Friday, January 03, 2020

The Magic Kingdom, Part 2

Previous entries:

Frontierland an anachronism. It really is. Born in Disneyland from the Westerns craze of the 1950's and lingering nostalgia for the old west (some folks had parents and grandparents from Civil War times when Disneyland first opened), most of the theming for Frontierland has outlived American cultural significance. However, the attractions found in Frontierland mostly still survive because of their inherent quality and popularity.

Frontierland's attractions:
  1. Splash Mountain
  2. Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  3. Tom Sawyer Island
  4. Frontierland Shootin' Arcade
  5. Country Bear Jamboree
  6. Walt Disney World Railroad
Frontierland is a land waiting for a huge IP. But I'll get to that...

Splash Mountain continues to defy its taboo film origins, and while more and more people have no connection or memory whatsoever of "Song of the South," this ride's popularity grows and grows. Every so often you hear rumors of Disney bringing Song of the South back out, either in DVD/Blue-Ray release or more recently on Disney+ - but it hasn't happened yet. Even if it does, I don't think it will matter because the characters used in the ride aren't dependent at all on the movie - they can exist as stand-alones that don't rely on audience familiarity to be enjoyable. And it is still enjoyable after all these years. Great music, great animatronics and a memorable thrill flume drop at the end make this a favorite. It does tend to get you wet, depending on your luck and where you sit in the boat, and in cooler weather that can be a hindrance to ride which is a shame. It's a classic attraction that will likely never go away.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is one of the park's two main thrill rides (we'll get to the other in Tomorrowland) and has bounced back from some pretty horrific accidents a number of years ago. In fact, it took me a long time to gather the courage to ride this ride because of those mishaps. But it's worth it - it's a very quintessential Disney roller coaster. Not too fast, not too scary, just thrilling enough for adults to enjoy but kids can ride too and not come off looking like they've just gone 10 rounds with Pistol Pete. The theming is great, and a recent refurb to the queue gives you lots of tasks to occupy your time while you wait (although not all of them are that interesting, honestly). This is a ride that's exquisite after dark, with a lot of strategic lighting and great views of the park. A planned redo to the entire theming was cancelled not long ago - I'll touch on that a little later.

Tom Sawyer Island is also an anachronism to a less-busy time that has somehow survived. I'll be honest to say I've only visited this island once, and that was really just to say I'd ridden the boat over to it. We stayed for a few minutes, saw there was not much to do but wander around, and came back. There are still a number of play areas for kids on the island and occasionally a snack bar is open but it's best for killing time with the kids. There used to be some interactive elements (hidden paintbrushes, when found would win a kid a Fastpass) but the internet gave away all the secrets so they're pretty much gone.

The footprint for the island, combined with the river that surrounds it, is massive and - similar to the Jungle Cruise - is often the subject of talk to fill it all in and put something new in. Personally I feel this would be an amazing location to put something new in, and have no real emotional ties to the island or the water (more on that in Liberty Square).

Frontierland Shootin' Arcade - why is this still here? I have no idea. I guess people enjoy it. It's an irreverent western-themed shooting gallery. You have to pay extra to shoot, you can't win prizes. I've never done it and walk right past. I guess enough people still enjoy it to keep it open, maintained and cast members assigned to it that it at least breaks even and would be more trouble than it's worth to replace such a small area. Enjoy folks, moving on...

Country Bears Jamboree - Sigh. I want to like this, I really do. I've watched it, it's corny. The songs are corny. The jokes are corny. The animatronics on the stage and on the wall are corny. But it was a one and done for me. I know there are still CBJ fans out there that keep this open even though lack of interest closed the version in Disneyland. If you enjoy it, fine, have fun. It's a pretty small performance area that could have something better in it, but honestly - as I said before - culturally what more could you replace it with that's going to resonate any better than it already does? Surprisingly, I haven't heard anything in a long time about this show's long-term status so it seems pretty safe for now.

Walt Disney World Railroad - This station is still closed pending the railroad reopening whenever Tron Coaster allows. See this page for more discussion about the Walt Disney World Railroad.

There's a very popular counter service restaurant, Pecos Bill's Tall Tale Inn & Cafe, that is famous for it's Tex-Mex/Americana food and fixin's bar. At least it used to be. At least, I heard it is. I've never eaten there (hey, I haven't seen everything single thing at WDW yet). But it seems to be a nice place to eat on the far side of the park. The Golden Oak Outpost is also available for quick dining on the path between Adventureland and Frontierland.

The Diamond Horseshoe is a table-service restaurant that's themed to resemble an old-time saloon. I'm sure it's fun, but have also never visited. It sounds like a number of other saloon-themed restaurants I've heard of and visited before (The Crystal Pistol from Six Flags Over Georgia, most notably) and was likely modeled after the famous Golden Horseshoe from Disneyland.

So if this land review seems lacking in personal experience, again the western theming I feel is old and past its prime and simply doesn't appeal to me very much. The individual rides like Big Thunder and Splash Mountain are great, but their ties to a greater theme in the land itself are tenuous at best. If there was ever a land that actually needed an IP to boost its visibility, it's Frontierland. When the Johnny Depp-vehicle The Lone Ranger was getting ready to hit the theatres, Disney was ready and waiting to re-theme Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to it in a big way - but when it crashed and burned, that idea did as well. Ironically, one of the best areas of the park where a new E-Ticket attraction could be built is on top of Tom Sawyer's Island and the Rivers of America surrounding it, but Frontierland is the land that already has 2 thrill rides and doesn't need another one.

Liberty Square

It's possible this neighboring land is the one that could use a thrill ride on that spot, but more on those possibilities later.

It is interesting how theming requires personal interest and resonance in a guest to be fully appreciated. Someone like me totally digs Adventureland, is bored with Frontierland and quite enjoys Liberty Square, and someone else may have completely different reactions to each one. But my thoughts are all I have...

Liberty Square is themed to resemble an American Colonial-era town. From the cobblestone streets to the building architecture, I really enjoy wandering through this land. It is unique to Walt Disney World, and is a reflection of New Orleans Square in Disneyland.

