20 crazy things that nearly happened on Lost (but fortunately didn't)

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Dec 14, 2012

With the final season of Lost rapidly approaching (the series premieres with a two-hour episode Feb. 2, starting at 9 p.m. ET/PT), speculation is rampant that it will be the "alternate reality" season. But you know something? Lost already is an alternate-reality series.

Check out 20 ways in which, had things gone slightly differently, the world of Lost wouldn't have been the same.


J.J. Abrams not called in to help make Lost—show casts a talking volleyball instead

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Why it Almost Happened:
When ABC bigwig Lloyd Braun originally pitched what was to become Lost, network execs initially thought he wanted to re-create the film Cast Away as a TV show. As Braun got his point across by executing several script rewrites, the entire storyline was looking quite messy. Finally, Abrams was asked to come in to sculpt something filmable from these semi-formed ideas. Initially reluctant, Abrams enjoyed teaming up with Damon Lindelof and eagerly created the masterpiece that is Lost.

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen:
Among other problems, the initial script had six months pass during the pilot episode alone. Compare this to the slow-pitch delivery of the final pilot, covering only three days. Although certain explicitly boring parts of season three would've lasted only minutes on air, this timeline would've seen the Oceanic Six rescued halfway through episode one and the show would've had to change its name to Found.


ABC exec refuses to green-light pilot

Why It Almost Happened:
The bill for the pilot of Lost set television records and led to the temporary firing of the man who green-lighted the project.

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen:
Had Lloyd Braun not given his approval, Lost would've either not existed or been a totally low-budget production. Lost with no budget would be comically hilarious. Plane crashes from recycled Twilight Zone footage, the raft made out of popsicle sticks, Shannon played by Sally Struthers, etc.


Jack dies in the pilot

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Why It Almost Happened:
Original drafts of the pilot episode submitted by Abrams and Lindelof called for Jack's corpse to be found in a tree, flung there by the monster. ABC execs convinced them to keep Jack around.

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen:
Jack has been the goody-two-shoes leader you just want to slap in the face every time he's not saving your life. Without him, the writers planned to fill the void by having Kate step into a leadership role. Kate, whose idea of conflict resolution is to take out an insurance policy and blow you up. We still have our suspicions that Kate caught Doc Arzt fooling around with her mom.


ABC doesn't keep sci-fi under wraps, season one is nuts

Why It Almost Happened:
To maintain a mainstream target audience, ABC execs were constantly battling to suppress the freaky-weird science fiction references on Lost. The result was a series of intriguing revelations from unique characters, with a frustratingly mysterious story arc. However, ABC ranked fourth among the major networks before that season, and execs could just as easily have said "screw it" and proceeded to pour vodka on their morning pancakes.

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen:
J.J. Abrams is sort of notorious for being unable to keep a character drama free from freakiness (anyone who's ever seen Felicity time-travel knows about this). With no firm reins on his imagination, we could've been forced to see a time-traveling, flash-forwarding, button-pushing season one. Seriously, Lost is confusing enough without an entire science fiction background. It'd be like if, instead of the jungle, Jack had woken up on the Enterprise and been asked to drunkenly invade some Klingons.


Walt doesn't grow so fast, sticks around

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Why It Almost Happened:
One of the biggest and most accessible mysteries of seasons one and two was the enigmatic Walt. Was he able to manifest birds? How about polar bears? Why can't he just talk forwards and tell us? Sometime between setting up this mystery and its resolution, the actor who played Walt, Malcolm David Kelly, grew about 10 feet in one hour. The net result was a huge downplaying of Walt—either that or filming him at ridiculous angles to hide his freakish height.

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen:
Well, for starters, we have absolutely no idea why Walt is so special, and there don't seem to be any plans to bring him back. Matter of fact, screw "for starters," that's our only reason. Walt couldn't keep his stories straight. For that matter, sometimes he couldn't even keep them forward. When Walt visits Hurley in the mental institution, he claims to have spoken with Locke, aka Jeremy Bentham. However, the story Walt relates to Hurley doesn't match what actually happens when we see the fateful Bentham/Locke meeting in season five. When we're trying to solve a mystery, the last thing we need is a bunch of meddling kids, thank you very much.


Eko cast as gentle giant

Why It Almost Happened:
Before the casting of A.A.A. fully brought Eko's warlord nature to life, producers wanted to play the character as a gentle, soft-spoken type.

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen:
Mr. Eko is a warlord priest. That's a combination Warcraft hasn't even figured out yet. Casting him as a gentle man would've upset the whole "I hate Locke's business" dynamic. How are you going to carry a "gentle giant" through three flashback episodes? Remember that scene where Eko hallucinates guys he dismembered in the woods? What's he gonna hallucinate, the stern face of his mother?


Hurley goes to Jacob's cabin and sees ... HIMSELF!

Why It Almost Happened:
The opening episode of season four features Hurley stumbling upon Jacob's cabin in the woods. Peering inside, he sees Christian Shepherd. The script originally called for Hurley to see Hurley, himself, in the cabin, but network execs forced the change.

