Plung­ing Back in The ‘Lost’ Maze

An Omi­nous ‘Uh-Oh’ Kicks Off The Cast­aways’ Fourth Sea­son

The Washington Post - - Style - By Ta­mara Jones

Eight months with­out an episode and “Lost” re­turns with an open­ing shot of a pile of pears? No, wait, maybe those are pota­toes. What does bread­fruit look like? Per­plex­ity is such a Pavlo­vian re­sponse to ABC’s megahit mys­tery that even a still life stirs anx­i­ety.

That pro­duce pyra­mid gets blown to smithereen­s soon enough, though, and we’re hap­pily trapped again be­neath the huge, de­li­cious mess of TV’s most aptly named se­ries when it re­turns tonight for a fourth sea­son.

Fans have been stranded longer than the cast­aways on “Lost’s” creepy South Seas is­land, and the first two of 16 promised episodes this sea­son — only half are in the can — speed the com­pli­cated plot along with lit­tle mercy for strag­glers. Hur­ley, left be­hind on yet an­other trek through the jun­gle, ut­ters the best dead­pan pre­lude of

the whiplash twists and turns to come: “Uh-oh.” A spe­cial hour-long re­cap will pre­cede tonight’s sea­son opener, a vi­tal cheat-sheet given the show’s large cast and the writ­ers’ pen­chant for flash­backs, mini-sto­ries and deeply drawn-then-gone char­ac­ters (write when you find work, Mr. Eko!).

(For the de­ter­mined new­com­ers who need a prep course be­fore at­tempt­ing even the re­cap: Some 40 sur­vivors are stranded af­ter a Los An­ge­les-bound jet­liner crashes. The core group of cast­aways dis­cov­ers the rem­nants of a cultish re­search sta­tion, where they be­come the next ex­per­i­ment for the hu­man-but-ruth­less Oth­ers. Fight­ing for con­trol of the is­land and its strange pow­ers, Sur­vivors and Oth­ers com­min­gle in un­ex­pected ways, leav­ing it un­clear whether mem­bers on ei­ther side are turn­ing traitor, play­ing spy or fall­ing in love. Think “Gilligan’s Is­land” gone ter­ri­bly wrong. Mar­tooni, Lovey?)

Last sea­son’s thrilling finale had the sur­vivors mak­ing ra­dio con­tact with a freighter and await­ing im­mi­nent res­cue. Char­lie, the junkie rock star, sac­ri­ficed him­self to un­jam the ra­dio sig­nal; his dy­ing act was to try to warn them that the pu­ta­tive res­cuers weren’t what they seemed. The cliffhange­r was a flash-for­ward of pro­tag­o­nist Jack (Matthew Fox) back home as a sui­ci­dal, pill-pop­ping sur­geon who is the sole mourner at a funeral where he iden­ti­fies him­self as nei­ther friend nor fam­ily of the de­ceased.

Mes­sage boards and blog­gers went wild with spec­u­la­tion over who was in the cas­ket. (Was it Walt, the miss­ing mys­tic boy? Or Ben, pup­pet­mas­ter of the Oth­ers, his evil Or­phan An­nie cir­cle-eyes closed for­ever?) We know only that it’s not Kate (Evan­ge­line Lilly), since Jack sum­mons her to the air­port for a tense park­ing-lot ren­dezvous. She has clearly built an apres-is­land hap­pi­lyever-af­ter with­out him, and seems unswayed by Jack’s des­per­ate in­sis­tence that they “have to go baaaaaaack” to the is­land. The im­pli­ca­tion is that some hor­ri­ble mis­take has been made and must be un­done.

The fate of some of the Oceanic 815 sur­vivors is hinted at, but not re­vealed — the se­ries creators have de­clared the show will end in May 2010, af­ter three more sea­sons of 16 episodes each — and only one key char­ac­ter is fol­lowed into the fu­ture for more than a mo­ment.

