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Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Six years....hard to believe
I can't believe that my favorite niece is turning six years old today. It seems like just yesterday that my sister was calling me to tell me she was on her way and I was heading to the hospital so I could wait with them for her arrival.

The moment I stepped into the hospital room and saw my sister and brother-in-law, holding this tiny little person is one that I'll never forget.

And now, she's turning six.

In the past year, we've gone from my reading book to her at bedtime, to her wanting to read to me--and her being able to do it. I had a lot of fun this year, travelling down memory lane as I picked out a couple of "big girl" books as party of her birthday present. (She loves the Junie B. Jones books, but buying one for her is liking buying Doctor Who stuff for me--it's hard to know which ones she has). So, I bought her two of my favorites that I read when I was her age--the first two Ramona books. I hope she enjoys them as much as I did. I read them a lot growing up, the point that I think I can probably still recite some of my favorite portions of the books.

Last night, she was very concerned about what would happen if there was a snow day today and her taking cupcakes to school. Luckily, the promise that they could keep until Thursday put this worry to rest.

Happy b'day to my favorite niece. I know you don't read this blog and I know I've told you happy b'day at least four times in the past couple of days, but I never get tired of celebrating you being a special part of my family.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 2/27/2008 12:41:00 PM | |

Not as bleak as they'd like you think it is...
The way everyone in the media is acting, I expect the Associated Press and the ESPN Coaches Poll people to show up in Knoxville today and take away the Vol's number one ranking.

I know we lost and I'll give credit to Vanderbilt for playing a good game and catching the Vols at the right time to pull off an upset. But that said, we don't know what will happen this week. Perhaps Memphis will have its own stumble following the spotlight and national attention of Saturday night. Another couple of teams below us could lose and we could stay stay number one. I'm not saying it's likely, but I am saying that it could happen.

But if you listen to the media coverage, that's not the way it would seem.

As for me, I'm going to enjoy being listed as the number one team in the country for another few days. I'm going to revel in it. I'm going to hope the Vols learned that you've got to make free-throws in critical places to win games. (That and a poor officiated game on both sides helped Vanderbilt a lot last night). I'm going to enjoy where we are and hope that being there has made the Vols realize how great it is, made them hungry to be there when it really counts--at season's end, cutting down the nets after winning it all.

That said, I'm still a fan, I still believe in this team and I'm still excited about what we've got on our plates.

Go Big Orange!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 2/27/2008 07:02:00 AM | |
Tuesday, February 26, 2008

You know, I have nothing but love for my fellow SEC fans who happen to pull for Vanderbilt, but even y'all have to admit this is a bit of a head-scratcher.

In case you missed it, the number one UT Vols will be in town tonight to take on Vanderbilt. The game is being carried nationally via ESPN and all I can hope for is that somehow Dick Vitale isn't part of the broadcast team.

A few weeks ago, I went to the Lady Vols vs Vanderbilt game down at Memorial Gym and saw a promo, imploring fans to wear white when they played UT in a few weeks. They wanted to have a "white out" to show the sports-watching world their solidarity and to match the home jerseys.

Which I'm all for these typed of theme-things for big games to get the crowd even more into it than possible.

That said, how did this not raise a red-flag with anyone at the Vandy marketing department?

Vandy's colors are black and gold. I could see gold-out or a black-out, but a white-out with UT in town? That doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me from the standpoint of being a Vandy fan. Because we all know Bruce Pearl wears his orange blazer for the Vandy and Kentucky games. We know that the UT fans who are there will proudly wear our orange. And so you've got all the Vandy fans dressed in white...that goes well with the orange. And those are UT's colors.

Again, it makes no sense to me. Unless, of course Vandy is throwing in the towel and finally giving in to what we all know is the reality of the situation. Vandy games are nothing more than a home game for UT in Nashville.

GO BIG ORANGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 2/26/2008 04:20:00 PM | |
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Savoring the win.
When the Vols hired Bruce Pearl as their head men's basketball coach three years ago, did I ever think that team would be in the top five, much less have the chance to be the top-ranked team in the country in under five years?

At that point, I'd've been happy to see the team make it out of their first game in the SEC Tournament, much less to the big dance.

