to shore you could just grab it.

The Carnival Sunshine followed us from San Juan, and was parked right across the pier from the Glory. Walking between two hulking cruise ships makes you feel like you’re walking down a street in Manhattan sometimes, but as Glory pulled away before the Sunshine, it was fun watching the large sister ship slip by and their passengers wave at us.
Carnival Glory and Carnival Sunshine, sister ships. No fighting, ladies...

The show in the Amber Palace Theatre that night had an unremarkable theme (we’re almost there! Be patient!) so we decided to visit the Punchliner Comedy Club again, this time for the family show from a Paula Deen-like comedienne whose name escapes me.  She was funny, but some of her material, while not actually lifted from other comedians, was of the “old groaner” type variety.  I mean, I don’t know who first said it – maybe it was her! – but I’ve heard the bit about how “in the South, you can say anything you want about someone as long as you follow it up with, ‘ bless their heart’”.  It’s an overused comedy cliché nowadays, and I’m surprised it’s being used in current material. It’s the modern equivalent of “Take my wife, please” and “A guy walked up to me and said he hadn’t had a belt in days. So I hit him.”  My wife decided to turn in early, and my daughter used her magic daughter powers to talk me into letting her attend the next “Adults Only 18+” comedy show with her brother.  Ah, the things we do for our kids….  That comedian’s language was very blue, but he was really funny and definitely the best of the three we saw that week.  After he was finished, she went back to the room, my son went exploring and I stayed and heard the Paula Deen clone do her adult set.  It was better than her family act, actually, and while her language wasn’t quite as salty the subject matter was definitely more adult.  Overall I would rate the comics I saw onboard the Glory as about a B.

After her act was over, I joined my son at the Seaside Theatre on the Lido Deck to watch the second half of the Ohio State-Alabama playoff game. Being a Tennessee fan first and a fan of the SEC, it nonetheless was great fun watching the Tide get bumped off by the Buckeyes.

Snail Towel animal

Day 7, Jan 2 (Third Sea Day)

This was a day of mostly sunning on the Lido Deck and general relaxation. Not a whole lot remarkable to report on this final full day on the Carnival Glory, although I did get another Guy’s Burger Joint meal.  Here’s a tip, don’t outsmart yourself and get one with all the fixing’s, like BBQ sauce, onion rings and five heads of lettuce worth of shavings.  Go for the basics and let the burger taste shine through with a minimum of toppings.  (I never did figure out what the “donkey sauce” they offered was, and I’m not sure I wanted to).

Very, very, very good middle of the day as we all watched my beloved Tennessee Volunteer football team demolish the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Gator Bowl/Taxslayer Bowl. We watched with a number of other UT fans in the EA Sports Bar, which I hadn’t been in before to that point.  About halfway through the game, a crew girl came in and abruptly changed the big screens to a Sports Trivia game that had been ongoing throughout the week.  We were able to continue watching the game on one of the big screens after asking the bartender to switch one of them back, but it would have been nice if she had come in and at least acknowledged people were watching a game.  But it’s funny, because she was probably the last crew member who should have been hosting Sports Trivia.  Let’s just say she didn’t know how to pronounce “Lasorda” and leave it at that.

Ok, the final Amber Palace show was “Epic Rock” and we all actually enjoyed this one a good deal.  Here’s my gripe about this semi-nightly entertainment venue.  Carnival has installed an amazing, state-of-the-art video projection screen that moves on and off stage, and displays a number of gorgeous backgrounds that support the singers onstage.  The special effects, combined with the lighting, that they were able to create was fantastic.  Unfortunately, the overall vocal talent of the eight singers was really nothing to write home about.  There were four guys and four ladies, two of each had the bulk of the solo works and the other four were mostly back-up.  Maybe it was the sound mix (the instrumental music was often way too hot), maybe it was the song selection – especially in the truly bad “Divas” show, maybe it was the excessive choreography and over-the-top staging, maybe it was a number of other factors, but when I go to see a show, and especially a revue, I want to hear top-notch singing.  Everything else (unless there’s a live band) should be secondary.  But for the three shows we saw, it was more about the spectacle and less about the actual performance.  I want to be fair and give them every chance, and truly the final Epic Rock show was above average, but the others were average or below, and I don’t pay for that kind of entertainment on a cruise ship.

A suggestion to Carnival: use your video projections to create beautiful vistas, stunning backgrounds and effects that supplement the performers, not overshadow them, and make sure you have top-notch arrangers and singers with adequate rehearsal to really make the songs shine.  Ok, off my performer’s soap box!