ABC re­leased the two-episode preview with so many re­stric­tions that it’s nearly im­pos­si­ble to de­scribe how the plot ad­vances, but the in­ven­tive writ­ers haven’t done away with cer­tain “Lost” givens:

When there’s a choice of two paths to take, Kate will defy Jack to fol­low one of them on her own, ever the head­strong (and kind of mur­der­ous) Nancy Drew in a clingy sweat­stained tank top in­stead of penny loafers and plaid skirt.

Po­lar bears are al­ways where you least ex­pect them.

Some­one will get punched out and/or tied up. Some­one will dis­ap­pear. The big­gest, most dis­con­cert­ing change in tonight’s opener is a kin­der, gen­tler Sawyer (Josh Hol­loway). Kate’s bad-boy se­cret lover ap­par­ently spent the hia­tus with Dr. Phil and has gone to mush. When Hur­ley im­pul­sively de­stroys some­thing fairly crit­i­cal, the usu­ally ex­plo­sive Sawyer merely shrugs. Then, trekking through the jun­gle, Sawyer of­fers to dis­cuss Char­lie’s death “if you wanna talk about it,” and re­buffed, drapes an arm around Hur­ley with a broth­erly “Holler if you need me.” Mi­nus his edge, Sawyer is the Miss­ing Bee Gee, a L’Oréal model for guy­lighted hair.

While tonight’s pre­miere slings view­ers into the fu­ture only to snap them back again, next week’s in­stall­ment puts us back on the is­land, good ol’ terra weirda, for long, dis­turb­ing stretches. The jun­gle whis­pers are back, and it’s com­fort­ing to know that the crazy French­woman is guard­ing hostage Ben, his face sat­is­fy­ingly blood­ied. Sawyer is re­united with his testos­terone, and it’s a re­lief to see him snarling again.

“Lost’s” al­ways sly sense of hu­mor gets out to play a bit more, whether it’s flashed in the “No Pulp” la­bel of an orange-juice jug or in the hip non­cha­lance of a ghost­buster who per­forms ex­or­cisms with a DustBuster.

A fa­vorite ac­tor from HBO’s “The Wire” pops up, and other new­com­ers drop in. And Emmy win­ner Terry O’Quinn is still mes­mer­iz­ing as John Locke, heroic one minute, homi­ci­dal the next.

De­cid­ing whom to trust and who has ul­te­rior mo­tives is the per­pet­ual dilemma of “Lost,” as mad­den­ingly dif­fi­cult for the main char­ac­ters as it is for the view­ers, as the story line con­tin­u­ally shifts and re­shapes it­self. The deeper mys­ter­ies of the is­land are in­trigu­ing enough to dis­tract, con­ve­niently, from the petty ones — such as why the cast­aways’ clothes still fit per­fectly (even for Claire, the Most Dis­pos­able Cast­away, who gave birth on the is­land but ap­par­ently per­fectly pre­dicted her post­na­tal size when pack­ing for the ill­fated Syd­ney-to-Los An­ge­les flight).

Odd, too, that there are no mos­qui­toes on a hu­mid, trop­i­cal is­land, but maybe the Snarling Black Smoke that used to fling peo­ple to death dou­bled as a bug zap­per. Still, you’d think a jumbo jet that spilled peo­ple, pressed chi­nos, a wheel­chair, a dog and sundry other use­ful items in­tact onto the is­land would have also scat­tered bags of stale mini-pret­zels and copies of SkyMall through the jun­gle, too. But why nit­pick?

Trust us, there are much big­ger things to worry about.

Talk live with wash­ing­ton­post.com’s “Lost” blog­gers Jen Chaney and Liz Kelly dur­ing the show’s sea­son pre­miere, tonight at 8 at wash­ing­ton­post.com/lost.

BY MARIO PEREZ — ABC

Mean­while, back on the is­land, El­iz­a­beth Mitchell, left, Naveen An­drews and Sam An­der­son wait to be res­cued.

BY MARIO PEREZ — ABC VIA AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In the sea­son pre­miere of “Lost,” the cast­aways be­lieve their res­cue is near but are con­fused by the omi­nous last words of a for­mer is­land-mate.

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