“Exposé” Exposed

February 1, 2010

When considering a television series, one must take the series as a whole in order to properly analyze it and draw conclusions. However, individual episodes deserve attention as well, both as stand-alone works and as a part of the whole grand project. In Season Three of Lost, there is an episode which seems out of place on the whole and its merit is even questionable on its own. This episode is entitled “Exposé.”

As far as the whole of the series is concerned, “Exposé” contributes nothing to the plot. It features two characters that are only introduced at the beginning of the third season, which means that the bulk of the episode involves establishing what they were doing while all the main survivors were busy endearing themselves to the audience. Nikki and Paulo (Kiele Sanchez and Rodrigo Santoro, respectively) were pretty much only concerned with themselves and their own business on the Island, and so do not really affect the other characters or the story in any meaningful way.

The business with which they are concerned is rather banal, as well. Their story is a morality tale, and it is extremely simplistic compared to the other storylines one would expect from Lost. Nikki is little more than greedy and manipulative, and Paulo is simply a liar, albeit an idealistic one who ultimately gets used and abused by the girl with whom he’s smitten. In the end, they die because of their faults, and then no one thinks twice about them ever again; their entire run on the series is incredibly inconsequential. Everything you need to know about them is contained in a single episode, except there’s not much worth knowing about them anyway.

It’s clear that the episode is pointless, but is it something one would call art? Notwithstanding the weak story, “Exposé” still adheres to the same quality of every Lost episode. The main characters are still in play, with Hurley and Sawyer carrying much of the load, and Locke providing a memorable exchange with Paulo via flashback. The manufactured suspicion of Sawyer doesn’t work for a minute, but at least it’s suspicion that comes from Hurley, meaning you’re not supposed to take it seriously anyway. In fact, “Exposé” itself is not something that is meant to be taken seriously. Call it comic relief if you will, but it’s a break from the action to take some weight off the overly intense borderline-melodrama of the main plot.

Labeling the episode comic relief does not excuse it from contributing something to the series overall, though, which is why the writers take the effort to make “Exposé” about something bigger than the Island and its inhabitants—they make it about entertainment and Lost itself. The metafictional elements of “Exposé” are what make the episode truly stand out from the rest. For a more in-depth analysis of these elements, check out my guest contribution to the premiere metablog on the web—Narrative in the Blog—here.

Not only does “Exposé” meet most of the standards of excellence set by Lost, it also goes a step further and solidifies the metafictional element of the series, which I believe is enough to push it over the edge and establish it as art. It goes without saying that Lost, though an incomplete work so far, is indeed a work of art, and I’m confident in saying that “Exposé” deserves credit for being art as well and does more than a little to reinforce the artfulness of the series.

That’s not to say that anything meta is automatically art, but that statement is not too far from the truth. Any work that contains the self-awareness by the author to include metafictional elements is already a notch above the average work because, as I’ve stated before, metafiction doesn’t often happen by accident. Being meta requires effort and a keen sense of the medium or genre or narrative with which one is working. Even if the stolen diamonds plot of “Exposé” is about as trite as can be, that’s alright because that’s exactly what the writers were attempting to do. For just one episode, Lost becomes less like Lost and more like the fictional television show Exposé, all in order to enhance the meta nature of the program. Pulling that off requires some serious guts and some serious skill—all in the name of not being that serious at all.

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