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Is ‘Lost’ fascinating or frustrating its fans?

It should come as little surprise that even devoted fans of the show, people who swear they’ll never leave the island, are generally underwhelmed by the first batch of episodes for the fall season.  By Victor Balta
/ Source: contributor

Here's a glimpse into the collective mind of “Lost” fans and staffers. “The Fuselage,” the official Web site of the show's creative team, includes a poll after each new episode that asks whether the show was “Below Average by ‘Lost’ Standards,” “Above Average by ‘Lost’ Standards” or the “Best Hour of TV Ever Broadcast.”

In other words, these people have some high standards. So it should come as little surprise that even devoted fans of the show, people who swear they’ll never leave the island, are generally underwhelmed by the first batch of episodes for the fall season.

If you believe the Internet buzz, “Lost” (9 p.m. ET, Wednesdays, ABC) has a lot to prove in its Nov. 8 fall finale if the hit drama hopes to maintain some momentum when it returns in February.

ABC’s scheduling plan gave viewers six consecutive new fall episodes, of which the Nov. 8 show is the last, before giving “Lost” a 13-week break. “Day Break,” a new drama starring Taye Diggs, will keep the timeslot warm until “Lost” returns on Feb. 7, kicking off a string of 17 episodes that will be uninterrupted by repeats.

ABC made the move in response to complaints about repeats from frustrated fans, one of whom started a Web site, “,” which answers the weekly question with a simple “Yes” or “No!” in the middle of a white background.

The split schedule may have sounded fabulous when it was announced in the summer, but with the new season developing slowly and failing to answer many questions, it could prove to be  too long of a hiatus for "Lost" fans to endure.

The pace of "Lost" picked up a little in last week's episode, when fan favorite by the black-smoke monster. Eko added mystery and intrigue to the show, and some fans . But at least something happened. Other than that, the first four episodes flirted with the notion that Kate is torn over whether she loves Sawyer or Jack, but she hasn’t really seen Jack since The Others took them captive at the end of the second season.

Doctor and de facto island leader Jack’s been locked up in some underground chamber where his captors are messing with his head. Ben (Michael Emerson), the leader of the group, apparently has a tumor on his spine that he’ll need Jack, conveniently enough a spinal surgeon, to remove. But Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell), a cunning Other who's seemingly befriended Jack, hopes to convince the doctor to kill Ben during surgery, thus creating a power vacuum. Other than Eko's death, Ben and Juliet’s power struggle is the most interesting development of the season, which isn’t saying very much.

The ‘Other’ worldSo far, viewers have learned that there appear to be at least two islands and The Others have a “sub” that gets them back and forth between the two; The Others have contact with the outside world, including televisions that allow them to watch the World Series and cartoons; and The Others have cheeseburgers.

Certainly, since the show started with polar bears and smoke monsters creating chaos on a tropical island, viewers knew they wouldn’t be getting much in the way of clarification right away. But after nearly two and a half years, fan frustration is beginning to mount, and the every-answer-creates-many-more-questions pattern is toeing the line between fascinating and annoying.

But the most aggravating aspect of the new season for many fans is the relative lack of rhyme or reason to the first batch of episodes. The introduction of new characters only to kill them off in a year (Eko, Ana Lucia, Libby) is getting old, and the jarring introduction of two brand-new characters, castaways Nikki and Paulo, threw an already uneven season further off kilter.

Meanwhile, back on the beach, the rest of the “Lost” crew isn’t doing much of anything. Mysterious Desmond, apparently bored, built a little lightning rod a couple of weeks ago that saved Claire and her son Aaron when lightning later struck. The event was one of a handful of hints that Desmond somehow has the power to predict the future. But it also served as one more example of the numerous tidbits of information that slowly trickle out, but fail to amount to much of a payoff for exasperated fans.

According to executive producer Damon Lindelof, who revealed a little bit of things to come on the official “Lost” podcast, a change is on the way.

“Once you see next week’s episode, you’ll sort of fundamentally understand that we’re changing the game a little bit and sort of our time spent on Alcatraz will be over,” Lindelof said. “And then we’ll get back to some of the characters we know and love.”

That would be a good first step in the right direction for a show that, while not broken, is walking a fine line between keeping its fans fascinated and leaving them frustrated.

Victor Balta is a writer in Philadelphia.