What a difference a couple of years can make. Last night, Bruce Pearl who could run for just about any office in the state today and win the vote from UT fans alone took the Vols where we've never been before. Well, if things play out like they're expected to that is. Tomorrow the Vols will most likely be the top-ranked team in the nation in men's basketball.

Pardon me for a moment, while I do the dance of joy as that news continues to sink in.

The University of Tennessee's men's basketball team...number one.

Of course, in the long-run, it's meaningless. It's only a late season ranking and unless the Vols can play well in a tough week ahead, their time at the top could be short lived. I find myself thinking back to ten years ago, during the football team's run to the national title game. The week we got voted number one, we hosted Arkansas, who was out to knock us off. The target was on our back and if not for the biggest choke job in Arkansas football history, they might have won...on our home field.

Now the men's basketball team has the target on their back. As the top ranked team in the land, a certain little brother school in Music City will be even more anxious to knock them off, esp. given way the game turned out earlier this year on our home floor.

But if there's one thing I've learned this year it's that Bruce Pearl won't let the team lose focus. He knows what's important and his focus is on winning the first outright SEC title for this team in a long time. He'll have the orange coat on Tuesday night, something I know will drive all the Vandy fans in Memorial Gym crazy. And I will love every last second of it. And another thing we've seen is that this team is balanced and has depth. I'm still waiting for the night when Chris Lofton and JuJuan Smith are on the top of their game at the same time.

I'm hoping it happens Tuesday night.

But for now, I am savoring the bragging rights. And the fact that by winning the game, Bruce Pearl has made even greater in-roads in recruiting in the Memphis area. And that's the real result of this game. Pearl can walk into living rooms in the Memphis area, look a prospect in the eye and say, "You can play for a winner. Or you can play for Memphis..."

Now, I'm pulling for U-Conn to lose to LSU tomorrow night in women's basketball and someone to upset North Carolina this week. Then the Lady Vols could climb back to number one in the polls for the women's games and if the Vols can take care of business this week (no easy task, but also not beyond the realm of possibility), we could have Tennessee on top of the men's and women's polls.

Who'd've thought that was even possible three years ago?

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 2/24/2008 10:27:00 AM | |
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Best...game....EVER!
For the first time in history, the Vols will be number in men's basketball!

A superb game by the Vols! Taking down the number one team in the country.

A great game!

I imagine these teams will meet again in the Final Four. And that could be really interesting.

But, for now, I am going to celebrate the Vols' huge win!

And tomorrow, time to get ready for Vanderbilt on Tuesday!

GO BIG ORANGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


posted by Michael Hickerson at 2/23/2008 10:27:00 PM | |
Friday, February 22, 2008
TV Round-Up: Lost
Eggtown
Of the four episodes we've had so far this year, this one was the weakest. It's not that it was necessarily bad, but it was just when Claire said, "Oh, you should try being a Mom sometime" I figured somehow Aaron would be the mysterious son that was referred to in the flash-forwards. Guessing this a good half an hour or so before the storyline got to the revelation kind of took a bit of the wind out of the sails on this one.

It's a contrast to last week when I figured out about two minutes before the story let on that Ben was the one pulling Sayid's strings. In that case, I didn't guess so far in advance that it ruined my enjoying seeing how the mystery unfolded for the rest of the story or feel like there should be giant signs jumping up shouting "foreshadowing!" every time it was mentioned. And that's kind of how things felt here with the revelation that Kate took Aaron.

Even to the point that when we had moments of nearly-nekkid Kate, which I usually enjoy, I found myself getting a bit annoyed. I felt as if I wanted to move past these points and get back to the things that are really interesting taking place on the show.

The biggest being--just who is Benjamin Linus. Interesting that Locke should take Ben a novel by Philip K Dick. If you've read any of PKD's work, you know a lot of it has to do with questions of identity and paranoia. Which pretty much sums up a lot of what's going on around Ben these days. I've not read Valis, but I'm intrigued now to pick up a copy and give it a read. To see what, if any insights we can gain into the show and Ben.