Liberty Square Attractions:
  1. Liberty Square Riverboat
  2. Hall of Presidents
  3. The Haunted Mansion

Liberty Square is a fairly small land in area, and houses a proportionally small number of attractions.

The Liberty Square Riverboat takes passengers on a leisurely ride around Tom Sawyer Island. Occasionally there are characters onboard to interact with passengers. The design of the steamboat really fits as well here as it does pairing up with Frontierland, and I almost wish more could be done with it in that way. Unless Disney decides, as I mentioned above, to do away with Tom Sawyer Island and the Rivers of America to use that space for a new attraction(s), the Riverboat will keep chugging. I wonder sometimes whether it's a river width, depth or length limitation that keeps two boats from using the waterway as they do in Disneyland. Maybe someday another ship will be added - it would be fun to see something truly Colonial in design - Disneyland has the Sailing Ship Columbia that is used in its Fantasmic show. I would love to see a replica of the USS Constitution berthed permanently here.

The Hall of Presidents has a bit of a controversial past in many ways. While being an animatronic showcase with all the past presidents and a very comfortable way to pass time on a hot Orlando day, it has a reputation for being boring and overall uninteresting and there's always stress whenever a new president is added. The addition of Donald Trump was delayed for several months, significantly longer than when other recent presidents were added. I'm going to reserve my actual feelings and just say that overall it's fun to at least watch once. Whether your favorite president is there to speak or not, it never seems to be in danger of going away. I would imagine in today's age, there is a risk that removing Hall of Presidents would be in response to one party's president or another and cause a PR headache. Plus a lack of creative enthusiasm for improving Liberty Square overall shows this people-eater may be around at least as long as the United States lasts.

I'll try and restrain from gushing about The Haunted Mansion. It is my favorite attraction on the entire property, and I can go on forever about why I love it. But I won't at this time. It has undergone about as many changes, updates and improvements over the years as Pirates of the Caribbean. There seem to always be new effects and recently added an extremely creative interactive queue area. The design of the mansion facade is exquisitely Gothic and fits into the Liberty Square motif as "that mansion on the hill".... This attraction will also still be standing when the rest of the world is collapsed rubble, and I'll still be standing in line reciting the lines along with the Ghost Host. Future changes are not rumored at this time, interestingly. Disney seems to have temporarily cooled on its "plussing" binge. It would be fun if they would add a Hatbox Ghost to the Orlando version like they did in Anaheim, but equally fun would be for them to create a totally original new feature ghost to hang out in the attic with Constance Hatchaway. Time will tell...

There are two main restaurants in Liberty Square, each having similar themes. Columbia Harbour House is quick service, and Liberty Inn Tavern is table service. Both have traditional New England and Thanksgiving-style food and both are well-regarded and well-themed.

Until just recently, Liberty Square presented "Great Moments in History With The Muppets" which was a fun, seemingly spontaneous show from the windows of the surrounding buildings. Great Moments supposedly closed, but returned briefly during the recent holidays. I would love to see this show come back, as well as more like it continue in the area. Anyone who has ever visited Colonial Williamsburg knows Revolutionary War-era American has always been embraced by modern audiences and I feel that theme could be expanded throughout the land.

This is not an area that needs a thrill ride, doesn't really need another dark ride. Not counting some more interactive colonial elements, this land is pretty good the way it is.

Next Time: Fantasyland and Tomorrowland

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The Magic Kingdom - Part 1

The Magic Kingdom - Part 1

(Caveat before I begin these posts - I'm not really going to try even a cursory history or overview of each park. If you have never visited or need a refresher, there are many resources out on the web. I'll refer to historical facts or details when necessary but these posts presume a better-than-average knowledge of Walt Disney World and I plan to jump right in.)

Parking, TTC and Entrance

The process of just getting to and into the Magic Kingdom continues to be more complicated than any other park on property, and will likely never change. Construction on areas between the parking lot and the TTC continues forcing a good bit of walking (although this may have cleared up since I was just there). To me, trams should drop you off right in front of the main ticketing area (Animal Kingdom is pretty good at this, as is Dollywood in East Tennessee). You shouldn't begin a day at a park like the Magic Kingdom with a 3-mile hike. But again, this may have changed or be about to change.

There are many, many options once you actually get to the TTC, which can be confusing. You can take a launch to a resort, a monorail to a resort, a monorail to Epcot, a monorail to the Magic Kingdom entrance, or a ferry boat to the Magic Kingdom entrance. Some of these are not marked especially well, especially with the multitude of ticket booths blocking sightlines until you are past them.

(Caveat - are you a "buy my ticket at the front gate" person? If so, why??? I always see lines at the ticket windows and wonder how many of them are paying list price for 1 day at the park for $125/person instead of purchasing online ahead of time and avoiding the hassle.)

Once you have picked your method of transportation, depending on the crowds, it's not difficult to actually get to the Magic Kingdom entrance. It can just be time-consuming. The ferry boat ride can take up to 10-15 minutes once you finally board, and the monorail is about 5 minutes from the TTC to the entrance. I love the monorail and we almost take it, just for convenience.

Since this configuration has existed since the park opened in 1971, and due to the existence of the Seven Seas Lagoon, this arrangement will doubtfully ever go away. It's just going to always be a fact of life that getting in the front gates of the Magic Kingdom is a multi-step process. It's always possible one day they put in "back gate" or entrance via hotel similar to the upcoming Star Wars hotel at DHS, but that would be many years in the future.

Once you reach the park entrance, it's an easy (though sometimes long) trip through bag check and through the "turnstiles" (yes, it's an outdated term in these days of MagicBands, but the term sticks). Whenever possible, consider not bringing a bag if you don't absolutely need it - it makes the entrance process that much easier.

Once you're in, you're in. Pick a direction under the train tracks and it's on to...

Town Square and Main Street, USA

In all the times I've visited, I've never had any issues with traffic, layout, or anything related to Town Square or Main Street, USA. Lots of shopping, lots of early food options are available. Two big character Meet-n-Greets are at the very front - Mickey Mouse and Tinkerbell that usually have long waits. We've never done them, I don't know anything about them, really. I know Meet-n-Greets are usually big people-eaters. I've never quite seen the large appeal, but that's just our family. We're ready to move on to bigger and better things.

