Carlton began to talk about how since Lost is now a series in its later years, they need sponsorship to continue promoting the program. He then introduced their sponsor for the panel, the Dharma Initiative, while they both brandished enormous soft drink cups emblazoned with the Dharma Initiative name much like Coke’s sponsorship of American Idol. "It’s a case of life imitating art," said Carlton, adding that Dharma must have reconstituted and are now recruiting new volunteers. He introduced the Dharma vice president of recruiting, Mr. Hans von Egan, who did a short presentation on the results of their recruitment efforts at the Con the last couple of days. "They were abysmal," he said, berating the crowd, before showing a short video compiling several candidates’ recruitment interviews. Interspersed among the Con attendees were Carlton and Damon’s interviews. After the video ended, von Egan introduced a few candidates that did meet their criteria and led them back to the booth to "move on to the next critical stage of the Dharma Initiative." He then told the audience that they can still register at Dharmawantsyou.com.
Once they were gone, it was time for the audience Q and A. The first question was whether the island moved when the hatch was blown up and the sky turned purple at the end of season 2. After a bit of banter on what a good question that was, Damon simply said no. He then mentioned the Dharma box next to them, saying that they were going to give question-appropriate gifts to each audience member who asks a question. Carlton rummaged through the box, selecting an Oceanic bottle of water. The prizes were brought to the audience members by a couple of people dressed in Dharma uniforms.
The second person wanted to know whether Jin and Locke were actually dead. Carlton said Jin "will still be on the show in some form. You have not seen the last of both of those characters." He then went on to say that there’s still a lot of story to tell about both characters and that "death is a relative term" on the show. Damon found a small plush panda bear in the box to commemorate Jin and gave it to the audience member.
The third person wanted the guys to clarify whether there were only two seasons left of the show and that the fifth season wasn’t starting until early next year. Damon said that they announced back in the middle of the third season that they were ending the show after the sixth season. There were going to be 17 episodes in the fifth season, starting in February 2009 and another 17 episodes in the sixth season, starting in February 2010. Carlton gave the guy a Lost calendar.
The next question was which season and episode the guys liked best. Carlton likes "The Constant" and his favorite is the first season because they were just figuring out the show and how it was a constant "adrenaline rush of excitement and terror." Damon liked the first season finale because he loved writing the raft launch and how "the show could still be hopeful" back then before falling into the "utter despair" it is now. He likes the fourth season. He acknowledged that the show has had its ups and downs but said that fans will be rewarded in the upcoming seasons. Carlton said the end date has invigorated the writing in the fourth season and that this energy will continue to the end. Damon picked out an Apollo bar and an Apollo bar T-shirt for the audience member.
Another guy first "slapped" the showrunners around for the fakeout with both Sun’s flashforward and Jin’s flashback. His question was about the advertisements for season 4 that showed the cast on the island but the reflection in the water showed cityscapes and whether this was significant or hid clues of some sort. Carlton said that this advertising campaign was about how the flashforwards throughout the season told the stories of the Oceanic 6 back in the real world, "but if you look very carefully there are signs of, like, the ‘Paul McCartney is dead’ [hidden message]." Carlton gave the guy a Heroes DVD box set, ("for slapping us around") which caused much audience laughter. "It’s a much better show than ours," added Damon.
The next question was whether there would be a Rousseau flashback. Carton said that there would be a Rousseau story in the fifth season. Damon said that they preferred not to use the word "flashback" anymore. Carlton added that while there would still be flashbacks and flashforwards on the show, they were trying something new for the fifth season. The audience member received some Lost luggage tags.
Another guy wanted to know if they were going to start shooting the next season under the new SAG contract or the old one. Damon thought it was a trick question since there was no new SAG contract yet. They had planned on shooting the show in three weeks whether a new contract had been ratified or not since SAG has not called for a work stoppage. The guy started to leave before getting his gift, which was a set of Nikki and Paulo photos. "Two SAG actors," noted Carlton.
The next person wanted to know how much the other writers or even their own mothers knew about how the show will end. "Wow, talking about my mother in front of 6500 people, surely it’s a Jew’s dream," mused Damon. Carlton said that their families like to be kept in the dark. The writers know a lot but don’t know the absolute end. This lucky guy got a life vest signed by all of the Lost writers.
This was followed by a guy wondering whether there were any special guests "sulking" about backstage, referring to last year’s surprise appearance by Harold Perrineau. Damon said that the cast are "scattered all around the world" since they are in the last few weeks of freedom before they have to be in Hawaii to shoot the new season so it is difficult to round them up and bring them to San Diego for the Con. Carlton gave him a signed Lost season 3 DVD box set since all the cast are in the box.
The next person wanted to know if Carlton and Damon had seen the movie, Lost Horizons, and whether this movie had influenced the show in any way. Carlton had seen it but feels that he is more influenced by other things, such as Stephen King’s works. He thinks that any sort of genre work that they had been exposed to influences their writing in some way. Damon selected "Our Mutual Friend" by Charles Dickens ("Desmond’s copy") to give to the guy.
Another audience member was concerned about Vincent after the events at the end of season 4. Damon said they were expecting a question on what happened to the island or the characters but instead got a question about the dog. He went on to say that Vincent will appear in Season 5 and thought it was safe to say that he will make it to the end of the show. Since they didn’t have any dog-related gifts, Carlton gave her a small plush polar bear.
