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Lost vs Highlander - John C. Kirk

Apr. 1st, 2007

11:52 pm - Lost vs Highlander

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I've just been watching the latest episode of Lost ("Expose", season 3 ep 14); I thought it was a decent episode overall, but it also had a fairly glaring flaw from a first aid perspective (much like last night's episode of Doctor Who). Ah well, maybe I can use them both as scenarios in an SJA class night :)

When Lost first started, I was pretty impressed, although I'm glad that I hadn't started out with the incredibly annoying trailer beforehand. ("One of us is a saint", "One of us is a sinner", etc.) They did a good job of answering existing questions fairly quickly (e.g. "who was the prisoner in handcuffs?") while introducing new ones at the same time.

By season 2, my interest was flagging a bit, and I wound up with several episodes queued up on my Digibox. Still, I caught up eventually (by borrowing the DVDs from a friend), and that got me enthusiastic about season 3. Now that we're halfway through that, I've been having some severe doubts about the format of the series as a whole. There are two main problems:

a) They have a formula, where the ongoing storyline (present day on the island) alternates with flashbacks that give us new insight into characters' pasts. This worked well in Highlander, where the flashbacks were more interesting than the present day events (the whole point being that Duncan MacLeod had been around for 400 years), but in Lost it means that the main plot tends to crawl along at a glacial pace. Also, some of the flashbacks tend to be more relevant than others.

b) I used to watch The X Files, and I followed the first few seasons with keen interest (theorising about the big alien conspiracy) as well as going off to watch the film at the cinema. However, I gave up on it a few years before it actually finished, because I lost confidence that there was any big secret that was being gradually revealed; I came to the conclusion that the writers were just making up new stuff as they went along. For both series, I'm just guessing, and I may or may not be correct, but this is the type of situation where my perception is more relevant than the reality.

Tonight's episode adressed both concerns in a good way. The flashbacks were mostly confined to the island, and featured characters who we haven't seen much of, rather than being installment #73 of "Locke doesn't like his dad very much". Also, it looks as if the writers had this storyline in mind when they wrote episode 5; either that, or they've very good at fitting new plots into an existing framework. Either way, that's good enough for me, so it gives me renewed confidence for future episodes.

Having said all that, there was a fairly big flaw, as I mentioned above. Here's a quick synopsis of the episode for anyone (e.g. susannahf) who doesn't watch the series but is interested in the first aid aspects. Two of the guys (Hurley and Sawyer) are playing table tennis on the beach when Nikki comes stumbling out of the jungle, then collapses. Sawyer tells Hurley to go for help, but Hurley looks down at her and says that she's dead.

What?! How exactly did he come to that conclusion? The way I would handle it is to start by trying to wake her up (in case she's just exhausted). If that didn't work, I'd check her breathing, by kneeling down with my head right above hers, my ear a few centimetres above her mouth/nose, looking down the length of her body. The idea is that there are three ways to detect breathing:
a) Look - is the chest rising and falling?
b) Listen - can you hear them?
c) Feel - can you feel their breath against your cheek?
Under ideal circumstances you'd get all three indications, but there may be times when you can't get one or two (e.g. I might not be able to hear breathing if I'm at a football match with thousands of cheering fans in the background, or at Notting Hill Carnival with music so loud that everyone's wearing ear plugs). Still, you only need one of them to know that the person is breathing. (You check for 10 seconds, to make sure that you haven't just picked up their dying gasp, aka "agonal breathing".) Since I'm not a doctor, I'm not qualified to diagnose death; the only exception is when the person's head is separated from their body (preferably on the opposite side of the room).

This brings me back to Highlander. I remember a commentary to one episode, where the actor playing Duncan said that the original script included a similar situation; he would glance down at someone and be able to say that they were dead, due to his hundreds of years of experience. However, the actor pointed out that this was just stupid, so they changed it to have him crouching down and examining the body first.

Coming back to the Lost episode, a bit later on they showed a few characters picking up her wrist and feeling for a pulse (without success). That hasn't been part of first aid guidelines for a long time, for two reasons. Firstly, it can be surprisingly difficult to find a pulse, even if you're a trained doctor, so if you don't feel one then that may mean that there isn't one or it may just mean that you're feeling in the wrong place. Secondly, if an adult stops breathing, and they aren't drowning, the most likely explanation is a heart attack (i.e. they won't have a pulse either).