For a hot second, Disney had planned and announced to build a new performance venue behind some of the buildings on Main Street. It would have housed some kind of show similar to Aladdin at the Carthay Theatre in California Adventure, except likely featuring Mickey and his pals. During a post-D23 round of budget cuts, this theatre idea was quickly cut. It may resurface at a later date, but I wouldn't hold my breath. The idea of another huge people-eater on Main Street would have been very different and interesting, but I can't imagine the crowd problems it would create when a show was over and people were released back onto the street. We may never know.

Thank goodness the Citizens of Main Street, the Dapper Dans, the Casey's Corner piano player, the Omnibus, the horse-drawn carriage and all the little tasty morsels of period authenticity remain after all these years - for now. As Disney continues to cut back on its live entertainment offerings in the parks, any or all of these offering's days may be numbered. There are no rumors that I've heard, but I can't imagine someone somewhere hasn't thought about it. The online backlash would be massive, so count on them being there for the next while at least.

While there are no real attractions, per se, the closest thing is the main Walt Disney World Railroad station. There are two more in other areas of the park (Frontierland and Fantasyland) but it has been closed for a good while during Tron Coaster construction. The train is always a fun, relaxing way to enjoy a nice view of the entire park. There are some scenes you don't see anywhere else, plus you actually get an overhead view of the showboat scene inside Splash Mountain. It's a bit of a pleasant surprise if you've never been on it before. It eats some time to ride around the entire perimeter of the park but worth the time. As Magic Kingdom continues to expand, the train route may continue to be disrupted, so don't count on it being an always-open option in the future.

One of the most memorable moments ever at the Magic Kingdom was this last trip - my family of four sitting on a park bench next to the Christmas Tree that decorates the middle of Town Square, on a mid-afternoon in December, munching on ice cream, watching all of the world go by. There's something amazingly charming and relaxing about taking the time to enjoy this area of any Magic Kingdom-type park in the world. Always make a plan to stop and smell the cobblestones...

The Hub and Cinderella's Castle

Not much to say about these areas, as they were refurbed in the last few years to add a lot more green space and fireworks-watching areas, plus the castle walls themselves were expanded somewhat in either direction mainly to frame New Fantasyland and to provide new projection mapping sources.

The Partners statue remains the same as it always has been, although it may seem to be a little more difficult to get to on any given day. It seems foot traffic may have "centered" a bit with this new design, rather than pushed directly to the right or left upon exiting Main Street. You can still get there, it's just a bit more congested right in the center on a typical day.

I'll admit I haven't visited the interior of the castle lately and have never been to the Cinderella's Royal Table character meal. None of this is likely to change in the near future. The Royal Table continues to be an extremely popular, if pricey, character meal option.

There are two other restaurants around the perimeter of The Hub, connected to Main Street: The Plaza and the Crystal Palace. They're always busy, but with different vibes and price points.

Let's go left, like my family always does...


Adventureland has five main attractions:
  1. Swiss Family Treehouse
  2. Jungle Cruise
  3. Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room
  4. The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  5. Pirates of the Caribbean
I love the number of options in this land, which is my favorite land in the park. Two all-ages movement rides, one walk-through exhibit, one show and one kids' ride. Nothing terribly thrilling - that comes a little later.

Swiss Family Treehouse - its counterpart in California got changed over to a Tarzan overlay several years ago, but this version just continues to chug along. It has a decent-sized footprint, but I'm not sure the location would support something any better than what it is. I enjoy the occasional journey into Disney past, and appreciate holding on to a live-action title that is more than 10 years old. Other than some of the animated films, it's the oldest IP in all of Walt Disney World. It does get rumored to be on the chopping block every few years, but that's usually because no one can believe it's survived this long. It usually supports a fairly steady stream of the curious, and it does have some fantastic fireworks views from the top branches if you can time it correctly.

Jungle Cruise - This is a greatly loved ride, maybe the 3rd or fourth most loved in the whole park, although it also is discussed to be removed and replaced on occasion. Mainly on account of its massive footprint, but with the new movie coming out next year starring The Rock and Emily Blunt, even if it tanks this ride will be here for many years to come. Every Christmas it gets a "Jingle Cruise" overlay which is also quite popular. The jokes and the skippers continue to stay fresh (if inherently stale) and there are rarely any major technical issues. 

Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room - After the fire that apparently took out Iago a few years ago, the "Under New Management" version was reverted back to the original. Personally, I'm in the minority that preferred the one with Zazu and Iago animatronics riffing off the old birds and the little bit of danger from Polynesia, who's "gonna squeeze ya!" But the classic version is here, and it's the one Walt approved for Disneyland, so I'm not going to argue much. I think the music is really dated and do wish they would update a little to have some difference from the Disneyland version but after the backlash from "Under New Management" this will likely stay as it is for some time to come. I also miss the "agent" birds from the preshow queue (voiced by Don Rickles and Phil Hartman, both now deceased), now there really isn't much at all to entertain people while they wait.

Flying Carpets of Aladdin - A standard spinner which admittedly I've never ridden. Careful of the camels - they spit (literally)! The theming is nice and it's always good to have a kid's ride in a land. It's out in the middle of the walkway so there's nothing you could really replace it with except - another spinner.

Pirates of the Caribbean - This ride has changed more than almost any other in the park over the years, due to two main reasons: political correctness sensibilities and the Johnny Depp movie franchise. Every other year, almost, you hear of another overhaul of some kind. Women now chase the pirates. The female auction has been toned down, the fabled redhead is now a pirate, and they're all selling....chickens. Swimming mermaids have come and gone (which I completely missed in that 2009-2015 gap). Barbossa and Jack Sparrow are part of the ride, and Davy Jones was here for another hot second before he too went away. This is maybe the most popular ride in the park so it will still be standing even when the rest of Magic Kingdom as fallen to dust. It eats a ton of people and moves them through quickly so there's rarely a major line. There are two separate queues - one moves you through a dungeon area where you see the famous skeleton chess game, the other moves you through an armory. I'm not sure what warrants which side they open at any particular time, or when they open both. Interestingly, the Shanghai version of Pirates is based solely on the movie series and not this classic attraction, and has some amazing projection effects. It's doubtful any of those components would ever be force-fit into this version, nor would they likely build a clone here in the states so if you want to see that one you'll have to visit China. One great thing that is done at Halloween the last couple of years is to add live actors into the queue and into the actual ride. A "prisoner" talked to guests and handed out treats to kids, and several "pirates" waved and chatted with guests as they rode through the town. I would love to see this continue all the time, but especially as a bonus as Halloween.