So, it appears Ben is the head honcho of something. What it is, we're not exactly sure yet, but he apparently can create multiple passports and has access to large amounts of money. Is whatever he's in charge of a group whose interests run counter to the Penny's group? And why is that group so hellbent on finding Ben? Has he committed some kind of crimes? Or is it something else that while not criminal may have dealt a big setback to the other group? And who exactly is the guy on the other end giving the orders? Is it somehow related to Jacob? Is that why Ben has Jacob locke up in a shed? Is that why Ben taunts Locke when he goes looking for Jacob? If Jacob is freed by Locke, will this lead to the battle that Ben is part of in the flash-forwards?

Meanwhile, he still continues to pull strings. He pulls Miles string, he pulls Kate's strings and he pulls Locke's strings. It's interesting to watch the leadership styles of Locke and Jack start to go awry. After opposing each other for so long and being in such a power struggle, I begin to wonder if the two needed each other to effectively lead. Each has strengths that cover the others weaknesses as it were. Cracks are starting to show in both leadership styles from Locke's becoming an overbearing dictator type (almost Ben-like) to Jack's inability to inspire much confidence in the troops. Sun's question about Kate going over to Locke's side was very telling.

There are also some other interesting questions--why haven't Desmond, Sayid and the others reached the boat? What is the time effect that surrounds the island?

Meanwhile, in the future, questions continue to come up. We know four of the six Oceanic Six, though the story they tell is that eight survived. Who are the other two that they said made it off the plane but died on the island? And did the world buy that they starved for several weeks when Hurley returned? Why are they such celebrities? I am sure many of you know the other two of the six not yet revealed, but if you do, don't tell me. And if Desmond makes it off the island, does he count? Or are there seven people who successfully left the island? (And what about Michael, who left the island with Walt? Does he count? Does Walt?)

Also, it's interesting that as we saw in the flashbacks, the lives of the people on the plane are still intertwined. Jack has shown up in three of the four we've seen so far. Did he broker some kind of deal? Did he get the others of the six to accept it? If so, what was the deal? And is he showing up to make sure everyone stays on the same page storywise? Was that part of his desire to help Kate by lying on the stand? Yes, he loves her, but is part of it to cover his own rear for the lies he's told? And is the consequence of that and those lies what catches up to him later and makes him desparate to get back to the island?

A lot of questions, not a lot of answers. But then again, this is Lost.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 2/22/2008 04:36:00 PM | |

That sound you hear is me rolling my eyes...
A lot of you know that I have very little, if any, respect for the University of Georgia's athletic fans.

Why you ask?

Well, it's stuff like this...

Georgia House members dumped two things off their plates Thursday: Gators and Tigers.

In a 142 to 10 vote, the chamber voted to stop making out-of-state university mascot tags if neighboring states don't return the favor.

"Whatever is good for the goose is good for the gander," said state Rep. Barry Fleming (R-Harlem), speaking with great earnestness on the matter.

Fleming was really talking about Bulldogs. He and the vast majority of his House colleagues think the citizens of the Bulldog nation living in South Carolina, Alabama and Florida, should get mascot tags of their own in those states.

After all, the state of Georgia offers Clemson and Auburn Tiger tags along with those for Florida alumni living in the Peach State.

The Gators fans' response to the House vote was essentially: Grow up.

I hate to say it, but this is the typical combination of arrogance (how dare you pull for any other team?!?) and overall inferiority complex that make me both roll my eyes and laugh out loud. I find it absurd that UGA fans are so insecure that they can't handle it when people want to pull for other teams in their state. Of course, having lived in Georgia and experienced this first-hand, I shouldn't be too shocked, I guess.

Of course, I guess I shouldn't be too shocked when I consider that another piece of legislation that recently passed in the Georgia legislature wants to re-draw the border between their state and ours (as well as North Carolina). They want access to the Tennessee River to help with their shortsightedness.

