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Image: "Lost" finale
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Christian Shephard’s back! Hurray! He tells our favorite castaways they’re actually dead. Lame!
TODAY contributor
updated 5/25/2010 4:30:54 AM ET 2010-05-25T08:30:54

Fans who tuned in to the “Lost” series finale hoping to get all their questions answered may have been disappointed. Those who hoped for a believable explanation to the alternate-reality dilemma ... well, for them disappointment doesn’t even cover it. But if, on the off chance, some pined for a partially satisfying, partially infuriating end to the twisting mystery, Sunday’s episode was a winner.

It began as the last installment ended, with a newly Jacob’ed Jack standing in the river. Though he didn’t feel any different, he seemed to know exactly what he needed to do. So he called his troops — Sawyer, Hurley and Kate — into action. Sawyer went off in search of Desmond, while Kate and Hurley followed Jack to the heart of the island.

Sawyer’s search ended before it even began. Rather than finding everyone’s favorite electromagnetically resistant pal, he found Smokey and Ben ruing their similar plan over an empty well. Sawyer hightailed it back to Jack after guessing Smokey’s new destroy-the-island-using-Desmond platform and left Smokey and Ben to continue their own search.

As for Desmond, he enjoyed the company of his rescuers — wait for it — Rose, Bernard and perhaps the most missed castaway of all, Vincent the dog! OK, sure, it felt as if the long lost trio were sort of shoehorned into the scene as a final nod, but it’s Rose, Bernard and Vincent, so who cares?

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As if to explain their complete absence from all things plot related, Rose informed Desmond that she and Bernard broke their cardinal rule by rescuing him. The rule basically consists of staying out of everyone else’s drama. And if they thought they broke it by helping Desmond, the arrival of Smokey threatened to show them just how broken it could get.

It wasn’t long before Smokey threatened to kill the old familiar faces if Desmond didn’t follow him to the glowing source. Needless to say, Des obeyed.

Soon Jack and his gang, once again joined by Sawyer, met up with Smokey, Ben and Desmond. Though an epic battle seemed the logical choice of action, Jack didn’t see the need for it. Instead, he, Smokey and Des made a trip to the heart of the island.

It seems Smokey’s plan to destroy the island meshed pretty nicely with Jack’s plan to destroy Smokey, so they decided to cooperate instead by helping Desmond down into the light in the cave.

Once down there, Desmond somehow knew to pull a stone cork out of a shimmering pool, which turned off the all-important light and triggered a load of earthquakes.

The result left a smug Smokey believing he was the winner. It left Jack believing it would be a great time to attack Smokey. So he did.

Apparently there was one big perk to turning off the island’s light — it also turned off its magic. Smokey was now flesh and blood, emphasis on the latter. He could be hurt. The epic battle was back on.

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While the island shook and rumbled and they skies ripped open in storm, Jack and Smokey carried out their attacks along a cliff side. Jack attempted to choke his foe. Smokey stabbed Jack. Kate, appearing out of nowhere, shot Smokey.

What? Yep, just as the fight really got going, Kate stepped in and cut it short. In Jack’s victorious defense, he did get one last kick in — the one that sent Smokey plummeting over the cliff to his death.

But there was still work to be done. If the island was ever going to stop rumbling, someone needed to put the cork back into the source.

Jack volunteered. He urged his friends to leave. After all, Frank Lapidus (who was somehow still alive), Richard Alpert (who was somehow still alive) and Miles planned to fly away on the plane. Sawyer and Kate decided to go, but Hurley and Ben — despite his back-and-forth-baddie status — stayed with Jack.

Just before Jack plunged into the same depths he sent Desmond to, he prepared a special muck-water drink for Hurley. It was the big guy’s turn to be the new Jacob, or Jack-ob. Either way, the dude would protect the island, and thanks to his kind nature, Ben would get a second shot at being the leader’s right-hand man. That’s trust. Crazy trust, but trust all the same. 