I don't want to leave without mentioning some food options. Mainly two things: 

The Skipper's Canteen - a relatively new, sit-down restaurant that is supposedly run by skippers from the Jungle Cruise. It's menu is...eclectic and while the decor and atmosphere are very engaging, word of the menu items not having a lot of kid appeal (and picky eaters like myself) have kept this location from really gaining a foothold in the entire park "pantheon" of dining options. I don't think it's in danger of closing, but continued under-performance - even after several menu revamps - and a less-than-stellar box office of the movie might spell danger for this interesting venue.

Aloha Isle and Sunshine Tree Terrace - Dole Whips and related desserts. Heaven in a cup, and the greatest snack in a 500-mile radius. That's all I have to say about that.

Adventureland, in my opinion, is the most complete and well-rounded area of the Magic Kingdom. The other lands have their own positives and negatives, but this area seems to have it all.

Future Suggestions: I know nothing about land and what's possible to build things on, but the area to the immediate west of the pathway connecting Adventureland and Frontierland has been rumored to be the possible future site of an Adventure-themed hotel. There seems to be a lot of space for it (once again the train track route would need to be adjusted). I think it would be a welcome addition to the Magic Kingdom set of hotels, although I'm sure it would be Deluxe like the others.

I think there is the perfect mix of attractions for an old-school Adventureland. Because the time periods and settings of all the attractions are so far apart it's difficult to try and shoehorn in some kind of connecting theme, although I would love-love-LOVE to see a much bigger presence of the "Disney Society for Explorers and Adventurers" throughout Adventureland and beyond (Google it if you want to know more). It's such a clever idea that riffs off the old Adventurer's Club and has expanded to include fictional explorers that touch on many attractions throughout all the Disney parks around the world. A true thrill ride like the Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye ride at Disneyland would be fun to include, but it's not really needed and there's plenty to keep one entertained and occupied in this land.

Next time: Frontierland and Liberty Square

Walt Disney World - State of the World 2020

Walt Disney World - State of the World 2020

In this series of posts, I will examine each of the four major theme parks in the Walt Disney World family, and give you my assessment of:

1) Where they have been
2) Where they are
3) Where they are going

Keep in mind these are my thoughts, reflections, analyses, wishes and prognostications only. Everyone else's likes and dislikes about Walt Disney World are different than everybody else's. This is mainly a way to organize my own thoughts, look back on my own experience in the parks and with Walt and the Disney company, and offer some little bit of insight and opinion on what I feel works and what doesn't. And to invite _respectful_ and positive conversation.

My background

I have visited at least one park in Walt Disney World on a total of twelve separate occasions/trips:
  1. 1988 - Fall
  2. 1990 - Mid-summer #1
  3. 1990 - Mid-summer #2
  4. 2000 - Fall
  5. 2004 - Fall
  6. 2007 - Fall
  7. 2009 - Spring
  8. 2015 - Late Summer
  9. 2015 - Christmas
  10. 2018 - Fall
  11. 2019 - Halloween
  12. 2019 - Christmas
In 2019 we become Annual Passholders, and plan to visit at least once more before our Pass runs out in late September 2020.

I also visited Disneyland Paris in Christmas 2010 and Disneyland/California Adventure in Summer 2017.

While this may seem like a relatively small number of times to visit the parks to offer this type of analysis, I have adopted WDW as somewhat of a hobby and followed news and discussion of the resort very closely for almost the last 10 years or so. I feel like I have enough insight into the history and workings of the parks to offer what I hope is an interesting and engaging analysis.

My philosophy

I'm not a pixie duster, nor am I someone who only exists to criticize. I love Disney, I love theme parks and I love theatrical-type entertainment. I love immersive experiences, and I love the occasional adrenaline rush. I love movies, I love TV and I love storytelling of all kinds. I expect excellence and hope for the best out of everyone and everything, but I am not so naive as to believe all my Disney dreams will be fulfilled and also not so cynical as to believe it's all only about the money. The Walt Disney Company is filled with dreamers and executives, Imagineers and bean counters, cast members who love their jobs and cast members who are only there to grab a paycheck. It takes all kinds to run the world and it takes all kinds to run a resort. The one commonality I do firmly believe in is that everyone is trying to do (pretty much) the best they can within the parameters they feel are important and expected of them. So I give everyone a lot of benefit of doubt when it comes to certain things like planning, building, implentation, running, operating, hosting, decorating, cleaning, serving and paying. We're all trying to make our way in the world, support ourselves, support our families and maybe make a little magic for someone. When everyone's interests coincide - bonus! It happens more often than not at a Disney park. But it doesn't always happen the way we want it to, and we (as fans on the outside) don't know 10% of the reality in some cases. So while it's nice and convenient to be able to sit from my easy position and either praise or criticize, it's with as much acknowledement as possible of the work that thousands of people are doing every day, in their own way, for a large multi-national corporate conglomerate. Walt's spirit may live in the parks, but he's been gone for 53 years and we all have our own interpretations of how he did things and what he would have wanted. So I will endeavour to by fair, honest and helpful in all that I say.

These individual park posts may run a bit long, and I may break them into multiple posts per park - I don't know, I haven't written them yet :) But please bear with me as you read, and please feel free to offer comments, suggestions or criticisms as we go. Just keep it civil and helpful.

I'm also not certain how long it will take me to write all four park analyses, so they will likely be published at an undefined schedule over the next couple of days. 

I'll edit this page and link to individual park posts as we move along, for later convenience.

1) Magic Kingdom (Part 1)

As Peter Pan said, here we go!!

Monday, October 16, 2017

How much could you theoretically win on Jeopardy?