I've heard it proposed that we put the issue on the outcome of next year's UT vs UGA football game. Except based on what we see here, UGA fans are too insecure in their team to do this. Plus that fact that the Vols have owned UGA the past two years...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 2/22/2008 05:04:00 AM | |
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
More responses on the Lady Vols win
Dear 104.5 the Zone,

I realize that you're the flagship station for Vanderbilt and because of that I shouldn't really expect a kind word thrown UT's way very often. And I also understand that one the jobs of your morning sports team is to create waves, generate calls and build ratings so you can make money and stay on the air. And I suppose that when it all comes down to it, I brought this upon myself by making the mistake of tuning in to your station this morning.

But to put what happened in the Georgetown game last night and what happened in the Lady Vols vs Rutgers game last night in the same basket (no pun intended) is just ludicrous. If you'd actually, oh, I don't know, watched the game, you'd see that the two (as ESPN calls them) phantom fouls took place in two entirely different contexts and places on the court. But never let what actually happened get in the way of a good rant or your chance to lament how one team or the other got "hosed" by a "bad call." In the Lady Vols game, there WAS AN ACTUAL FOUL that took place with time left on the clock. There may be some controversy over whether or not there should have been time on the clock, but that is for the officials to decide. And they did make the call. Whether it's right or wrong probably depends on where your loyalties lie. I'm sure up in Rutgers today their two fans are whining and complaining to the local call-in show in between minute-by-minute consideration of the waste-of-time Congressional hearings on Roger Clemens and breaking down every facet of the third-down near-sack-but-then-he-escapes play of Eli "Oh by the way I played in the SEC, the best conference at everything" Manning in the Super Bowl. Oh and I'm sure Vivian Stringer is still whining and crying and showing a complete lack of class to anyone who will listen (and by anyone I mean ESPN).

But when I hear you guys siding with her, saying that Rutgers got "hosed" and that they "deserved" to win the game, it just irritates me. For one thing, I'm pretty sure you guys didn't bother to tune into the game since we all know Frank Wycheck considers women's sports beneath him (despite that fact that his Lady Terrapins are usually pretty good). For another, you're probably just basing this on the biased coverage on ESPN and not actually bothering to consider the full story. I saw ESPN's sad coverage of this game this morning, which I've got to say was VERY one-sided. It was like watching a break-down of the Zapruter film in JFK.

Anyway, I know I shouldn't be shocked by this, but it still bugs the living fire out of me. I just thought I should let you guys know.

Sincerely,
Big Orange Michael

posted by Michael Hickerson at 2/12/2008 10:27:00 AM | |
Monday, February 11, 2008
Lady Vols win a close one
Dear ESPN,

I'm sorry that the Lady Vols couldn't co-operate with you this evening and lose to the Lady Scarlet Knights of Rutgers. I know this is what you were not-so-secretly hoping for, but apparently the memo on how all this should play out missed the Lady Vols.

I know that your announcers think the game should have been over and the Lady Vols got a benefit of the doubt on the game clock. But it's called home court advantage for a reason. If the shoe were on the other foot, I'm sure you'd have been knighting the official on the clock for showing such discretion and insight in how the game clock ran. But it went Tennessee's way on our home floor, so it must somehow be a bias. I hate to tell you this, but in Thompson-Boling arena, the bias runs toward the Big Orange. Shocking but true.

Also, I could care less what C. Vivian Stringer is thinking or planning in her final "poor sport" time-out. Realizing she's lost the game, she calls a time-out out of spite to try and ice our free-throw shooter. I'm glad this plan backfired on her and that we made those free-throws. I have no idea what you'll lead SportsCenter with now since because the Lady Vols won, I'm sure the game footage will be buried in the last ten minutes of the show, right before the top ten plays of the day. And I swear if I'd heard one more time about how all the Lady Knights were all so heartbroken about losing the national championship last year and the last three games to the Lady Vols, I was going to throw up. It honestly irritated me as much as the fact that when Don Imus made his dumb-ass comments last year that the story shifted not from the fact that Tennessee had won their seventh national title but to the losers of the game.

Oh and one last thing--please don't let Rebecca "I sure love U-Conn and hate Tennessee" Lobo not cover any more games involving the Lady Vols. I'm sick of hearing her unadulterated love for the Big East. Or if you're going to send her, why not get a former Lady Vol on there for some balance.

Oh wait....I forgot. You're ESPN.

