CCI: "Lost" Panel (Sponsored by the Dharma Initiative)

Saturday morning at Comic-Con International in San Diego saw Damon Lindelof and Carton Cuse met with an enthusiastic reception at the beginning of the "Lost" panel in Hall H. In the hours that followed, the executive producers of the popular science fiction program answered questions and tantalized fans with information on the show's upcoming fourth season.

The panel opened with a brief video presentation by Lindelof and Cuse thanking fans for their support. The video then featured a flash forward which showed Lindelof wearing a Yankees 2010 World Series tee and sporting an eye patch while Cuse wore an "Obama - Four More Years" shirt.

Lindelof said, "A fan gouged it out because--" The remainder was bleeped out.

The two producers then came out on stage to the applause of the 6500-strong capacity crowd. "We've taken on a sponsor for our panels," said Cuse. "The Dharma Initiative is sponsoring our panel this year," the statement was met with laughter from panel attendees and the two producers brought out a representative, Hans Van Eeghen, from the fictional organization behind many of the goings on in the series.

Van Eeghen then took a few moments to explain that the Dharma Initiative was looking to locate four or five new recruits from applicants at the convention. In fact, an application process had been underway at a Dharma Initiative booth on the convention floor for the past two days. At the booth, applicants were subjected to a recorded barrage of questions, many of which were quite unexpected while others were simply strange. The representative then went on to say that he was here to discuss the result of those tests. "They were abysmal," he said. "In our wildest imagination we could not have predicted this result. I mean truly pathetic."

"You see, we believed that this was the ideal gathering to find top quality men and women to serve in this vital mission," he continued "but instead, we found you. Boys and girls in a perpetual state of arrested development. You all sicken me." The representative followed up his derision by playing back highlights of congers testing in the Dharma booth as they answered test questions like "Describe yourself in three words," and "Who is your constant?"

Following the highlight reel, five convention goers were brought out as the Dharma Initiative's selections who were then taken out of the panel and back to the booth on the con floor where they were to be shown a special video that no on else had seen.

The panel then got underway with a question-and-answer format. The first question addressed whether or not the island traveled when the hatch exploded at the end of the second season, featuring visual effects similar to the ones used when the island did, in fact travel at the end of the most recent, fourth, season. "Lindelof answered that "No, the island did not travel, but something did happen."

The next question came from a fan wondering as to the fates of Jin and Locke. "Are they actually dead or are we going to see them in the 'zombie season' of 'Lost?'"

They will still be on the show in some form," said Cuse. "You have not seen the last of either of those characters. Death is a relative term, really. In the timelines of those characters, there is a lot of story yet to be told."

Lindelof confirmed with the next question that they will be doing "Seventeen hours of the show beginning in February of next year and seventeen hours in the February of the following year and then 'Lost' will be done." Both seasons will be screened with all episodes unbroken by hiatuses or breaks. "As they were meant to be seen."

Answering the question of favorite episode and favorite season, Cuse said, "'The Constant' would be my favorite episode." A choice met with approval by the audience. "The first season was just so amazing because we were trying to figure out how to do they show. I think the adrenaline rush of excitement and terror that accompanied executing the first season would be hard to top for me."

Lindelof claimed the season one finale as his favorite. "Just with the raft launch, it was back when the show was hopeful, before it disintegrated into utter despair." He claimed season four, the most recent as his favorite year of the show thus far.

One attendee asked for the producers to say "now, definitively, in front of 6500 fans that there will be a Rousseau flashback" in reference to the fan favorite character played by Mira Furlan and last seen to be shot dead.

"We will say this: you will see this year, definitively, Rousseau's story, but to use the word flashback might be disingenuous," said Cuse.

"We're steering away from the word flashback," said Lindelof, "and using a whole new word."

Cuse continued, "There will still be flashbacks and flash forwards on the show, but we're going to be doing something a little different this year and mixing it up, but Danielle Rousseau will be in season five."