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen:
Lost has always dabbled in science fiction, but characters witnessing apparitions of themselves would send this show straight into holodeck territory. Not unlike how Oz stopped being a character drama and started being about psychic prisoners and anti-aging drugs. It's already tough to believe that Hurley's not making all this stuff up in his mind to pass the time at some sort of mental institution. Throw in seeing ghosts of himself magically appear, and our incredulity would be as big as the package that would magically appear in the back of Hurley's trousers.


Jet engine accidentally takes out Dominic Monaghan

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Why It Almost Happened:
In the iconic opening scene of the pilot, a flaming piece of wreckage falls behind Dominic Monaghan. Special effects supervisors made sure the wreckage would burn nice and long before hoisting it with cables. Quickly, the cables caught fire and snapped, causing an unplanned crash of the engine near Monaghan, who fortunately wasn't injured.

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen:
Not only would a man have been injured, the on-set accident could've forestalled an already huge budget production indefinitely. There arguably would've been no Lost, or it would've been known as "the show that took out that Lord of the Rings guy." Well, besides the fact that we're not sadistic jerks, we don't really need a reason.


Polar bear not re-shot, comes out looking like plush toy

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Why It Almost Happened:
Almost no expense was spared for the pilot episode. Notice we said "almost" no expense. That's because when it came to the polar bear, producers thought it would be cool to just toss a stuffed animal at the camera and call it a day. When images of the bear spectacle leaked to the public, fanboys everywhere leapt into a foamy, testosterone-less rage. Why spend more than $10 million making a single episode if you use props your niece won at the state fair?

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen:
Fan theories, which are already borderline defective to start, would begin incorporating the nature of the stuffed bear. Is Jack stuffed? Is Vincent? Did Flight 815 crash on the Island of Misfit Toys, etc.?


Nikki and Paulo not universally hated, enjoy full season of "acting"

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Why It Almost Happened:
Plans were big for newcomers Nikki and Paulo. An entire episode dressed up like a Nikki flashback, and a rich, exciting backstory that covered many episodes and wove its way through the mythos of Lost as we knew it. Only one problem: The characters sucked and the actors were totally flat. That might be two problems, but who cares?

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen:
The producers, specifically Damon Lindelof, have stated that Nikki and Paulo weren't popular because fans couldn't handle new additions to their 815 family. That's simply not true; fans were overwhelmingly supportive of the tail section survivors. Frankly, if they had gotten someone with more chops than a South American soap opera hunk and a donkey-faced mouth-breather, fans might've taken interest.


Sawyer cast aside after testing horribly in the pilot

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Why It Almost Happened:
Upon seeing the first editions of the pilot, fans loathed Sawyer's character. Of all the characters, he tested second lowest with audiences. No word on who tested first, but Shannon probably whined her way into that award.

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen:
Sawyer has the distinction of being the only person other than Jack to lead all actors in total episode appearances. His constant douchebaggery toward Kate finally gave us the sex viewers so desperately deserved. Without the Skate-Jate love triangle, probably 99 percent of Lost viewers would go back to re-watching Tivo's of Grey's Anatomy. Did we mention Juliet got all nekkid with him too? And Ana-Lucia! Sure, he's gotten some gut-flab in the last season, but he's still responsible for, like 90 percent of the stripping that goes down on this island.


Lost doesn't set an end date, Skate breaks rocks ad nauseam

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Why It Almost Happened:
One difficulty the writers encountered was a lack of knowledge about when Lost would end. After all, the story they had cooked up had an end, so they were forced to buffer it far into the distance by tacking on meaningless plots (and superfluous extra islands).

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen
Setting a final length at six seasons allowed the writers to shape exactly how much story to leak out in each episode, and helped them jump-start the series with an end in mind. Think of all those shudder-riffic X-Files episodes where they either didn't investigate anything alien-related or they simply ran around protecting Scully's stupid baby. Seriously, if you thought "Don't push the button—no! No! Push the button!" went on unbelievably too long, imagine a roundabout gimmick like that one every season. "Don't win that chess game, Locke. No! Do! Do win the chess game!"


Richard Malkin Is the real Sawyer

Why It Almost Happened:
One of the ultimate Lost scenes is when Sawyer kills the con man who caused the deaths of Sawyer's parents. Anthony Cooper was the baddie, and also Locke's dad. However, an early writing room idea pegged Sawyer's nemesis as the other con man, Richard Malkin. Also, they were supposed to fight in a well.

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen:
Anthony Cooper ties together two major storylines, Locke's daddy issues and Sawyer's vengeance obsession. Minor guy Richard Malkin would have emerged as a sinister player in fate, having shipped Claire to Flight 815 and, apparently, causing Sawyer's parents' death. Seriously, some random guy is going to be revealed as the Man Behind the Curtain? That's like realizing the Antichrist is living on Earth and has been busing tables at your neighborhood.


