The irony of Charlie's modest list of ''greatest hits'' is that as a reflection of the life he's lived, it doesn't tell the complete story. You get no taste of Charlie the diaper-shilling sellout, Charlie the grifter-drifter junkie. Like any greatest-hits collection, it ignores all the crappy tunes — you know, the vast majority of an artist's catalog. But what's interesting is how, in the end, the real Charlie Pace becomes the mythic Charlie Pace of his list. Optimistic. Courageous. Heroic. Ready to sacrifice himself for his family, his community, for total strangers. Ready to take the leap of faith that could end his life. You have to wonder if the Island has something to do with it. Here is this magical place that heals and enhances the body. Might it also amplify a person's character or, more specifically, amplify his self-image? If so, then Charlie's list may have saved the day for the castaways, for it visualized a man capable of actually saving the day. Then again, if this idea is valid, what does it say about Jack, Charlie's mirror twin in this episode? Here's a man who tries so hard to be great, who tries so hard to be the hero-leader, yet the undercurrent of doubt, resentment, and anger is always there, ready to ruin his best intentions. Or maybe his worst: For all his bluster about wanting to be a leader, the truth is that's his wounded child talking, desperate to prove his worth to Daddy. Last season, Jack's sneaky save-the-day plan went up in smoke thanks to Michael's betrayal. This time, one wonders if his own bad self will do him and the castaways in. Physician, heal thyself — stat!

But that's next week. This week, there was only triumph. Desmond tried to talk Charlie out of it, even offered to trade places with him — just like the Charles Darnay-Sydney Carton sacrificial swap in Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities, which was also the title given to the first episode of this season, a title that, finally, here at the end, really begins to make sense. As Charlie dove into the water and toward his destiny, the famous final lines of the novel came to mind: ''It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.'' We watched him as he swam down to the Looking Glass — a stunningly realized, Emmy-worthy triumph of F/X that evoked James Cameron's movie The Abyss. And just when it seemed Charlie was going to run out of air (here's my grandmother, clutching her pounding heart), the former junior swimming champ made it to the moon pool of the hulking deep-sea station and discovered — air! The place wasn't flooded, after all. (That Ben — such a liar.) But it was staffed with cute girls in jumpsuits with big guns, and as the episode came to a close, they had their weapons trained on Charlie's head, and suddenly we remembered: Desmond's prophecy is still very much in effect.

Take It or Leave It

Connections and observations that may have something to do with something or nothing to do with anything:

''The looking-glass self'' A psychological concept that states that we craft our identity based on how we are seen and deemed useful by society. The Jack and Charlie arcs in this episode in particular resonated with this idea.

The Moon Pool, by Abraham Merritt A 1919 ''lost world'' novel, filled with Lost resonance. A mysterious island in the South Pacific. A morally ambiguous monster. A scientist-skeptic hero. A duplicitous Russian villain. A battle royal between good and evil. Check out this synopsis.

Jacob's Room, by Virginia Woolf Why didn't we get this reference last week when Ben took Locke to the haunted house in the jungle to meet the literally elusive godfather of the Others? This book merits serious investigation in regard to the mystery of Jacob and, more to the point, Locke's experience of the mystery of Jacob. I'm wondering if Lost was nodding toward this book last night when Charlie mentioned the Night and Day Cafe in Manchester. Now, there is a real Night and Day Cafe in Manchester. But Night and Day also happens to be the book Woolf wrote right before Jacob's Room. Read this take on the latter novel's plot, then consider again Locke's experience of Jacob's room. Illuminating.

The Return of the Jedi Here's more fodder for all of you who see Lost as a latter-day Star Wars: Luke and the gang going down to the moon of Endor to deactivate the shield protecting the second Death Star = Charlie going down to the underwater Looking Glass to deactivate the jamming device keeping the Island hidden from the world. C'mon now! Are you with me?

NEXT PAGE: Four questions to ponder until next week