There was a recent puzzle question that asked what was the maximum amount of money a contestant could win in a single game of Jeopardy!  This presumes one single contestant rang in first on every single question and answered each one correctly. I will attempt to answer that question here, using my amazing powers of ciphering.

Caveat: I have never seen a Daily Double (1 in the first round, 2 in the second) come up on the topmost question ($200 for first round, $400 for second) but I am not aware if there is an actual rule for it. I'm going to assume for the sake of argument there is no rule, and it's possible a Daily Double could appear in a top level question for both rounds.

Here we go:


Six categories, each containing five questions. The questions are worth:


I can calculate clearing a single category would award the player:


Setting one category aside that contains the Daily Double, answering five categories correctly would net the player:

$3000 x 5 = $15,000

Assuming the Daily Double in the sixth category is under the $200 answer, answering the other four questions would bring the total to:

$15,000 + $400 + $600 + $800 + $1000 = $17,800.

When the player chooses the last answer, the Daily Double, they will not receive the $200 but instead have the option to make it a true Daily Double and double their money. Which, of course, they will do.

$17,800 x 2 = $35,600.

Thus they will end Round One with a comfortable lead of $35,600. Let's set that sum aside for a moment.

ROUND TWO (Double Jeopardy!)

Dollar values are doubled in this round, so the questions are now worth:


Clearing a single category would earn the player:


Setting two categories aside that contain the two Daily Doubles, answering four categories correctly would net the player:

$6,000 x 4 = $24,000

Assuming the two Daily Doubles in the sixth category are under the two remaining $400 answers, answering the other four questions in the two remaining categories would bring the total to:

$24,000 + $800 + $1200 + $1600 + $2000 + $800 + $1200 + $1600 + $2000 = $35,200

At this point I will re-add the winnings from Round One to their Round Two total:

$35,600 + $35,200 = $70,800

When the player chooses the first Daily Double under the first $400 answer they will again make it a true Daily Double and double their money. Doubling their money with the first Daily Double would net them:

$70,800 x 2 = $141,600

Choosing the second Daily Double would double their money once again:

$141,600 x 2 = $283,200

They will end Double Jeopardy!


This is a simple doubling of their previous total:

$283,200 x 2 = $566,400

So, theoretically, a contestant that buzzes in on every answer first, answers them correctly, saves the Daily Doubles for the very last answer(s) and makes each a true Daily Double, then doubles their bet in Final Jeopardy would win that contestant in one day:


Tuesday, August 09, 2016

It's All About Me

This post is starting as a political rant, but really is a personal reflection. Bear with me, I'll get there.

I think I've discovered what Donald Trump actually wants to be. He doesn't want to be President. He doesn't really want to be a real estate magnate, or business tycoon, or thought leader. 

He wants to be a stand-up comedian. He wants to be Jerry Seinfeld, or Rodney Dangerfield. He wants to have people adore him, laugh at his jokes, think he's the funniest guy in the world.

When I hear Trump make those little aside jokes at his rallies - like today's 2nd Amendment riff - he doesnt actually mean them in the sense he's advocating gun owners shoot Hillary Clinton or any Supreme Court Judges she may appoint. He's not even really saying them as some kind of political insult or dig at his opponent. He says it, and many other things like it, because he enjoys the laugh he gets from the audience. His loyal, rabid, vapid supporters at his rallies. It's happened many times before -  the bit with the baby the other day, the crowd ate up his snide comments about letting the baby stay, then getting rid of it. And when you're someone who craves attention, acceptance and affirmation like Trump does, you keep doing it no matter what. You can't help yourself.

In not the first bully comparison, Trump acts like the young punk in school who had all the girls and all the sycophantic friends, who made a crude joke at someone's expense that all his cronies just laughed themselves silly. You can almost see his elbows flail as he cracks wise, desperately searching for some flunky nearby to poke in the ribs, "Amiright? Amiright?" He gets off on the attention, it feeds his desperately needy ego, and I think all things being equal if he could just continue to lead rallies day after day for the rest of his life and forget about all the rest, he'd do so. Once he's in the Oval Office, who's going to stand around and give him the multitudes of snide guffaws - the Secret Service? The Whiite House Press Corps? The roses in the Rose Garden? Trump needs his followers like Gaston needs his LeFew, someone to sing his praises endlessly.

Ok, political rant is over. I said that, to say this...

I kinda identify with that. Well, not that precisely. I don't stand around making crude, politically incorrect jokes about my enemies to the delight of my mulltitudenous hangers-on.  But I certainly do recognize and appreciate the need to be appreciated, adored, to be shown the things you do and say are specifically pleasing to others.

For years, I've considered myself to be a student of comedy and its construction. I consider myself to have a good sense of humor, and I'm not afraid to crack a joke from time to time. Especially at strategic moments in time when they will bring the most positive reactions. It's extremely attractive and can be addicting to a degree, the feeling that gets when a room erupts in laughter at a carefullly-chosen and timed remark you have made. It's instant feedback to affirm your cleverness, your insight, your wit and wisdom. I think all of us need that from time to time, and I find myself needing it more often than not.

Oh, I enjoy making the jokes for their own sakes - to lighten a mood, to make a commentary on a situation that needs a less serious tone, to bring humor to a serious situation. These are all good reasons to bring out a good zinger every once in a while. But it has become somewhat part of my reputation, and a reflection of my character. Good or bad, it's there on the surface but with possibly a surprising source within.

For years, I've tried to assert my creative side, in many ways. I perform onstage as a singer and as an actor, with limited successes. I don't necessary fail, but my efforts rarely are met with singular acclaim. Nobody is waiting outside the dressing rooms to specifically give me high marks on my performance. I' there, I do the job, I leave. Again, enjoyable for its own sake but rarely elicits an emotional feedback other than basic appreciation.

I've achieved what might be my most notable creative success in musical directing, at least due to the feedback I get from my musicians and others that I am actually doing a good job and making a difference in a production. Music Directors don't get a lot of acclaim by nature of the job and that's fine. When your peers recognize your worth, that's pretty much the highest acclaim you can find.

Directors themselves can be high profile, especially in the big leagues of Broadway and film, rarely so down in the trenches of community theatre. Other than grateful parents and appreciative kids, there's not a lot of opportunities for the kind of positive feedback somebody might desire, or need. 

