What to expect in coming weeks? Plenty. There's flashback action for Claire, Hurley, and Sayid, the secret of Jack's made-in-Thailand tats (somehow connected to guest star Bai Ling), and the long-awaited tale of how Locke wound up in a wheelchair. (''I was afraid it'd be anticlimactic,'' says O'Quinn. ''It's not. It's pretty stunning. You're gonna go, 'Man, no wonder this guy wants to stay here!''') Also, the castaways discover that the Others possess a submarine. Want mythology? You got it. The kidnapped kids and stewardess Cindy (Kimberley Joseph) make an appearance in episode 9 (Feb. 21). The Others' connection to that utopian weird-science project, the Dharma Initiative, is slated to be revealed in episode 11 (March 7), which also features a visit to a new hatch (dubbed the Flame). And throughout, expect to see the repercussions of Ben's spinal surgery. ''There is a period of not being at full power, and in any hierarchical organization, that is a period of danger,'' says Emerson. ''That leaves a vacuum at the top, and other people may try to swoop in and occupy it.''
Meanwhile, back on the beach (Remember that place? Kinda sandy?), the Oceanic 815-ers will finally be dealing with the aftereffects of Desmond turning the fail-safe key, which imploded the hatch and lit the sky purple. In episode 8 (Feb. 14), the lovelorn Scottish soldier new and improved with precognitive abilities! informs a central character that he or she will die; he is also the subject of a flashback device employed ''in a way we never have before and never will again,'' hints Lindelof. ''It'll either blow people's minds or chase them away for good.'' (That sound you just heard? ABC execs chuckling nervously.)
Viewers were certainly interested in chasing away Nikki (Kiele Sanchez) and Paulo (Rodrigo Santoro), those heretofore unseen comely castaways whose wedged-in entrance would've been more stilted only if they'd been wearing winter parkas. While even Lindelof acknowledges that they are ''universally despised'' by fans, that's going to change, he vows: ''We had a plan when we introduced them, and we didn't get to fully execute that plan. But when the plan is executed, Nikki and Paulo will be iconic characters on the show.''
Speaking of icons, the love triangle of Kate, Sawyer, and Jack morphs into something of a quadrangle as Juliet cozies up closer to Jack. ''I don't think she knew he'd be the right person to help her [escape] until she started talking with him, and then, yes, I firmly believe her intention was to get him on her side,'' says Mitchell. ''But I think she also likes him. That's unexpected for her.'' Their nebulous relationship may not sit well with Kate, who for now has made her bed with Sawyer. ''I don't think that book is closed at all,'' says Lilly. ''Kate has a real journey to go on with Jack, in that they've never addressed the underlying current of attraction and love between them.... It has to be addressed.''