LOST Revisited: The Orchid Instructional Film (May 23)

No Lost this week, which makes me a sad panda. However, in anticipation of next week’s two-hour season finale, I think it’s high time to take a look at one of the bonus features from the Season Three DVD. No, not Terry O’Quinn’s knife-throwing demonstration, even thoug
h that is awesome. Instead, I’d like to look at a little thing they call “The Orchid Instructional Film”. When I first watched it, I thought it was going to be important, but I did not anticipate that the season finale was going to center around The Orchid and its abilities to move the Island. All of a sudden, this is a giant whopper of a Special Feature, greater even than that blooper reel on Season Two of Arrested Development where David Cross directs a two-minute long torrent of obscenities at the FOX Network.

For those of you who don’t own the Season Three DVDs, I’m going to forego my usual style where I assume that you’ve already watched the things that I’m talking about. Instead, I’m going to recap everything that happens as best I can, and analyze as I go. Bunnies, Asian doctors, and subliminal messages are waiting for us…

The film is scratchy, with noticeable audio distortion. After a few seconds, somebody holds up a spiral bound notebook with the Dharma Initiative logo on the cover. Once they lower the notebook, we see that we’re in what seems to be a lab. It’s very sterile and new. The shelves in the background are filled with binders, microscopes, and test-tubes.

After a cut, we’re still in the same lab, with the camera in the same position, only the man we know as Dr. Marvin Candle is sitting on the table, looking over a script while somebody powders his face.

The earliest footage is in black-and-white, or at least the color has degraded so badly as to be almost invisible. After the cut, it’s in color, but the camera position hasn’t changed. Perhaps they filmed multiple videos in that room with that camera position and the bit with the notebook was just their standard header.

When Dr. Marvin Candle appears, it’s clear that this is different from the other Orientation films. He’s being made up and going over his lines – it’s like we’re seeing the making of the Orchid Orientation Film. By the way, there’s a man doing Candle’s makeup, and another man who passes in front of the camera. As he passes, there’s a weird shadow that bisects the screen horizontally. I’m not sure what’s casting that shadow.

As for Dr. Marvin Candle, well, we saw him in the Swan Orientation Film, where he stressed the importance of pushing the button. When we saw him in the Pearl Orientation Video, he said his name was Dr. Mark Wickmund, and he said the Swan was an experiment and the button meant nothing. He also appeared on the computer in the Flame, shortly before Locke blew it up. Also, in the Swan and Flame videos, his left arm does not move at all, and appears to be a prosthetic. In the Pearl, his left arm is normal. Here, he’s using both arms and they’re clearly both real. That Marvin Candle is getting weirder all the time.

The screen goes white and we come back to the lab, only the camera is a little further back, exposing some previously unseen equipment. Dr. Marvin Candle is still seated on the table with his script, only this time, there’s a woman applying his makeup. Also, his position on the table has shifted slightly, and a lab coat is now draped over the cage that sits next to him on the table.

Dr. Marvin Candle: I’ll never get used to wearing makeup.

Off-camera voice: You look great! It takes away the shine.

Dr. Candle: Who cares if I shine? I’m a scientist, I’m not a…

There is another cut.

OK, so we know that the man who appears in the Dharma videos is actually a scientist. We don’t know why he has multiple names and why his left arm is sometime prosthetic, but we’ll take what we can get with Dr. Marvin Candle. He seems irritated, which makes you wonder how he was chosen to be the public face of Dharma.

The next shot is a close-up of a rabbit in a cage. A woman in a lab coat lifts the rabbit out of the cage. To her left is Dr. Marvin Candle, adjusting his own lab coat uncomfortably. She hands him the rabbit.

Off-camera voice: Turn the rabbit around, please.

Dr. Marvin turns the rabbit to the right, showing the number ‘15’ painted (branded?) on its fur.

There is a splice, and for a split-second we see the image of Gerald DeGroot.

Despite the camera not changing position in the switch from black-and-white to color, somebody actually seems to be holding it now. The cage that was previously covered by the lab coat is exposed again, and now we can see that it has a valve and gauge sticking out of the side. And Dr. Candle’s lab coat has a Swan logo on the pocket. Does the Orchid not have its own logo?

And hey, we’re back to those rabbits! In Season Three, Benry had a rabbit numbered ‘8’ – the one he pretended to kill in order to convince Sawyer that they’d given him a pacemaker that could stop his heart. (Man, that was kind of a weird storyline, wasn’t it?) This season, when Locke cooked up a rabbit for Benry, he asked if it had a number on it. Must be something special about these numbered rabbits. Also, note that the two we’ve seen are 8 and 15, which are, or course, two of Hurley’s numbers.

Of course, it’s not a Dharma production without subliminal splices. For those of you who’ve forgotten Gerald DeGroot, he and his wife Karen are the University of Michigan scientists who founded the Dharma Initiative. By the way, I approve of the fact that the mythology of Lost is rooted in the work of a couple of Dutch people from Michigan. Bravo, I say.

This is probably not important, but the woman who hands Dr. Marvin Candle the rabbit is really pretty. I want her to be a regular.

Dr. Marvin Candle: I’m Dr. Edgar Halliwax, and this is the Orientation film for Station Six of the Dharma Initiative. As you (there is a splice of the building that appeared in the Pearl film when Alvar Hanso was referenced) have no doubt surmised, Station Six, or The Orchid, is not a botanical research… (there’s an abrupt cut, and the next shot is a tighter shot of Candle, still holding the rabbit.) Dr. Marvin Candle: We apologize for asking you to deceive your family and colleagues. This is, of course, in the interest of their own security. The unique properties of this Island create a kind of Casimir effect, allowing us to… (another splice, this one a title card reading “God loves you as He loved Jacob”. When the picture comes back, the shot is farther back, again. Also, some of the items on the shelf have been replaced. There is a microscope behind Dr. Marvin Candle’s head where there was once a black bottle. Also, on the other set of shelves, a small red bin has appeared that wasn’t there before.) The field you have been selected to study is highly volatile and potentially dangerous. (There is a strange metallic popping noise that makes Candle wince.) But over the next few minutes, we will demonstrate the elaborate safety measures that have been put in place to ensure… (a large glass beaker falls from the top shelf behind Candle and shatters).

