No matter what you hear, don’t come up.

The Beginning of the End • Season 4 • Episode 1

Raymond, 34 — Glasgow (Scotland):

My Lost moment is one that perfectly encapsulates the show. It didn’t reveal the identity of the smoke monster, or who The Others were, or where Jack got those rad tattoos. Instead the moment introduced a single character, but did so in a typically Lostian way.

Miles Straume made his first appearance on the island in a confrontation with Jack and Kate. But this is Lost, after all, so it was time for a  flashback.

Whoosh.

(That was the flashback noise, by the way)

—–

Inglewood, California

Miles arrives at the house of Mrs Gardner, whose grandson, we learn, had been murdered. As Straume enters, the camera dwells on photos hanging on the walls—images of a teenage boy, presumably the dead grandson, staring back from inside wooden photo frames.

Whatever this Miles guy is here to do, he’s given $200 for it. Straume heads upstairs to the dead boy’s bedroom, warning Mrs Gardner, “No matter what you hear, don’t come up.

Miles enters the room and sits on the bed. The camera fast-pans—a sign something weird is happening. Miles looks around, then speaks to someone unseen, “Tell me where it is.

There’s a rumble; something falls. Miles pulls open a vent on the wall, finding behind it a banded wad of cash and a pouch of yellow powder. He sniffs the powder, says “You can go now“, and leaves the room.

Miles goes back downstairs, the camera again pausing on those same metal-framed photos. He gives Mrs Gardner half her money back, and leaves. End of flashback.

Miles appearance on the island raised some questions: who is this guy, and what skills does he possess that make him suitable to land on my island? As was often the Lost way, the flashback answered some questions but generated many more: so this guy can speak to the dead? Was he supposed to exorcise the dead boy’s spirit? How did he know there was a stash in that room? Why is he stealing from a dead boy? Is it still stealing if the boy is dead? Should I know who Mrs Gardner is? What is this show doing to my mind?

Lost would go on to make Miles’ talent for necrocommunication part of the show. The other questions I had? They didn’t get answered. Which was fine. I didn’t obsess over them.

Well, except one.

There was another mystery in that moment that, six years after the episode aired, still picks at my brain. And that, more than anything else, is what makes this scene classically Lostian.

When Miles went upstairs, those photos were in wooden frames. When he came back down, the frames were metal.

Say what now?

There are some who consider this not a mystery, but a production error, a simple mistake in set design. Yet twice in that scene the camera deliberately paused on those photos. As viewers we were definitely supposed to focus on… something. Who Mrs Gardner’s grandson was didn’t appear to matter, so what other reason could there be to focus on those images unless to highlight a change?

As is the Lost way, one question leads to another. If we’re supposed to realise the frames had changed, then why did they change? Did Miles’ visit in some way affect Mrs Gardner’s past? If metal photo frames are more expensive than wooden ones, then did Straume’s appearance make the old woman retroactively wealthier? After Miles gave Mrs Gardner $100 back, did she hop in a time machine and go spend that money on some new home furnishings? I do not know.

This scene encapsulates my experience of watching Lost. Because it was weird, exciting, and unpredictable. Because it answered questions with more questions. Because there were lots of things I didn’t understand.

Because I’m on the internet wondering about weird theories when I should be in bed.

Because six years after this episode aired, and four years after the show ended, I still regularly think about both.

That, to me, is what Lost was all about.