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Time to get back to the action on ‘Lost’

Eko's story comes next, but what about Dharma and the Others?

Really, "Lost" fans should thank the folks at ABC.  Season two was humming along — and then, just to free us up for holiday parties and the new year — they provided a six-week break.

After some egg nog to help us through castaway withdrawal, and some quality time spent pondering endless conspiracy theories as we sat through a long Christmas dinner, "Lost" returns with a new episode Wednesday night. (And a re-edited clip show beforehand, just to heal that Yuletide amnesia.)

Will Ana-Lucia stop kicking butt long enough to let us get to know the real her?  Will Sayid mend his broken heart after Shannon's death?  Will Kate and Jack's kiss in the woods lead anywhere? Will it be all hearts for Jin and Sun (and Rose and Bernard) now they've been reunited?

If all this sounds a bit soapish, maybe it's because the "Lost" posse wandered away from the show's mythology in recent episodes, instead focusing on backstories. And after introducing the whole gaggle of tail-enders, it was necessary to explain their 48 days worth of fun and games.

Since October, the best tidbit that fans obsessed with the Dharma Initiative have gotten was Mr. Eko revealing a missing clip from the Dharma orientation film hidden inside a Bible. What did it say? That misusing the computer in the Swan station could lead to "another incident."  And ... cut to Michael sitting at the keyboard, IM'ing with someone who claimed to be his son Walt.

Our tea leaves tell us that we may have to wait another week or two for the Dharma subplot to resurface in detail. But let's get caught up on the rest of the pieces on the board.

Needless to say, if you're spoilerphobic, stop reading right now.

EkoThe tail-enders' mystery man is the subject of this week's episode. We still don't know the whys of his 40 days of silence after flight 815 crashed. Plus, there's all that mysterious Gilgamesh and Josiah stuff from the last couple episodes, which we admit we didn't spend enough time parsing in between giftwrapping to fully comprehend.

ABC says Eko will be taking an interest in Charlie's Virgin Mary statue, one of many from the old Beechcraft plane that carried a Nigerian "priest" and an unholy amount of heroin.  Eko's curiosity about the plane inevitably will reignite theories about his Nigerian connection — and and further fuels the theory that Eko wasn't actually aboard 815. Executive producer Carlton Cruse recently told TV Guide that Eko has ties to the smaller plane.

But our favorite notion right now is a spoilerish tidbit that Eko is actually a Nigerian warlord.  The episode's official list of guest stars bolsters this theory (with such roles as "thug captain," "lead soldier" and "Nigerian woman") but also lists some other roles (including "young Eko" and a couple tough Moroccans) that hints there's even more to his backstory.

And of course the episode is titled, "The 23rd Psalm." Consider that the Lord's Prayer includes reference to "thy rod and thy staff," since show exec Damon Lindelof recently acknowledged that what's being carved in the EkoStick is Scripture. After the Josiah reference last time, Eko's role as a man of faith (and Locke's obvious counterpoint) seems even more concrete — though just what sort of faith is less clear.

LockeSpeaking of the Man of Faith himself, about time he did something besides size up Eko and serve as the Swan station's official projectionist, no?  True, after all that hatch stuff and his discovery of Desmond and Dharma, it was his turn for a backbench stint. But there's clearly something brewing between Locke and Eko.

Is "Lost's" island flock really big enough to be led by two spiritual guides? Doubtful.  Either the two men of faith are going to have to join forces or have a faith-based battle. 

It'd also be nice for Locke to make some progress in unraveling the Dharma mystery. Where'd his pal Desmond get to, anyway?

Speaking of which, where are the Others?  Haven't heard from them in a while. Just sayin'.

Kate, Jack and Sawyer
After Kate played kissy-face with Jack last time, and then had that bizarro "Who's Wayne?" heart-to-heart with Sawyer, perhaps it's time to sort out this little triangle.  In its preview of the Jan. 11 episode, ABC says Jack is "an interested observer" when Kate gives Sawyer a haircut, which is sort of like saying that Sienna Miller was an "interested observer" in Jude Law's nanny dabbling.

Once Sawyer recovers from his injury, the good doctor may want a word or two with him that falls outside the bounds of the doctor-patient relationship. Doubly so since Jack and Sawyer will be headed off on a jungle search party in a Jack-focused Jan. 18 episode.

If nothing else, maybe the newfound tensions will distract Kate from her .

MichaelOdds are on the island's devoted dad and his tinkering with the Swan computer to push forward the Dharma plot.

Given his determination to find Walt, you know he's going to get to the bottom of who's giving him an online howdy, even if it means a trek into the island's less savory corners. (Note to the producers: Extra points if you sneak a 110-baud modem and phone coupler into this scenario.)

Anyone want to bet that Michael's "unauthorized" use of the computer will somehow cause the 108-minute countdown to run down to zero? When the clock eventually does run out — and you know it'll have to eventually — let's hope the resulting incident doesn't have anything to do with those blast doors Michael discovered in the Dharma facility's ceiling.

Scratch that. Let's hope it does.

Ana-Lucia and SayidSayid is still mourning Shannon, but their romance was brief enough (and Shannon bratty enough) that we bet he snaps out of it before long. He's likely still harboring a grudge against Ana-Lucia, aka Itchy Trigger Finger, but assuming the two hash all that out, we think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

You have to assume that some seriously bad juju is headed the Losties' way, and these two are the best soldiers of the bunch. They've both experienced plenty of heartbreak, and before long Ana will no doubt reveal that she lost her baby while on duty as an L.A.P.D. officer. And they've both got skeletons in their closets about their violent tendencies (Ana's revenge killing for her baby's death, Sayid's torturing ways).

While on the topic of curious couples, Claire's about to figure out the mystery of Charlie's attachment to those Virgin Mary statues. You can bet she'll be pissed. Will that put Charlie back on the horse? Will it mean the end of his pseudo-daddy role to baby Aaron?

Perhaps it's time for everyone to change partners — except Sun and Jin, and Bernard and Rose, all of whom deserve some quality bonding time.

HurleyWe miss you, Hugo!  Hurley's been sidelined since the Oct. 12 episode that further detailed his good luck/bad luck in the Mr. Cluck era. But it's quite likely his turn on "Lost's" romantic Wheel of Fortune could be coming soon. After all, an episode without Hurley is like an island without pilot-eating monsters.

Speaking of monsters, Lindelof also 'fessed up recently that the monster will return in Wednesday's show — and this time, at least one of the castaways will get some face time with the curious beast.

Will it be an oversized polar bear?  The Dharma equivalent of a land shark? A killer rabbit with huge fangs?

So long as there's not four of them. Or eight. Or 15. Or 16. Or 23 ... lifestyle editor Jon Bonné is waiting for more footage of that other Dharma station.