"They actually like to be in the dark," Cuse said in answering a question about how much the writing staff knows about how the show will end. "They do actually know quite a bit, but they don't know everything. We're basically putting together the last two seasons of the puzzle and a lot of that involves things that will happen at the end of the show. We have an incredibly fantastic writing staff, we work collaboratively, breaking the stories in the room, so they're very much part of the creative process absolutely."

"They would do fine without us, is what Carlton's trying to say," Lindelof added.

One fan asked whether or not Jack and Kate would finally end up together at the end of the show, but Cuse and Lindelof would not answer the question. "Obviously we're very invested in that relationship, Jack Shepherd is the hero of the show, he's where it all begins," said Lindelof.

"And that romantic triangle," Cuse said, referring to the Kate-Sawyer relationship, "is very central to the show and there are very interesting permutations of the Jack-Kate-Sawyer relationship that are going to play out during the course of the next two seasons of the show."

The producers then took the opportunity of a Jack-based question to bring out the actor that plays Jack, Matthew Fox, to the approving roar of the audience. Fox remained for the rest of the panel's Q and A.

Another question addressed some of the constraints on storytelling in the last season by focusing expressly on flash forwards rather than flashbacks, citing as an example, being unable to flash forward on Desmond without revealing whether or not he would escape the island.

"This season affords us an ability to tell stories in a fresh and exciting way. When season five starts you're not going to know when and where you are," said Lindelof.

"But there will be storytelling both on and off the island and in different periods of time. It will be organized a bit differently. We felt that if we were constrained by any rules about flashbacks and flash forwards, that wouldn't be the best way to tell the story. We're always looking for the most compelling way to tell the story we're trying to tell in any given episodes.

Asked if they ever write themselves into a corner, Cuse responded "You can't have it all planned out, we try to actually write ourselves into corners every day. That's what's really thrilling. We'll say, 'what if we put the characters into this particular predicament? How are we going to get them out?' What we try to avoid doing is filming that without knowing the answers. In the writer's room, I think that's almost kind of the exercise."

"We force the show to evolve and sometimes we do things we really shouldn't do. If you blow up the hatch, then you can't do any more stories in the hatch. We feel like the audience is going to get frustrated unless we move it forward."

The next question addressed the mysterious recurring character played by Nestor Carbonnell. "How old is Richard Alpert and how many toes does he have?" asked an attendee, referencing a mysterious giant foot of a statue seen at the end of the second season and not referred to again since that had four toes.

"He is quite old," said Cuse. "Obviously we have hinted before that aging on the island is a different process and we've seen Richard Alpert in different time periods and he looks pretty much the same. Hopefully that is an engaging mystery that will keep you watching through the season and we'll actually learn a lot more about his history this season."

Lindelof then exhorted Fox to guess at Alpert's age. After some consideration, Fox offered "One-hundred-twenty-five years old."

His answer was met with a simple "Wrong," from Lindelof and the panel continued.

Addressing the toe issue, Lindelof said only "If you were looking forward to seeing Richard Alpert's feet, you will see him barefoot this season."

The next question concerned the use of the name Jeremy Bentham in the series, referring to the English philosopher whose concepts may or may not shed some light on the series mysteries, but the answer to that question was interrupted when Dan Bronson, one of the Dharma recruits introduced earlier crashed back into the panel, holding up a video camera and shouting "I have proof! I have it all right here," driving the crowd into a frenzy.

He then played a video, ostensibly recorded at the Dharma Initiative booth, featuring Dr. Pierre Chang, frequently seen in the series on various Dharma videos. In it, Chang claimed to be speaking to Con attendees from thirty years in the past while stating awareness of current events and the name of the current President. He also claimed that he knew that the entire Dharma Initiative program was to be killed, himself included, in a purge that would be impossible to stop. He further said that, "it's imperative that the Dharma Initiative be reconstituted to continue the research and do it now. Time is not just of the essence, it is the essence.

An off-screen voice, likely belonging to the person recording Chang, began to argue with the doctor and said, "This is useless." At this point, the video went dead.

The panel ended when Hans Van Eeghen emerged and declared, "This panel is over. We are withdrawing our sponsorship. This is a circus. You should be ashamed of yourselves."

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