Even in death, Lost's most reviled castaways can't get any peace. In the ABC series' March 28th episode, Nikki (Kiele Sanchez) and Paolo (Rodrigo Santoro) — who were clumsily introduced at the beginning of season three and never forgiven for it — were revealed to be diamond-grubbing murderers who, in one of the series' darkest twists to date, were paralyzed by spider bites and unwittingly buried alive by show heroes Sawyer and Hurley. Response to the episode proved bitterly divided, with viewers and online bloggers — see TVGuide.com's Roush Dispatch, Today's News: Our Take and Lost discussion blog — falling into two distinctly polarized camps: Those who felt the episode was an unwelcome disruption to the show's main storyline; and those who felt it was a clever acknowledgment of fan frustration that amounted to, as Hurley said, "one of the most awesome hours of television ever." (Among the episode's many inside jokes: Sawyer's "Who the hell's Nikki?" crack, and Nikki's plea to Paolo upon seeing dead step-siblings Shannon and Boone: "Promise me we'll never end up like them.)
For their part, producers say they expected the episode to be "good watercooler" fodder. "People hated the characters before they even opened their mouths because it felt like they were crashing the party," says executive producer Damon Lindelof. "The easiest thing would've been to forget they ever happened, like the cougar on [the second season of] 24. But that's not Lost."
Instead, he and fellow show-runner Carlton Cuse decided to craft an episode that would serve as a rejoinder to the character criticism. "The audience rebelled against Nikki and Paolo [because] we introduced them in a way that they were supposed to believe they had been there all along," Lindelof says. "So our response was, 'Well, let's show the audience that they have been there all along.'" The producers also felt that Sanchez and Santoro deserved a shot at redeeming themselves. "Rodrigo and Kiele are talented actors who were being underutilized," Lindelof says. "They deserved their chance at bat."
While viewers have questioned whether the duo is actually done for, producers insist Nikki and Paolo won't dig their way out of this one. In fact, Santoro is already busy with film commitments in his native Brazil, and Sanchez is shooting an ABC pilot, Football Wives, which is under consideration for the network's fall schedule.
As for naysayers' claim that the episode was "filler," Cuse hints that Nikki and Paolo's fates may be a sign of what's to come: "In the progression that started with Eko's death [earlier this season], there's a sense that the island ultimately is collecting the souls of people who may not be redeemable."
Are you listening, Others?