My bad,
Big Orange Michael

UPDATE--So, Reese Davis is already referring to the last seconds of the game as a "phantom clock operator" in our game. Gee, ESPN could you maybe, maybe try to be objective for once in your lives? I know you're in Big East Country and pull for all those teams, but at least pretend to have some objectivity. I know you've been saying good things all year about the men's team, but this evening you've drained all of my goodwill that you'd built up with your b.s. bias in how you're covering and reporting the Lady Vols win.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 2/11/2008 08:35:00 PM | |
Sunday, February 10, 2008
TV Round-Up
Lost: Confirmed Dead
Not quite as fast-paced as last week's episode, but still a solid entry. This week's episode was more concerned about giving us glimpses of the four new characters to the show and what their agendas might be more than really providing a lot of answers. And since it's early enough in the season, that's not a bad thing.

The flashbacks are shorter--looking at each of the arrivals from the boat. We meet Daniel, Miles, Charlotte and Frank, all of whose journey to the island was motivated by something different. But it appears they all have one common goal--find Benjamin Linus. Interesting that a guy who allegedly was born and grew up on the island would have such a reputation outside of it that someone or a group would come looking for him. Of course, the question is posed in the last few minutes of the episode and left unanswered. And the thing is that no matter what Ben says, we can't really take it at face value. His most valuable weapon is his mind and his ablity to manipulate people, as we saw again this week. But again, he continues to be a great villian because in his mind, he's the hero of this show and sees a perfectly valid reason for everything he's doing and has done. I have to wonder if he'll be part of the bargain to get the Oceanic Six off the island. Could that be part of the big secret we've alluded to?

Meanwhile, it appears this group has some separate goals. Something is clearly up with Danie, Miles communicates with the dead, Charlotte has her own personal agenda against Dharma and Frank was supposed to be flying the plane but was grounded (alcoholic, maybe). Not exactly a crack, elite team to come and rescue our heroes, is it? Of course, I have to wonder what the point of the exhibition really is since the flashback scene with Naomi makes it clear that no one is supposed to be alive from the crash. So, the world thinks our heroes are dead. Why exactly is that? And how many groups are out there that know about the island? Are there two or three or possibly more? Right now, my count is that we've got the Dharma group, this group and the Penny Wildman group at the very least. This could get interesting very quickly.

I have a feeling that this episode has a bigger impact on things and is more pivotal to the overall story once we see where some of these storylines are going and are given answers to the questions it raised.

Friday Night Lights: May the Best Man Win
If crap like Jericho can somehow be resurrected to allow it to finish out, then surely a quality show like Friday Night Lights deserves to at least finish the story of what happens to the Dillon Panther this year, if not survive and thrive into a third season. I have a feeling based on Ben Silverman's remarks last week that I'm going to be unhappy in the near future to lose one of my favorite shows before it's time. ::sigh:::

The thing that gets me is that this was never intended to be a season or series finale. Too many things left up in the air. Too many plotlines not given the closure they need and the cliffhanger it ended on...man, that is just too interesting not to come back and explore.

Not that this season has been perfect. It's not been as nirvana-like as season one, but it's still been incredible. And the last few weeks have been some of the best since last year. Yes, it took a lot to believe that TMU would revoke Smash's scholarship, but I liked where it took the character. To see a guy who has banked his whole future on football and to watch that crumble before him because of choices he made in the heat of the moment. I did laugh out loud when the Alabama guy told him they play second to no one. It's the Tennessee fan in me cropping up and it was only funny to me, I'm sure. But it was a good laugh.

Meanwhile, Street is apparently going to become a father. A miracle baby according to his research. Man, I wanted to see Lillah's reaction to this turn of events, especially given how she'd banked on a future with Street last year. The scene with Street and Eric at Applebee's as Street looks for wisdom and advice from the coach was one of the best on a show full of them. Interesting also to see that Street goes to Eric for this advice/guidance and not his family or his father. (Of course, he does talk it out with Herc).

And while I'm not really all that compelled by it, I did find the latest wrinkle in the Lillah/Riggins romance to be better done than it has been.

