Wellll...almost. They did cast Michelle Rodriguez as Ana Lucia, whose surly portrayal of the haunted cop polarized audiences. ''In the case of Michelle, there seemed to be a split in opinion over what she was like as an actor and what she was like as a character,'' concedes Cuse. But ''we feel Michelle fulfilled the role we wrote for her.'' Ana Lucia's death, he adds, was always part of the plan, and in fact, the Blue Crush star requested a one-year tour of duty. But her rough edges did scuttle plans for a romance with Jack, and contributed to the decision to make the May 10 episode a double homicide. Watros, however, wasn't initially marked for death: ''We worried [Ana Lucia's] death might not have the [same] emotional resonance as if we had killed a sympathetic character. By adding Libby to the death toll, it would really intensify the audience's feeling toward Michael going into the final episodes,'' explains Cuse, who denies that Rodriguez and Watros were targeted because of their much-publicized arrests for drunk driving. While producers declined to reveal their original intentions for Libby, they will say that Hurley's secret loony-bin admirer will pop up in Desmond's flashback in the season finale, as well as other characters' flashbacks next year. (While Watros recently shot a CBS comedy pilot, she'll still be available for future Lost episodes.)
Additional plans for Lost's third season are also taking shape. There will be new locations and new characters (one rumor has Desmond joining the cast full-time, but producers won't comment). The season's big theme sounds timely, twisty, and terrifying. Hints Lindelof: '''Us versus Them.' But who's the 'us,' and who's the 'them'?'' And perhaps the most promising tease of all for Lost fans will be a welcome change in ABC's erratic, repeat-heavy scheduling of the show, which the producers believe has hindered their serialized storytelling. McPherson doesn't disagree. ''The ideal schedule for this series would be to run for 22 consecutive weeks,'' he says. ''But we have a 35-week season. We are looking at a number of scenarios, like the possibility of three huge chunks.''