Anyway, let's assume for the sake of argument that she wasn't breathing, and didn't have a pulse. Do none of the people in that camp know how to do CPR? Granted, the normal goal is to stall for time until you can get the casualty to a hospital, which they wouldn't be able to do, but I think it would at least be worth a shot. I'd hope that if I mysteriously collapsed in front of my friends, they wouldn't just say "Wow, sucks to be him" and leave me lying there! In fairness, none of them are medics, but couldn't Dr Jack (currently on the opposite side of the island) have spared a few hours to give them some basic lessons? At the risk of sounding tasteless, they've had a fairly good supply of dead bodies to practice on, in lieu of mannequins, and I'd give that priority over playing golf.

A bit later, they found Paulo (Nikki's boyfriend) lying in the jungle, also dead. Again, no attempt to resuscitate, so they took both bodies to the graveyard, and left them lying around for a few hours, then buried them both in the evening.

It turns out that there was a bit of a twist. Both of them had been bitten by spiders, which induced paralysis for 8 hours. Nikki opened her eyes just as she was being buried, but wasn't able to speak, so the grave was completely filled in, and both of them presumably died of suffocation.

I'm not an expert on spider bites (leaving aside the radioactive variety!), so I'll accept the premise the venom could paralyse humans, and make a pulse hard to detect. This does still leave the question of whether they were breathing. If so, and their friends had checked, they wouldn't have been buried alive. If not, I'm a bit dubious about whether they'd be able to wake up. (I think it might be plausible if someone's metabolism shut down in icy water, but not if they were lying around on a hot beach.)

I'm willing to give the program makers some benefit of the doubt here, and assume that they deliberately avoided normal first aid protocols to further the plot (whereas in the case of Doctor Who I'm more inclined to say that the writer was half-remembering some Baywatch episodes he saw 10 years ago). It's a bit of a cheat, but I can live with that. Still, I'm starting to think that the standard question of "Which three books would you take to a desert island?" should be replaced by "Which three people would you most/least like to be marooned with?"

Bah, muppets, all of them.

(As a side note, it did initially bother me when Nikki's previous boyfriend suddenly collapsed, and Paulo took a quick glance/pulse-check before saying "He's gone", but that turned out to be more reasonable since they were actually conspiring to kill him by poisoning. It might still be prudent to do extra checks, but it makes sense that they weren't interested in trying to revive him.)

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[User Picture]
Date:April 2nd, 2007 09:22 am (UTC)
The sloppy first aiding is one of the many many problems with Lost at the moment, and another example of writers assigning character knowledge based on what they need for the plot, not what makes sense. The characters completely fail to ask sensible questions thereby keeping pools of knowledge isolated with different people. I'm pretty confused at this point about who knows what and what on earth is going on. Plus I find I don't really care that much.

I'm a bit behind due to apathy about the whole thing, I just watched Tricia Tanaka is Dead and the Sayid episode that followed and thought they were considerably better than the previous ones, mostly 'cos they were fun to watch and didn't drag so much. the first half of the season suffered really badly because they concentrated too much on Jack, Kate and Sawyer who are apparently popular characters, just not with me.

I loved season 1, but season 2 got too confused with too many characters. Then rather than fix what everyone was complaining about they added yet more characters and a completely new location just to spread everything about even further.
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[User Picture]
Date:April 2nd, 2007 12:57 pm (UTC)
Yes, I enjoyed the "Tricia Tanaka" episode; I like Hurley a lot more than Jack/Kate/Sawyer, probably because I'm not doing the whole "shipper" thing.
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[User Picture]
Date:April 2nd, 2007 01:07 pm (UTC)
Is there a problem here whereby American series value getting recommissioned far more than they value writing a finite, well-constructed story?
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[User Picture]
Date:April 2nd, 2007 02:49 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure whether it's specifically an American problem, but it does depend on what your goal is. For instance, most soap operas seem to be intended to run indefinitely; how many years have "Eastenders" and "Coronation Street" been going for? By contrast, "Babylon 5" was a US series which was always intended to fit into 5 years.

At the same time, there is a risk of setting up a finite story that never gets finished because the series doesn't get renewed. I'm thinking in particular of "Dark Skies" - the idea was that it would run over 5 years, where each year would cover one decade (starting in the 60s), and eventually the episodes would catch up with the present day (of their screening). However, it was cancelled after season 1, so that plan never came to fruition.
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