That said, I can't see that the church radio station is so out of touch they don't know about the reputation of Tim Riggins. Giving him his own talk show was a plot device and nothing more that doesn't hold up well if you really think about it.

But despite that and despite some mis-steps this year, if this is the end it has been one of the most enjoyable TV rides I've taken in a long time. I am going to be hopeful and optimistic that we'll see a third season or maybe even a couple of episodes to at least finish the football season and see some of the seniors graduate. But it will be a tragic shame if this is the last we see of this one...

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 2/10/2008 07:19:00 PM | |
Friday, February 01, 2008
TV Round-Up: Lost
The Beginning of the End
And so begins the first of the final forty-eight episodes of Lost. (Or at least that's how many we're supposed to get...no word yet on if or how the writers' strike may affect that number).

And while we may have a long way yet to go before we reach the end of the story, if this episode is any indication, we're in for a heck of a ride--one that could equal or surpass the breathless, must-see excitement of the first season of this show. Watching this episode, you can feel a renewed energy to the show--one that built in the last half of the season last year and has carried over. I chalk this up to two things--knowing the end is in site and moving toward that and the fact that now the flashes to events off the island can be in the past or the future.

You could feel that energy and mystery of "when does this take place?" in the teaser of the show. And I loved the little trick the writers played on us, making us believe for a moment we'd see a Jack story. Instead, we got one on Hurley and what his life is like post-island.

It was interesting to compare Hurley's hopes on the island to what we see happen to him. Pre-island, Hurley felt cursed by events and the numbers that followed him, to the point that he was locked up in a mental institution and have an imaginary friend who followed him around. On the island, Hurley was free from the money and able to shed the imaginary friend and, perhaps, regain some of his sanity. He did get one moment to savor all this last night when he did the canon ball. In a way, this was almost like a baptism for Hurley. The look of happiness on his face, of contentment was a great moment. And then he came up and his world began to crumble. On the island, he finds Jacob's cabin--or so he believes. He's haunted by the voices and seeing Jacob. He makes the choice to follow Locke because of Charlie's message. Then we see Hurley off the island, where the weight of things is overwhelming him again, causing him to retreat. It's apparent that some kind of deal was struck or something happened that led to the rescue of six of the survivors--but what? We see it eat at Hurley, to the point that Charlie appears as his conscience. And we're led to believe that these flashes are taking place before the Jack flash-forward we saw last year.

And that brings up some questions. First of all, who are the six who leave the island? We have seen three of them, but who are the other three? (I am sure this information lurks in SPOILER web sites, so if you know, don't tell me...I prefer blissful ignorance). And what is the deal they strike? It must be something fairly big since we've seen it eat away at two of the survivors? To the point that it puts Hurley back in a mental institution and it has Jack desperate to get back to the island.

I have some ideas--the biggest being that a large chunk of the group is left behind. I also wonder if Jacob is somehow central to these six be allowed to leave. Or do these six make some kind of deal with Oceanic Air? And why do there seem to be two groups looking for the survivors? We can assume Penny's group has the agenda of finding Desmond. But what is the agenda of the group we've only heard on the radio and seen in the closing moments last night?

Of course, another part of me wonders just how many answers we'll get in these eight episodes and how many were intended for the back eight of the season. I wonder just where in the story we'll be left hanging this time....

Meanwhile, back on the island, the leadership struggle between Jack and Locke finally reaches a breaking point. One of the good things about having the end in sight is that this can finally move out of the kind-of holding pattern its been in the past couple of years. We had both sides conflicting, but with Locke killing Noami and his desire to stay on the island, it's reached a breaking point. And we've divided the castaways into two groups.

You've also still got Ben, who while broken and a prisoner is still pulling strings. I have to wonder if Kate really took the radio from Jack or if Ben managed to switch it. There was a look of surprise on Kate's face when it rang. Or at least I thougt there was.

One thing that interested me is how as each season starts, there's been some sense of mystery about some group of people. In season one, it was who are these survivors. In season two, it was who are the other survivors. In season three, it was questions about who are the Others. And now we've got questions about how are these people on the boat.

It should be interesting to find out the answers.

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posted by Michael Hickerson at 2/01/2008 10:29:00 AM | |
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