The next person wanted to know whether Jack and Kate were the one true paring and whether they would be together at the end of the show. "We can’t tell you," said Carlton. Damon thought that the relationship and the triangle with Sawyer were important aspects of the show and Carlton added that there were different permutations that would play out in the upcoming stories. He then went on to say that personally he likes the two of them together but professionally has to "take the fifth." Damon decided to give the guy a Jack Sheppard action figure. Carlton argued that Damon should pick a different gift since the figure didn’t look like Jack. The audience guy said he’ll take the figure. While Damon and Carlton continued to argue, Matthew Fox came out onto the stage to loud cheers. He signed the figure and handed it to the audience member, taking a couple of photos with him. This was followed by a kid who wanted to know if Kate will see Sawyer again. Matthew acted disappointed by the question, but the answer was yes according to Damon. Carlton gave her a poster signed by several cast members.
The next guy wanted to know what happened to the guys in the small raft after the island moved. Damon clarified by asking whether the question was about "Faraday and five guys who have never spoken a line on the show." Both he and Carlton think Faraday is OK but we should worry about those other guys. "I’m trying to remember back from the dailies, you’re not one of those people, are you?" asked Carlton. "I could be," said the audience member. He then asked Matthew whether he knows the extras on set since they’ve been working on the show for the past few years. He certainly does, adding that they are very professional on set, do a good job, and are absolutely necessary for the show. This audience member received "an authentic Faraday tie."
Another person wanted to know if the flashforwards are limited to within a few years into the future or if they could go decades ahead. Carlton: "That’s a good question. Matthew?" Matthew: "I’m going to throw that back to you guys." Damon said that when season 5 starts, viewers will not know when or where they are and that the storytelling style will be different. Carlton added that there would be stories both on and off the island at different time periods. They gave this guy a Hanso Foundation hat.
The next audience member wanted to know how the show ends. "It ends well, we hope," said Carlton. The audience member then asked if there was a (J)gin related prize in the box. "The alcohol or the character?" asked Damon. The guy ended up with a six-pack of Dharma beer.
That was followed by a guy dressed as Hurley. He wanted to know what Charlotte told Kate and Jack in the Tempest station and how Daniel knew about the secondary protocol. Damon said that Daniel knew about the secondary protocol because it’s in his notebook, which will play a big part in season 5. As for the Tempest bit, he went into a long exposition of Charlotte explaining to Juliet about the gas that would kill everyone on the island. "Wow I can’t believe I just pulled that out of my ass!" Carlton gave "Hurley" a large tub of Dharma ranch dressing.
The next person referred to Matthew as "actor guy." "That’s got to make you feel good about yourself!" teased Damon. The audience member wanted to know if the writers have ever written themselves into a corner or whether they have everything planned out. Carlton said that they have the major stuff planned out but actually try to write themselves into corners all the time because it’s thrilling to put the characters into seemingly impossible situations and figure out ways to get them out. They won’t film all those scenarios, but it’s a good exercise in the writers’ room. The two gave the guy a dry erase board eraser signed by both of them since they use a lot of dry erase boards in the writers’ room.
Another audience member wanted to know how old Richard Alpert is and how many toes he has. Carlton said he is quite old, noting that aging is different on the island. More about him will be revealed in season 5. Damon asked Matthew to guess how old Richard is. "125 years old." "Wrong." As for the number of toes, Damon said that Richard will take off his shoes "in the very near future, pun intended." Carlton gave her a T-shirt that read, "I asked a question about Richard Alpert and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."
The last person wanted to know if the people on the island are being watched and if so, whether they know who is watching them. "That’s a good one!" said Matthew. Damon started to talk about the end of Season 3 when Jack shows Kate the obituary obscuring the deceased person’s name, which we found out in Season 4 was Jeremy Bentham. In the middle of his answer, one of the Dharma recruits from the beginning of the panel ran onto the stage, telling the showrunners that they haven’t told us anything in the last four years and thought that it was about time for some answers. He asked the audience whether they wanted to see the special video the Dharma recruits were shown. Damon and Carlton kept calling for security in deadpan voices during the recruit’s tirade.
They finally showed the recruit’s video, which started with the group being led through the exhibition hall and into the Dharma booth. The recruit kept a running commentary throughout. Once seated, the Dharma film began. It looked like it was from the 1970’s and showed Dr. Marvin Candle wearing casual clothes. He appeared to be at home rather than in one of the Dharma stations with a friend filming. After introducing himself as Candle, he admitted that whoever was watching the film would know that wasn’t his name. He reintroduced himself as Peter Chang. A child could be heard offscreen and Chang urged someone to take the kid outside as he only had one chance at recording (broadcasting?) the message. He said that the viewer should be receiving his message about 30 years in the future. He mentioned President Bush and the internet and knew that he and his colleagues were dead by the time the viewer saw the film. He said that it was imperative that the Dharma Initiative be reconstituted since the island has extraordinary powers. The film kept cutting out and skipping like all the other Dharma films seen in the show. The recruit was then caught with the camera and the video ended.
After that, von Egan came out to the stage again, telling the showrunners that the Dharma Initiative was withdrawing their sponsorship and ending the panel. Damon apologized as von Egan took away the soft drink cups. Carlton thanked the audience for coming. They never did answer that last question.
The Lost season 4 DVD box set will be released on December 9. Season 5 will air in February next year.