Initially, Jack wasn't interested in Sayid's phone-home pipe dream, especially after hearing from Juliet that the Looking Glass was flooded because of an unspecified ''accident'' and that swimming down to flip the jamming switch was basically a suicide mission. But he changed his tune once Karl arrived on the beach with a message: Ben had stepped up the invasion plan. The Others were coming. Now. With his intricately designed counterattack ambush suddenly imperiled, Jack realized there might be not be a chance for rescue; the Looking Glass mission would have to be undertaken ASAP.

Which brought Charlie center stage. And by that time, he was ready for the spotlight, as was his actor, Dominic Monaghan, who I thought turned in his best performance yet on Lost. Desmond's latest Charlie-gonna-die vision suggested that he would be the man for the Looking Glass switch-flipping job. In his mind the psychic Scot saw his fellow Brit inside the hatch, surrounded by gunmen, flipping the switch, then — gulp — drowning. He also saw something else, something that upped Charlie's stake in actually allowing events to unfold as predicted: a helicopter, landing on the beach, taking Claire and baby Aaron off the Island. At last, rescue — but per the perplexing cause-and-effect rules of Desmond's future-seeing powers, the dream would only come true if Charlie was willing to play the part of martyr.

And he was. Even before Desmond spelled it out for him, we saw that Charlie had begun to reconcile himself to the idea that fate was hell-bent on calling his number. To that end, he began making a list of his five favorite moments ever — the ''Greatest Hits'' of his life. It was intended to be a love letter to Claire, but it proved to be so much more. In flashbacks, we saw each of them:

Charlie hears his song ''You All Everybody'' on the radio for the first time It couldn't have come at a better time, too. His band, Driveshaft, was going nowhere. Seriously. Their touring van had busted a wheel during a driving rainstorm. Charlie wanted to quit. The album was tanking, they were only booking loser gigs, they sucked and couldn't face it — and then he heard it, loud and clear on the radio. It was like Island magic on a lame man's legs. Charlie's hope had been rewarded; his optimism restored and hard-wired. (Homework: Compare this moment to Hurley's similarly themed ''Road to Shambala'' broken-Dharma-bus escapade.)

Charlie's father teaches him to swim And with the old ''Trust me, I'll catch you'' bait and switch, no less. Once again on Lost, a father burns his son — but this time, for a good reason. And with the horror story of Ben and his manipulative and mean dad still fresh in our minds, this deceit seemed downright sweet. Lesson learned: Courage.

Charlie's brother gives him the ''DS'' ring for Christmas We used to think ''DS'' stood for Driveshaft. Nope: It was a family heirloom, passed down through the mother's side and given to the firstborn; it stands for Dexter Stratton. Liam gave it to his little brother as an acknowledgment that Charlie really was the good son of the two — an ironic, happy-ending inversion of the Jacob and Esau story, the older brother willingly surrendering the birthright to the younger. The relationship between Charlie and Liam would ultimately become more complicated, but the fact that Charlie decided to memorialize the memory on his list indicated that bygones were bygones. And in doing so, the ring became imbued with forgiveness and grace, making the precioussssss object a mirror twin to the one Gollum killed for and Frodo sought to destroy (but couldn't) in those aforementioned hobbit books. (Fun fact! Dexter Stratton is a fusion of two names from the 1980s Ricky Schroder sitcom Silver Spoons!)

Charlie saves a woman from being mugged and is dubbed a hero In the pouring rain, too — another memory wet with the semiotics of baptism. The timing: Charlie's street-corner minstrel days, first seen in Desmond's time-travel episode. Charlie's song selection: Oasis' ''Wonderwall,'' a tune about an imaginary friend (Dave? Jacob?); its title is a reference to George Harrison's soundtrack to a ''lost'' movie of the same name. The woman whom Charlie saves is also something of a blast from the (Lost) past: It's Nadia, Sayid's Iraqi lady love, last seen in John Locke's ''Daddy made me rip off the Mob'' flashback from last season. The lady sure gets around, doesn't she? But why? Is her presence in these past lives purely coincidental or evidence of a divine (or devious) design that links all the castaways? Questions, I think, for another season to answer....

And finally, Charlie's most favorite moment, No. 1 on his all-time personal hit parade: his first encounter with Claire, on the night they crashed on the Island 'Nuff said.

NEXT PAGE: Connections and observations


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