In the end, the much-hyped death of a major character on ABC's hit plane-crash drama "Lost" was surprising only because it was so predictable.
Since its fall debut, "Lost" has thrown viewers twist after twist. Mild-mannered Hurley turned out to . Cool Kate was a bank robber, and maybe worse. Mysterious John Locke had been paralyzed until the crash cured him. And stepsiblings Boone and Shannon had, uh, the kind of sibling relationship a lot of us suspected only went on between Greg and Marcia Brady.
So when show creator J.J. Abrams started telling the press that he was going to kill off one of his 14 main characters before the season's end, no one seemed safe. Readers , and almost everyone was suggested as a possible corpse.
It was fairly unanimous that main character Jack (Matthew Fox) was safe. Not only was he the island's only doctor, but he seemed to be central to all plotlines, the little universe's non-elected leader. His semi-girlfriend Kate may have her own dark past, but she seemed fairly safe too, although many readers weren't too fond of her. (In a birthing scene on Wednesday's episode, she at first seemed about as useful as Prissy from "Gone With the Wind.")
Viewer speculation focused almost instantly on minor characters, helped by a quote from actor Josh Holloway in TV Guide where Holloway dropped a hint that the doomed character was one whose plotline wasn't developing.
If there'd been Las Vegas betting on "Lost," that quote alone would have pushed the odds heavily towards Jin (Daniel Dae Kim), if only because it's tough to develop your plot on an English-language show when you're only allowed to speak Korean. Other prime suspects included Charlie, the formerly drug-addicted rocker, and single dad Michael.
Another plane crashBut then came last week's episode, in which the island's Dynamic Duo, Locke and Boone, set out on an adventure inspired by a vision of Locke's. He'd seen a small plane crash on the island, then seen his companion Boone streaked in blood and mumbling. Then, as visions seem to do on Mystery Island, Locke discovered that at least part of his vision was true: A small Beechcraft plane had crashed on the island and was hanging high in the trees.
As viewers learned in that week's flashback, Locke had been used by a person he thought cared for him. His wealthy father, who'd never been in his life, befriended him only long enough to convince his son to donate a kidney to him, then shut him out of his life again.
Now on the island, in his new life, Locke and Boone had become friends. Locke wanted to know what was in the crashed small plane, and he himself couldn't climb into it. Yet he'd seen the vision of a bloody Boone, he had to suspect that this part of his vision would also come true. Yet much in the same way that his father sacrificed him to get what he wanted, Locke sacrificed his young friend, sending Boone into the plane without telling him what he'd seen. And of course, the plane came crashing down from the trees, injuring Boone badly. As Locke dragged a bloody Boone back to doctor Jack, last week's episode ended, and the speculation heated up.
But now instead of going for the obvious bet, many viewers figured the show was feinting one way and would actually go the other — that Boone being so badly injured made him too obvious a candidate for the grave. Surely, they felt, some of the island's magic would save him and another, less obvious character would lose his or her life.
Just too obviousThey had ammunition for that way of thinking thanks to multiple feints in last week's episode. As the episode focused on Locke's past, viewers saw him pre-wheelchair, and witnessed numerous falls and moments that could have caused Locke's paralysis. Yet each time, he got up and walked, the mystery of what took his ability to walk remaining just that, a mystery.
"Boone won’t die — they did the same thing a couple of months ago, advertising that somebody was going to die, and it turned out to be someone we barely knew, if we’d known them at all," wrote one reader to MSNBC.com.
Said another "Boone being hurt so badly as we are nearing the season's end makes him a blatantly obvious choice. And there is nothing blatantly obvious about 'Lost', except the continuing mysteries of the island."
Ironically, the obvious choice ended up being — well, not so obvious.
It's of course still possible that Boone might not be dead. Viewers are still clucking that evil Ethan, who was shot multiple times by Charlie earlier this year, is just too evil to be killed by regular bullets. And the island might have healing powers — it apparently gave Locke back his ability to walk.
With the birth of Claire's baby son at about the same moment that Boone slipped away, it's also possible there could be some kind of soul transfer or rebirth cycle going on. Although it's more likely that Claire's son has his own well-developed plot planned out — rumors abound that he's either the savior or the antichrist, based on the ominous behavior of an Australian psychic.
Killing off a main character, even a secondary main character such as Boone, is jolting for any show. Still, on a show like this one, it's likely that such a monumental event will only open up more and different directions for the plot to go.
It was apparent from the preview that Jack blames Locke for Boone's death, and it's obvious from his wrenching tears last week that Locke also blames himself. The two have been island leaders up until now, their confrontation is certain to shake and divide the island.
Earlier in the episode, not knowing her brother was dying, Shannon told new love interest Sayid that she would always feel something for Boone, but that she didn't love him in a romantic way. She's sure to be devastated by the loss regardless, but those words are likely to ring through her mind as she grieves.
Even characters that barely interacted with Boone are sure to be affected, as his death brings home the danger of the island to all of the survivors.
Maybe by creating a fairly straightforward death, the show's creators are reminding viewers that anything really can happen on this island. After all, in a world full of twists, the ultimate twist is a straight line.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is MSNBC.com's television editor.