Libby isn't cast aside for other storylines

Why It Almost Happened:
Lost really digs cramming in supporting characters. Not content with a fuselage-load of potential story arcs, they added half a dozen tail-section survivors, then Rose and Bernard, then the Others, then the Freighters, then Jacob and friends. Characters are lucky if they get a full centric episode to themselves before dying because they accidentally caused their great-grandfather to use a contraceptive. Or whatever. One character who got pushed to the side was Libby.

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen:
The producers have stated that they had big plans for Libby's story. This was strongly hinted with her mysterious interactions off-island with both Desmond and Hurley. Sarcastic spoiler alert: There appear to be agents in Lost who manipulate people to be in a certain place at a certain time. WE GET IT. We don't need to see the entire life stories of Abaddon, the Ring Lady, Libby, Mr. Paik, Jacob and Richard Alpert to understand that you all pretty much have the same mission: to manipulate others for some mysterious world-saving purpose. This is part of the reason Lost has 500 characters: Someone left the Xerox machine on.


Sun and Jin not in Lost

Why It Almost Happened:
The original plans for Lost did not include the Asian characters Sun or Jin. Yunjin Kim, the actress who plays Sun, originally auditioned for the role of Kate. Overwhelmed by her performance, the producers wrote in the characters of Sun and her husband, Jin.

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen:
Sun and Jin are regulars in the centric-episode cycle, and apparently they keep old, married people interested in the show. This explains why all their flashbacks involve them bitching at each other like codgers. The writers of Lost have loved using the "magical" Eastern upbringing of these two to get away with hilariously crazy stuff. Jin is from Korea, so naturally he can catch fish all day, enough to feed a planeful of people. He can also crew an unfamiliar racing boat with only one other man. Because he's like, you know, Asian. Also, who needs Jack's ridiculous "doctor's advice" when Sun can just throw a few plants on your chest and clear everything up?


Fans like season finale, season two is mainly hatch-free

Why It Almost Happened:
The producers were pleased with the "what's-in-the-hatch" cliffhanger at the end of season one. Fans were less pleased, and vocalized their comments during the hiatus. As a result, the producers focused season two around the hatch in an attempt to give the fans more of what they wanted.

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen:
The hatch, and that damned button, became the focus of season two from start to finish. Hell, the producers might have teased the hatch indefinitely, seeing as how it was a huge ratings-grabber. The establishment that the hatch was of significant importance to the island's history has shaped the show to this point in time, primarily concerning all that stuff we had to find out about the Dharma Initiative. Without Dharma, the Losties would've had to spend their time vacations in ancient Egypt or something.


Mr. Eko doesn't get sick of Hawaii, enjoys four-season storyline

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Why It Almost Happened:
Actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje originally signed on for a one-year deal with Lost. After his character grew overwhelmingly popular with fans, he was offered a four-season story arc. Citing the strenuous demands that come with being a hot actor in Hawaii, A.A.A. declined and moved off the islands.

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen:
As far as we're concerned, Mr. Eko dropped his mysterious facade at the end of season two and simply became a constant thorn in the side for Locke. Kind of like how your older brother used to be your hero, and now he's just that guy who hides stolen goods under your bed.


Shark not branded with Dharma logo

Why It Almost Happened:
The season two shark caused an almost sexual thrill among fans when it surfaced, revealing a Dharma logo on its body. According to the prop makers who created it, the Dharma logo was an inside joke that they never expected to show up on camera.

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen:
The setting for the first six episodes of season three was an aquatic mammal treatment facility. If the Dharma shark hadn't surfaced, this would've been set entirely in the stupid polar bear cages. The fact that Dharma mastered polar bears, but not sharks, would lead to thousands of annoying fan theories that the Dharma Initiative was wiped out in a shark-frenzy "incident."


Michael Emerson only cast for six episodes

Why It Almost Happened:
Emerson, who has won an Emmy for the role of Benjamin Linus, was originally brought on for only a three-episode arc. When fan reaction was overwhelming, he was cast as a regular and written in as the leader of the Others.

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen:
Despite originally being cast for a short, small role, Ben has appeared in more episodes than any other character not on Flight 815. Without him, we'd have to rely on Richard Alpert for sinister-ness, and his eye-shadow eyes would just make the whole thing feel Rocky Horror-esque.


The writers' strike doesn't abridge season four

Why It Almost Happened:
Lost had the unlucky fate of having a season in the works during the writers' strike, causing a production stop halfway through season four. When the strike ended, the remaining half of the season was abridged into a few episodes.

Why We're Glad It Didn't Happen:
Entire storylines had to be pushed back or eliminated, particularly all of the characters aboard the freighter. It wasn't until the end of season five that we finally learned about all of these characters. While characters are perhaps the most important part of Lost, the writers seem to think that "mystery" is the same thing as "confusion," dumping characters onto the island until they blend together. Who the hell ever wanted an entire episode devoted to a Charlotte flashback, anyway?

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