Lost celebrated the 10th anniversary of its ABC debut last week—an occasion that didn’t pass without comment. But largely absent from the smattering of retrospective pieces were the voices of Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, Lost’s guiding creative forces, who’ve both largely put Lost behind them, preferring to focus on their more recent projects: Bates Motel and The Strain for Cuse, and The Leftovers for Lindelof. They appeared together for a 10th anniversary Lost celebration this past March at PaleyFest, and while promoting their new shows both have talked about the lessons they took from Lost—both from its phenomenal success and from the widespread annoyance with the final season and finale. But Lindelof in particular has seemed so bruised by the more aggressively vocal Lost detractors that it’s like he’s chosen to treat his whole experience working on the show as a youthful embarrassment.
Until now, that is.
At this year’s Comic-Con, Disney announced that Lindelof would be writing a Lost-themed episode of Phineas And Ferb, set to coincide with Lost’s 10th anniversary. That episode, “Lost In Danville,” aired tonight, and in keeping with Lindelof’s tendency to defy expectations, it’s about as un-Lost-like as a Lost salute could be. Phineas And Ferb is an homage-friendly show, which has done spoofs and tributes to everything from Marvel superheroes to Star Wars to… other properties owned by the Walt Disney corporation. But even people who obsessed over Lost for six years could easily have watched “Lost In Danville” without realizing it was supposed to be “Lost-themed,” if they didn’t know in advance.
This doesn’t make “Lost In Danville” a bad Phineas And Ferb episode, by any means. It’s hardly one of the show’s best, but Lindelof’s story—translated into a teleplay by Eddie Pittman and J.G. Orrantia—is perfectly serviceable. A typical Phineas And Ferb episode follows three tracks: Stepbrothers Phineas and Ferb invent something amazing in their backyard to amuse their neighborhood friends; their sister Candace tries to get them in trouble with their mom (in between having some kind of minor adventure of her own); and the boys’ pet platypus Perry slips into his secret identity of Agent P to thwart the latest Tri-state-area-conquering scheme of mad scientist Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz. In “Lost In Danville,” Candace spends the whole episode in her room listening to the latest Paisley Sideburn Brothers album, while Agent P discovers that another arch-villain, Professor Mystery, has kidnapped Doofenshmirtz, jealous that he once tussled with Peter The Panda (who’s supposed to be Professor Mystery’s nemesis). Nothing Lost-related there.
The Lost elements pop up in the main storyline, which has Phineas and Ferb (and Isabella, Baljeet, and Buford) dealing with a mysterious, hatch-esque capsule that drops from the sky. The gang tries to crack it open with a borrowed battle-axe and a bunch of pianos (presumably dropped from a helicooter), while Baljeet wonders what might be inside. (“Perhaps dozens of Schrödinger’s cats?”) But then Buford finds the key to the capsule, and reveals two time-traveling oldsters named Bernie and Denise, who’ve been keeping a black hole in check with the help of a hamster on a wheel.
The best gag in the main “Lost In Danville” storyline has Bernie running around telling everyone (even Isabella and Baljeet) to pay attention to him because he’s their future-self; and then when Denise sticks her head out of the capsule, Bernie says, “Just ignore her, she’s no one from the future.” But the better gags in the episode come in the Doofenshmirtz bits, as he tries to talk Professor Mystery through his angst over Peter The Panda, saying that maybe it’d be better for their nemesis/villain relationship if Professor Mystery tried sharing his plans and his complicated backstory with Peter. (As it turns out, Professor Mystery’s backstory involves Bernie and Denise, his parents, who’ve been missing for years.)
So what’s a Lost fan to make of all this? On the one hand, it’s great that Lindelof seems to be getting over his hurt feelings over the mixed reaction to how he and Cuse ended Lost, and is willing to acknowledge—even in some small way—that there’s still a lot of affection out there for all that they did right with the show. On the other hand, Lost is so ripe with characters and objects that Lindelof could’ve brought into the story that “time travel” and “a capsule” seems like a pretty weak nod to his own work.
On the other-other hand—because we’re talking Lost, and there are always other hands—it’s hard to beef too much about an episode in which Doofenshmirtz gets annoyed at a peer for threatening him with a “true purpose shrouded in an enigma”-inator, which ultimately turns out to be an Unexistence-inator. (“Well, now I’m worried,” Doofenshmirtz says.) Whether “Lost In Danville” is appropriately Lost-ish or not, it does feature some advice from Ferb that should resonate with Lost fans: “Sometimes if you’re lost, it’s best just to go along for the ride.”
- Tonight’s secondary episode, “The Inator Episode,” had the kids racing around the backyard in giant planets, Candace attempting to do her household chores while simultaneously playing a Ducky Momo videogame, and Dr. Doofenshmirtz conducting a self-help seminar. “The Inator Episode” started out fairly entertaining, but ran out of good ideas early. Maybe it was Phineas And Ferb’s salute to Heroes.
Clues, coincidences, and crazy-ass theories:
- The end of “Lost In Danville” reveals that everything in the episode was taking place in some kind of sideways universe, which the boys realize because the other Phineas has a different number of stripes on his shirt. Also, in their actual universe, their dad’s not a polar bear.
- Much like the Dharma-branded food, Buford only uses Tuff™products, like Tuff Gum, and Tuff Shoo Laysizz.
- Professor Mystery was voiced by John Locke himself, Terry O’Quinn. (Or was it perhaps The Man In Black in the body of O’Quinn?)
- There are 104 days of summer vacation. But what if there were 108?