Especially when you're in a life situation now where there are no more opportunities for any of those things. None. My work life requires me to be in Nashville 4 days a week, and home in Knoxville for 3. Which as all theatrical veterans know most all productions at least at some point in the rehearsal and production process require someone to be there for weeks at a time. Therefore, I haven't done a show in almost three years. And as my creative outlets have dried up, so have any real opportunities for true feedback and appreciation of talent.

I have tried my hand at writing, something I find frustrating because of the process. I have great ideas for stories, but don't have the discipline to actually put hand to keyboard and write it out. This blog post will likely be one of the longest things I've been able to keep interest in and write for a long time. I've started two short plays and one longer play. Sometimes I will write here and there, sometimes I'll even show off examples off my writing to friends and colleagues. Very little feedback or constructive criticism, so not only is there no opportunity to grow and improve my skills, there's little to no impetus to continue at all. There's no reason to believe that what I'm doing is good at all. So why continue?

I remember early on in the blogging craze, a blogger friend of mine responded to a similar lament I had about nobody reading my blog. They said they write for themselves and not for others. To them, what others thought about their posts - and indeed, whether anyone really read them at all - was irrelevant. What was important was that they wrote for themselves, that blogging was not only a creative expression but a personal one. That in writing out their feelings and thoughts, they were addressing a particular need of their own. The response or feedback or engagement from others was distantly secondary. And they were perfectly content with the process.

I've often thought about that, and how easy and therapeutic it must be to not have the burden of acceptance hanging over your head. To be able to write what you want, sing what you want, say what you want and not worry about being judged for it. But I can't find it in myself to get to that point. I'm not secure enough in my abilities and my own thoughts to put them out there just for the sake of making a statement about myself. If I don't have feedback, if there is no interaction, then the effort is pointless. I need that actualization that comes from the acceptance, the approval -  the distinct, deliberate approval and appreciation of others stemming directly from something I've created, to make a difference in my personal sense of worth and meaning.

Not to get too meta here, but even this specific blog entry I'm writing. As I sit here typing these words, I haven't yet decided whether to actually post it. If I do, maybe I'll get feedback and supportive words from my friends. Maybe nobody will bother to read it. If I don't post it and nobody ever reads it, does it exist? Does it have merit or worth if nobody but me ever actually sees it? Just because I wrote it, does anything I have to say mean anything without an audience to read it? How can I be certain that anything I say or do has any worth to it at all without a reflection on someone else? I can't be trusted to judge my own work -  do we grade our own tests? A+++ for Barry on the Calculus final! All 5's on the vocal juries! 100 points to Griffyndor! No, I don't think it can.

Therefore, for one brief agonizing moment I can empathize and be jealous of Donald Trump. He has found his platform where he can say almost anything and be loved for it. As sick as his words are, and as lost as his followers are, he at least has found his self-actualization. 

As for me, I'll take these words and stuff them in a can someplace where the only one that can see them will be me. Maybe I'll let them out to play sometime. Maybe not. You be the judge.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Good, the Bad, and the Not-So-Sure of "Star Trek: Beyond"

It's' the thirteenth movie in the Star Trek franchise, and the third in the so-called "Abrams-verse." Of course, JJ Abrams has long since moved on to bigger, more lucrative franchises, but this time around Justin Lim has taken the helm. Known for various "Fast and Furious" films, many were nervous the latest Trek film would be nothing but an action-adventure explosion-fest from beginning to end. Explosions abound, but let's leave the judgement to the end.

Obviously, spoilers abound. You have been warned.


1) The character portrayals (well, most of them) - Karl Urban and Anton Yelchin (RIP) continue to own their characters of McCoy and Chekov. The plot contrivance of splitting the bridge crew into various subgroups on the planet was well-conceived, as was each group slowly finding each other. It gave most every co-star moments to shine.

Chris Pine is growing on me as James T. Kirk, but there's still something about his physical build and the way he holds himself that just doesn't project a Shatner-esque confidence. His character has grown quite a bit since "Star Trek" (2009), in that he does now truly inspire the confidence and loyalty of his crew - all of them, not just the ones on the bridge. This Kirk is entering a career crisis that we know affected the original Kirk at the end of the original 5-year mission, so continuity holds there. I thought the resolution of his crisis and its references to his father were perhaps resolved a little too neatly (while setting up the next movie) but at least the arc was there.

Simon Pegg continues to improve his take on Scotty - he's taken it farther from the original James Doohan version, but I like this one just about as well. Oh, and Keenser was used minimally in this one, which is always a big plus. And he got himself a mini-me!

2) The Call-Backs - Multiple references to past incarnations of Trek abounded in this one, but thankfully weren't as obvious as random tribbles or old girlfriends. I had no clue of the inclusion of "Star Trek: Enterprise"-era ships, uniforms and bridge sets, which were a delight to watch. I kept wondering why they didn't just go ahead and make the Franklin be Archer's original Enterprise until the reveal at the end as to what happened to its captain. There was a MACO reference as well, which was cool. I noticed a few line callbacks, including "to absent friends" and "scotch was inwented by a little old lady from Russia" to the reappearance of an Enterprise NCC-1701-A. The death of Ambassador Spock was necessary and worked into younger Spock's plot line, so that was good, and the family photo at the end tied things back to the original cast neatly. Did anybody else expect younger Spock to find Ambassador Spock's ICIC pin, or maybe the Vulcan lyre in amongst his effects?

3) An Episode of Trek - there's been controversy with each of the movies that have been released, that they just don't feel like an episode of Star Trek. This one, maybe more than any other movie since possibly The Final Frontier, felt like an expanded episode of one of the series. That's a good thing. I'm not sure the actual plot held up as big-screen worthy, but we'll get to that. I enjoyed that the action was basically contained to one planet and one star base, and didn't span the entire galaxy.

4) The Action - to go along with the criticism of their not being enough episode-type structure to a Star Trek movie, there was also a lot of fear that with Justin Lim directing the movie there would be way too much reliance on straight-up action and violence. The movie did have that, but it was Star Trek action. I wasn't a fan of the kickboxing type fight at the end, but there was a good balance between combat and the rest of the movie.


