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‘Lost’ fans impatient for answers in finale

Season three of “Lost” ends Wednesday night with a two-hour finale, but just who’s going to be watching? Diehard fans. Viewers who’ve held out this long have displayed the kind of loyalty networks dream of. They’ve endured an oddly placed midseason hiatus, a late timeslot switch and some truly horrible episodes to get here. It’s thanks to them that the show got the go ahead for three more, albeit abbreviated, seasons.

Doesn’t all that unwavering support deserve something in return? Sure there’s been a small payoff with the , but the fact is, if those fans don’t get their dues on finale night, even the most tenacious of them won’t bother tuning in next year.

ABC’s recently aired “Lost: The Answers” did little more than highlight the troubles so far. It was a recap special that sort of said, “We’ve given you answers all along, so quit your bellyaching,” all the while ignoring the fact that these weren’t the answers viewers clamored for. Other than how Locke ended up in the wheelchair and the identity of the original Sawyer (the answer to both being Locke’s bad dad, Anthony Cooper), “big reveals” like the meaning behind Jack’s tattoo are about as important as whether Dharma Puffs taste more like Rice Krispies or Corn Pops. No one cares.

Why not touch on some of the old questions still hanging in the ether: Who were Adam and Eve? What’s the significance of the black and white stones? Where’s Christian Shephard’s body? What's up with that four-toed statue? Where in the world are Walt and Michael? Sure, string us along about the smoke monster, the true nature of Jacob, and the numbers right up to the end, but there’s still plenty of time to dish out lots of clues to the mini-mysteries.

Truthfully, that’s not even the biggest sin of the season. Executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof forgot that it was the core cast of characters that made the show work. The first part of the season mostly focused on Kate, Jack, Sawyer and a growing league of Others.

When it was time to branch out, in came the newbies, Nikki and Paulo. Lindelof has repeatedly owned up to the fact that this wasn’t a good idea. Why awkwardly crowbar in a couple of bland new faces on team Good Guys, when three-fourths of the cast had nothing better to do then write essays about “How I Spent My Hawaiian Vacation?”  It still doesn’t make sense. But the producers found a way to deal with their mea culpa. They just buried their mistakes. Alive.

A mixed bag
None of this is to say there haven’t been some bright spots. Learning that the Others didn’t just sustain on the island, but thrived in their own private suburbia, was a plus. The sight of bungalows and book clubs put an end to any vestiges of their early barefoot hillbilly act.

Desmond’s post-hatch blast prescient powers made for some entertaining, if strange, episodes. Not all of it was about his ability him to see the paths to Charlie’s doom, either. His apparent time travel through his own past with his present knowledge still requires some head-scratching.

While the untimely loss of Mr. Eko still stings, another death was much easier to swallow. Seeing Locke's evil dad get his just desserts after Locke manipulated Sawyer into taking care of their mutual problem? Good times.

More moments like these throughout the season could have helped, but since “The Brig,” the aforementioned patricide by proxy story, the tide has taken a turn for the better.

Hope on the horizon
Last week’s Charlie-centric episode showed how it should be done. Jack and Sayid were at loggerheads over whose plan should take priority. Crazy Rousseau blew stuff up. And the Losties were united in both their fear and resolve to face it.

Everyone sans Locke was there, and they were all important, right down to Rose and Bernard and baby Aaron. Heck, even a character like Charlie, who’s gone from sympathetic to annoying to just-kill-him-already, came back around to sympathetic. His brief flashbacks didn’t overshadow the plot; they punctuated it. That is “Lost” at its best.

Sounds like a good lead-in for the finale, no? Factor in that the two previous episodes were at least improvements, if not aces, and it’s looking like a trend.

Some of the elusive answers, even if they’re just specific to this season, are almost a given. By Thursday morning the fates of Locke and Charlie should be known. Though a pretty easy guess could be had now: Locke lives and Charlie dies. Considering Locke’s a singular threat to Ben’s special status, and Charlie’s heroic sendoff is pointless without his death, how else could it go?

But what about that impending battle between the island residents and the castaways? After all the torture at the hands of the Others, there needs to be some accounting. It can’t be a complete one-sided victory for the Oceanic survivors, but the Others need some serious culling. Make no mistake, though — Ben needs to make it out alive. If only so he can take in the losses and come down from his I-call-the-shots, I-capped-Locke, Jacob-only-talks-to-me high horse.

If all that isn’t enough, there’s one last puzzle piece that could make or break the whole show: The “game changer.” Throughout the season Cuse and Lindelof have said that something will happen to completely shake things up—not a little course change, but an “OMG! What just happened?” sort of affair.

What major reveal could flip the "Lost" world around at this point? (Warning: Guesses ahead that could be possible spoilers.) The infamous "Jacob's List" of good and bad people could be a clue. What if there’s a complete reversal about how the island's population is regarded – if the good guys are really bad, and vice-versa? Do the Others really have the moral high ground that Ben hints at?

Or maybe there's more to the story of why the island is so hard to find. It's not on any maps. Are they even on an island at all? And whatever it is, does it stay in the same place? Locke always talks about the island as if it's a being, an entity with its own thoughts and sense of justice. Maybe he's been on the right track all along.

But with so many time references this season, don't be surprised if the game-changer turns out to be more about when and not where they are. From Desmond's adventures through the time-space continuum to the clever anagrams that pop up on occasion (remember Mittelos Bioscience? Mittelos is an anagram for “Lost Time”), the groundwork has been laid for a time shift.  

Hang on a little longer, “Lost” fans. It’s all riding on Wednesday night.

Ree Hines is a writer in Tampa.

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