Once at the bottom of the source, Jack spotted Desmond and helped him to safety before grabbing the cork in one glorious, if equally odd, form of self-sacrifice.

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The end.

Not really.

It’s a shame, too, because had that been the end, viewers could have cherished it. It would have made for a respectable closure to all that island action. Sure, fans would always wonder about that pesky alternate reality they saw glimpses of all season long, but there are fates worse than wondering — like finding out the answer, for instance.

Well, that sounds a bit gloom and doom, doesn’t it? In fairness to the alt-world, it had its moments. A sugary-sweet, rapid-fire series of “aha” moments, but still, they were anticipated and welcomed by all but the cold-hearted.

There was the moment Juliet administered Sun’s ultrasound and thereby triggered the Kwons other-life memories. Sniff. Or when Sayid attempted to rescue a seemingly random woman only to touch her and instantly know she was none other than his lost island-love, Shannon. Sniff. Or when Kate helped Claire deliver Aaron and suddenly knew everything, and then Claire touched Aaron and remembered everything, and then Charlie touched Claire and … you get the idea. Sniff, sniff, sniff.

Locke had his own somewhat less tear-jerking solo flash after Jack completed his operation. A wiggle of the toes brought to mind another lifetime of mobility.

Of course the big mind-reunions were saved for members of the island’s old love quadrangle.

For Sawyer and Juliet, it was simply a shared meaningful moment by the glow of a vending machine. They went from strangers to passionate lovers in seconds. (Note: Anyone who didn’t cry when Sawyer pulled Juliet to him after he remembered her dying in his arms on the island has a rock where their heart should be. Just FYI.)

Then there was Jack, who despite multiple flashes of the other world just kept trying to push back the memories. He even saw something when Locke had his own moment, but perhaps Locke’s insistence that Jack’s son, David, didn’t really exist inspired some denial for the doctor. But you know what he couldn’t deny? A little contact from Kate.

Although he still wasn’t ready to fully accept his former life, just a touch from Kate was enough to get him to tag along to the big group get-together she and the other folks had planned down the rabbit hole, er, at the church.

Not just any church, either. This was the church where a very tardy Oceanic Airlines finally delivered Jack’s father’s remains. So while Kate joined her pals in the pews, Jack decided to have some private time with his dad’s coffin. Only — and this should come to no surprise to anyone who’s watched a single episode of “Lost” — Jack’s father wasn’t in the coffin.

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Empty coffins and Christian Shephard go together like peanut butter and jelly. Still, while that part was predictable, what followed wasn’t.

While Jack mourned, Christian, soon to be known as Exposition-man, stood by waiting for his big moment.

Sometime after his “Hey, kiddo!” and Jack’s understandable “What-the-what?” reaction, the silver fox explained precisely what the alternate reality was — a place Jack and his past pals created to have one giant, post-mortem meet up.

That’s right. It wasn’t a different thread of reality created by the time-changing blast Daniel Faraday suggested. That makes too much sense. Instead, it was all just some oddly plotted excuse for everyone (minus Michael, Walt and loads of other characters) to get together after their respective deaths but before they moved on to whatever follows.

What was the point of everything before that? What about all that alt-action? The alt-escapes? The alt-killings? The alt-family members who don’t really exist? (Sorry, David! And sorry anyone else who paid attention to your now meaningless story.) There weren’t any.

The end.

Really this time.

Those who spent the better part of the last six seasons wondering where in the heck the sometimes frustrating, almost always entertaining mystery could possibly go finally got their answer. If they can make sense of it, that is.

In the end, the electromagnetically charged mystery island gave way to a hug-filled waiting room leading to a pan-spiritual afterlife, led by the aptly named Christian Shephard. Whew!

It’s a daring way to end “Lost” — leaving plenty of questions unanswered and winking out on what has to be its least satisfying twist to date.

At least no one can say they saw that coming.

Ree Hines is willing to turn the frozen donkey wheel herself, if it means we can get a finale do-over. Follower her on Twitter if you want to help her give it a spin at twitter.com/ReeHines.

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