1) Spock - Let me be clear up front: I didn't think Spock's character was portrayed badly, nor do I think he was written poorly. I did notice a difference in watching Spock this time around, that now I'm much more familiar with Zachary Quinto from his other acting jobs (such as American Horror Story) so I found myself thinking more and more, "hey, there's Zachary Quinto" playing Spock, instead of "hey, there's that new guy playing Spock." While I certainly wouldn't begrudge an actor keeping him or herself busy between Trek movies professionally, the more they make themselves visible in other roles the easier it is for me to be drawn out of the story during their first couple of appearances in the film. 

I did find it an odd choice to give Spock an injury so early in the story and continue to make it a hindrance to him for most of the rest of the movie. Watching a well man carry an injured man in a hostile environment is not a new plot point, but unless there's a good reason for it - to level a playing field, to deliberately slow a character from reaching a goal, etc - it just seems to slow down the storyline while we wait for the grunting and grimacing to finish. I do understand Spock and McCoy did have to have some character moments between them that might've been more difficult if they'd been constantly mobile, but I thought it was too much.

Spock is also feeling a pull to leave the Enterprise, in this case to help his people and, in McCoy's words, "make Vulcan babies." As the movie progresses he comes to realize his place is on the ship and at Kirk's side. Since the loss of Vulcan is obviously a character trait unique to younger Spock's history, his Starfleet decisions are much different. But the solution - fighting beside his shipmates, working closely with Kirk, the death of Ambassador Spock and a family portrait - seem to not really require him to come to the turnaround naturally. Spock has a crisis, events happen, crisis is resolved. Seemed a little empty and unearned.

I think Spock's character was underserved in this movie, and the evolution of his relationship with Uhura will be discussed later.

2) The Music - I don't have a problem with the score itself, I just realize I'm quite over Michael Giacchino's new, droning main Trek theme. We heard the traditional fanfare a couple of times (although it's never enough) but I finally realize what the new-ish theme reminds me of: militaristic sci-if movies like "Starship Troopers." Yes, I know James Horner's "Star Trek II" score also had a militaristic bent, but it was Star Trek II. 'Nuff said.

3) The Villain - Idris Elba is a fine actor - I look forward to seeing him in Stephen King's Dark Tower movies. I enjoyed his desperation at the end of this movie, once he's back in a Starfleet Uniform and you can actually see his face. But for the other 4/5 of the film, he's so covered in alien make-up, his lines are just run-of-the-mill Trek villain, his motivations are completely unclear, I actually had him in the running for worst Trek villain of all time. Thankfully, somewhere out there Eric Bana breathes a sigh of relief at not having to give up the crown. We're 0-3 (0-5 if you go back through "Star Trek: Insurrection") since we've had a memorable, worthwhile Trek movie villain. For some reason, the producers of Trek keep trying to find another Khan (even, strangely enough, finding another Khan) to stand toe-to-toe with Kirk or Picard or Kirk but keep falling short. I think that reason is worth more in-depth study, but to have not even a hint at a villain's true motivations for doing evil until the very end of the movie makes for a very uninteresting, cardboard adversary.

Did Kraal's bio-tech weapon seem an awful lot like Shinzon's thelaron radiation from "Star Trek: Nemesis"? Combined with his similarity to Shinzon's and Nero made for a bland, recycled villain.


1) Sulu and Uhura - This time both characters seemed to be defined mostly by their relationships: Uhura with Spock, and Sulu with his Significant Other. Uhura did figure out the frequency broadcast trick at the end but mainly served as a catalyst for advancing Spock's particular character arc. Sulu has the least to do, but we saw him in domestic bliss. While I think the relationships between all the characters was this movie's biggest strength and Zoe Saldana and John Cho continue to do a good job, not finding enough for these two to do didn't help their characters much.

One small thing about Uhura - it must be an established fact of this new timeline that this Uhura is very much unlike Nichelle Nichols' Uhura. While Simon Pegg's Scotty has evolved in a slightly different yet familiar direction, Zaldana's Uhura seems to have significant personality differences that Nichols'. It's not a bad thing, necessarily, just notable.

2) The Plot - Um....what? 

Why did Kraal hate the Federation so much he was prepared to commit genocide - supposedly they took him away from being a soldier, made him a captain, then when he got lost they didn't come find him? Really? Someone goes from crashing their ship in a nebula planet to genocidal maniac because of a vendetta against the alliance that gave him a ship in the first place and then for what ever reason, couldn't find him? This rationale requires Kraal to really have a low threshold for vengeance motivation. I think I saw that once before following the destruction of Romulus in the future...

Where did Kirk get the alien artifact he was offering to the little aliens at the beginning of the movie? Where did those other aliens get it? How did it happen to be the one piece of technology needed by the villain in the area that happens to have just set up the trap for Kirk? Where did this technology come from? Who built it?

Why did the soul-sucker technology change Kraal's appearance to look like a Jem'Haddar? Why did he transform back to human-ish at the end? Who were his henchmen - other crewmen from the Franklin? How did his mind and body become twisted in the first place? (Please, don't tell me, "Read the supplemental comic book series." 

Where did Jaylah come from? For what reason did Kraal capture her and her family, as well as all the other aliens on the planet? Why did Kraal decide to put this extremely complicated plan into motion? If he could use the alien tech to tap into Yorktown Station's database, why didn't he use it earlier on to get rescued?

Lots of plot holes that, admittedly, may make more sense on subsequent viewings. But not addressing some of these points during the movie tended to make the inner motivations of the adversaries muddy and unrealistic.

3) Jaylah - Not sure what to say about Jaylah. The purist in me wants more info on her species, but I know that's not relevant to the story. Overall I liked her, and hope we see more of her - she had a Ro Laren/Kira Nerys quality to her.  I also liked her "conquering personal fear" character arc, although I think the resolution wasn't really acknowledged. There was a specific bit with her and Kirk in the middle of the movie regarding her being afraid to return to Kraal's base. She does conquer her fear, but that feat doesn't seem to be acknowledged specifically by the movie or the characters. 