We’ve got a lot going on here. First, “Edgar Halliwax”? That’s the third name he’s used, and all of them have been related to candles (Wickmund and Halliwax). Remember that our favorite pilot, Frank Lapides, has a last name that’s Hebrew for “candle”, also. I’m not sure what to make of that. Why use a different name every time, and what is this guy’s real name? Does the “candle” motif extended to Frank indicate that we shouldn’t trust him? People with candle names tend to lie about stuff. And remember that when we saw Benry in Tunisia in 2005, he was wearing a parka with the name “Halliwax” printed on the left breast. Good thing Dr. Marvin Candle has multiple parkas, one for each name!

Once again, Dharma doesn’t play fair. In the Pearl video, he indicated that the people in the Swan had been lied to. (And actual events indicated that the people in the Pearl were really the ones who’d been deceived.) Here, he’s speaking to people who’ve been asked to lie to others. Now that we know how important the Orchid is, that makes sense.

As for the spliced images, the shot of the Alvar Hanso’s building is the shot that we’ve seen before, and it’s brief appearance is not accompanied by the film skipping. There’s no audio distortion, and the shot of Dr. Marvin Candle before the splice matches the shot immediately after. On the other hand, the Jacob message is an abrupt cut, with a different camera angle and different background objects. Also, the message is similar, but not the same as the one in the brainwashing film shown to Karl early in Season Three. There, the message was “God will bless you as He blessed Jacob”. At the time, I thought that was a message about fertility, which couldn’t have been more wrong. Interesting that this message is in the past tense, with “loved”. Actually, it’s even more interesting that Jacob made his way into a Dharma film. The Others are the ones who follow Jacob – what does Dharma even know of him? Let’s hope Season Five is the Season of Jacob. The only things we actually know about him are that he is usually invisible, he wants Locke to help him, and he likes to make lists. Heck, we’re taking Benry’s word for it on the lists.

Clearly, this video was shot from multiple takes, but the items in the background are so obvious that we’re meant to notice them. Almost as if time went all screwy. But that’s not possible, is it? Oh, wait.

And the Casimir effect? It’s the attractive force between two metal plates in a vacuum. I have no idea what that has to do with the Island, but that’ll be something to watch for, I guess. (I have never worked so hard to learn about science as I have in the last four seasons. If Lost were on when I was young I’d have been a better student and probably more successful.)

It’s going to get crazy now, by the way…

Dr. Marvin Candle turns to see another rabbit, also numbered ‘15’ on top of the shelves. There is a commotion and the pretty woman in the lab coat runs to the second rabbit. Various people shout from offscreen. Candle runs to the other side of the room, cradling his rabbit.

Off-camera voice: Hey, what is that? What’s going on?

Pretty woman: Oh God, it’s 15!

Dr. Marvin Candle: Don’t let them near each other! When did you set the shift?

Pretty woman: Negative 20.

(We hear a recorded voice counting backwards from 10 all the way down to 3. The whole time, we hear the alarm sound from the Swan. The camera is moving around frantically and chaotically during this sequence.)

Dr. Marvin Candle: How long?

Pretty woman: Nine minutes, but we’re still learning how to…

Dr. Marvin Candle: (Looking at the camera) Why is that still running?

Off-camera voice: He told me to keep the camera running.

Dr. Marvin Candle: Turn it off! Turn it off!

Wow. We have duplicate bunnies that can’t come near one another. Spunkybean reader Becky suggested that they’re the same bunny, and one was pulled from a different point in time, which I like a lot. Present you should never meet future you, after all. Dr. Marvin Candle is really upset in this scene. Clearly there could be dire consequences if those bunnies make contact.

Also, the “shift” they mention with a setting of “negative 20”, that sounds like some of the terminology Faraday used with his experiments on the rat. And “nine minutes” could mean that the second bunny was time-shifted nine minutes. What wonders of the future could he bring us? Clearly, there is some weird stuff going on in the Orchid. Don suggested that the “moving the Island” that Locke refers to will actually be a move through time, which ties in nicely with what they seem to be doing in the Orchid. Of course, that creates the possibility that Present Island will meet Future Island, which Dr. Marvin Candle views as a bad thing.

There is another cut, a brief, upside-down image of somebody riding a bicycle in The Others’ village. The film returns to a shot of Dr. Marvin Candle, calm as ever.

Dr. Marvin Candle: I’m Dr. Edgar Halliwax, and this is the Orientation film for Station Six of the Dharma Initiative. As you have no doubt surmised, Station Six, or The Orchid, is not a botanical research unit…


Upside-down bicycle? We did see a bicycle over in New Otherton when Sayid and Kate went to trade Miles for Charlotte. All the other splices reference things we’ve seen before, so there must be some significance to the bicycle. Who’s the cyclist? Not the most dramatic question to end on, but there you go.

So that’s a glimpse at what’s going on in The Orchid. Did those sneaky writers actually stick important information on a DVD bonus feature rather than in the show itself? I guess we’ll find out next week when Locke enters the Orchid. Consider my interest pigued.

By the way, the entire length of this film was just under two minutes. I think I’ve passed into the “obsessive” zone.

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