My son and I revisited the Piano Bar for a while.  I think the performer’s name was Kyle.  The Piano Bar, a staple on board cruise ships, is called the Cinn-a-Bar on the Glory (I supposed cinnamon is a color?).  Kyle was much more upbeat and personable than the pianist on the Valor two years ago - he was a bit of a grouch and it looked like that was the last place in the world he wanted to be…

I took my customary last walk around the deck of the ship, came back to the cabin and packed and went to bed.

One last thing before the end of the day – there were probably about five other cruise ships in the waters around us all day, and at night with lights blazing it was a magnificent sight.


Day 8, Jan 3 (Debarkation Day)

Getting off the Glory in Miami was even easier than getting onboard.  If you can at all carry your own luggage, and don’t have to wait for a transfer to the airport or another type of non-personal transportation, I would highly recommend it.  We got into Miami overnight, and they actually started letting people debark around 7:30.  We got up, had a light breakfast, and blew the multi-colored popsicle stand to return to our car, unscathed, by around 8:30.

The 12-hour drive from Miami to Knoxville – non-stop this time – was marred once again by inexplicable construction traffic slowdowns south of Atlanta and some torrential rain, and we didn’t end up making it back in town until 12:30 am the next morning.  But it was worth it!

Some Final Random Observations and Stuff I Forgot:

· The Cruise Director was a fun guy named Dr. E.  I often wonder how much the Cruise Director really does except to be the entertainment face and voice on the ship, as he was a good singer and even better partier with the guests.  I’d love to see an interview with one of these guys sometime and learn how much they’re actually like Julie from The Love Boat.
· It’s very odd how Carnival can be so efficient with their serving lines and other food services, and yet there’s always a line ten people deep for the 24-hour-a-day pizza and the popcorn at the Seaside Theatre on movie nights.  Here’s a hint: put more than one or two guys making pizzas, or maybe install more ovens so I don’t have to wait 20 minutes for a slice of pepperoni, and fill up the popcorn popper with popcorn before you start serving it out, so people don’t always have to wait in line for each separate batch to pop.  I know, I know, first world problems…
· How fun would it have been to have a live band on New Year’s Eve that was maybe not a headliner, or one that might show up on one of the Carnival Live! cruises, but is still fairly well known.  How about Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra or the Tonight Show band?  Or the Tower of Power horns?  Ok, I’m dreaming, but it’s such a big special occasion it might even sell more cabins for a NYE cruise.
· Can’t say enough about the friendliness of the cabin stewards (who also learned our first names), the waiters and the restaurant staff, and all the folks working hard to keep the ship clean and safe the whole week.  And the day we debark, they get to do it all over again for another week.
· I miss the midnight buffets, and the big end-of-the-cruise dessert buffets with the decorative pastries and ice carvings L  Whatever happened to those?  Also whatever happened to the Bridge Tours?  Maybe I missed it, but I never saw it offered like it used to be…
· The balcony outside the cabin is el primo and was greatly enjoyed at all hours of the day and evening.  It is so choice….if you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.
· One of the movies shown during movie night at the Seaside Theatre was the tearjerker, “The Fault in Our Stars”.  Half the audience was sniffling and sobbing and I decided to leave early because (*SPOILER*) once they guy’s cancer came back and his girlfriend didn’t have much longer to live, I knew it wasn’t going to turn out well.  But was that really a great choice for a happy cruise movie?  *sniff*
· Speaking of happy, I finally learned all about the song, “Happy”, and we determined what everyone knows, that “YMCA” is played w-a-a-a-a-y too much.

Final Thoughts

The dynamic is very different cruising with two kids when you’re used to cruising with just your spouse.  It wasn’t bad at all, and I wouldn’t have changed the experience for anything, but it’s just different.  You have to start thinking what’s best for everyone, and as a dad I feel it’s my responsibility to make sure everyone is happy, well fed, well rested, and all with a minimum of bloodshed (including my own).  Less opportunity for spontaneity, and with two kids who are young adults you aren’t able to just tell them where we’re all going next, you have to have buy-in to keep a respectful attitude.  Again, not bad at all, just different.

Overall, the cruise was a lot of fun and although my wife and I visited all ports we’d been to before everything was new and different in its own way.

Carnival continues to give us pretty much everything we could hope for and at an overall great price.  We’re looking forward to our next trip, whenever that may be.