4) Carol Marcus - I thought "Star Trek: Into Darkness" made a big deal about Dr. Marcus joining the crew. Where was she? Maybe she was at home on maternity leave... Odd there was no mention of her.

5) Another Lost Enterprise - When I saw in the previews that it appeared the Enterprise was getting the stuffing kicked out of it, I was dismayed. But I have so little visceral attachment to this version of the Big E (as opposed to TOS, movies, TNG or even "Enterprise"'s Enterprise I really didn't care if this one survived or not. We all knew they'd get a Version A, a la the end of Trek IV, so the stakes really weren't there. Still wish the Franklin was actually Archer's Enterprise after all. Ok, let it go, let it go...

Overall I enjoyed the movie about as much as I enjoyed "Star Trek: Into Darkness," which was better than the 2009 "Star Trek." They're moving in the right direction, just taking their own time to get there. Another viewing might clear up some of my problems, so take them all with a grain of triticale.

Look for a full discussion with Mike on the All Good Things Star Trek Podcast next week -, @agtpod on Twitter.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Top 5 Burning Questions coming out of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Last night most of the civilized world saw the premiere of Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens.  Rather than do a review, I would like to pose my list of my Top 5 Burning Questions that were left after the end of the movie.

Obviously, massive *** SPOILERS ***

1) Who is Rey, and where does she come from?  To me, it seemed during the movie she would be revealed to be either Han and Leia's daughter, or Luke's daughter.  I think the chances of her being Han and Leia's are pretty slim now, but there's still the possibility of Luke.  From the intense Force-flashbacks she had after touching the lightsaber, to her quick-learned fighting ability, this would seem to be a logical possibility.  But daughter by whom?  Or is she a completely independent person who happens to be Force-sensitive, and will likely be part of Luke's new Jedi order.

But the other half to this question is why was she on Jakku?  She apparently was either stolen or left there at a young age, with a promise that someone would be back for her.  Who was it?  And why was that promise or mission so strong she felt so compelled to return there time and time again?  What is her purpose in the greater story?

2) What happened to Kylo Ren to turn him to the Dark Side?  All we really know is he was Han and Leia's son, Luke tried to train him, he turned to the Dark Side and Luke ran away.  There's a huge untold story there, and I'm not sure how much we'll be told in detail (at least within the framework of the actual trilogy).  He seemed very young to have risen to such a position in the First Order, and immature as well.  Obviously he has a volatile temper and is easily provoked.  What components of his character led him to reject his parents and mentor so utterly and go down a path that would lead to Han's murder?

The other half of this question is what exactly happened to Han and Leia that they split up, and were estranged from each other?  Was it Kylo's betrayal that caused their rift, or was it the reverse - their disagreements led to Kylo's feelings of abandonment and anger?  Now that Han is gone we may never get the full story, and I'm not sure of Leia's involvement in the ongoing story.  The answer to this question is likely a key aspect to Kylo's character so I believe it must eventually be addressed.

3) Who is Supreme Leader Snoke?  What is he?   Is he a Force-sensitive as it was hinted?  Where did he come from, how did he get to be Supreme Leader of the First Order?  Is he a Sith Lord, and Kylo is his apprentice?  Or is he something completely different that will be introduced into the mythology?  Does he really look like the creature that was in the hologram, or is there someone else "behind the curtain"?

Another part of this, is what exactly does "First Order" mean?  It's such an arbitrary phrase I think it has to refer to something specific.  How did it come to power on the ashes of the Empire?  I would guess there will eventually be books and other supplemental material to address this, but I hope they don't leave it so ambiguous in the next movies that it becomes a mystery that won't be solved.  How did it become so powerful that it could build a "Death Planet" without the New Republic even knowing about it until it was operational?  How much of the galaxy does it control?  How much does the New Republic control?  And if the New Republic is the legitimate government, why are their defenders called The Resistance?  Typically Resistance is synonymous with Rebellion, and the Rebel Alliance was "resisting" the established Empire. Why is The Resistance resisting an outside force?

4) How did Han and Chewie really lose the Falcon?  I know there was a story how it was stolen by this guy, and that guy, and that guy, and eventually ended up on Jakku.  But depending on what connection Rey is to the larger mythology, that can't be a coincidence.  I think it was left deliberately there on Jakku for her to eventually use to escape.  But it seems hard to believe Han and Chewie would abandon their beloved ship without good reason.

For that matter, how did they happen to be near the Jakku system just at the moment Rey and Finn needed rescuing?  I think Han mentioned something about this in the movie, but it seemed a very convenient explanation.

Again, what happened between Han and Leia to cause his self-imposed exile for so many years, going back to smuggling apparently but without the Falcon?  Hopefully this story isn't what it seems at face value.

5) Why is Luke really in exile?   What happened during the process of beginning to train a new Order of Jedi Knights?  Where are these other trainees?  Did Kylo kill them, similar to how Anakin and the Emperor purged the Jedi Knights, or have the scattered to the winds?  It seems out of Luke's character to run away and hide.  I get the feeling there is a lot more to this story than simple shame and guilt that would drive our heroic Jedi to flee.  If so, why leave behind parts of a map with R2 and Lor San Tekka/Poe Damaron/BB-8 that would help the Resistance find him?  I think his disappearance is part of a much larger plan that he has put together to either bring down the First Order, recover Kylo Ren to the Light Side, or train Rey in the ways of the Force.  Or there may be, and I hope this is the case, a stronger cause to create a new Order of Jedi that is nothing like what was there before.

Oh, and who was Max Von Sydow's character Lor San Tekka, and what was his connection to Luke?  He was there for so short a time to deliver the map portion to Poe we don't know anything about him.  He obviously had some kind of history, but he's dead so who knows if his character will be referred to again.  Why is Poe Damaron such a good pilot?  Is he Force-Sensitive as well?  His convenient disappearance/reappearance seemed very pat - there seems to be more to his story.   And while we're at it, how was Finn such a good lightsaber fighter out of the gate, without even knowing anything about the weapon?  And how was he so lucky, and able to break his conditioning?  Are they all Force-sensitives?

Those are my five burning questions (ok, with lots of corollaries).  What do you think?

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.