''Lost'' recap: Who else escaped?
Watching ''The Beginning of the End,'' the season premiere of Lost, made me sick sick in ways that my wife, my friends, and my court-appointed psychiatrist insist are bad for me and harmful to others. But with each passing minute of the episode, the old sickness that had lain dormant within me began to reawaken like a polar bear roused from hibernation by the advent of spring or a bald man with a torch and a can of hairspray. (Please tell me you got that.) Christian Shephard rocking in Jacob's chair gave me the chills. The vaguely sinister corporate suit named Abbaddon (''abaddon'' being a Hebrew ''place of destruction,'' or hell, according to Wikipedia) got me all sweaty. And when Charlie-grieving flash-forward Hurley started raging at not-yet-bearded flash-forward Jack about some ominous ''it'' (''I don't think we did the right thing, Jack! I think it wants us to come back! And it's going to do everything it can...''), I felt the searing fever consume me, and my mind was blown. Again. At freakin' last! After eight months of waiting, our mutual friend (and bad influence on my mental health) is back. Sickness, I am yours!
We usually get a premiere that begins with one of Lost's most frequent recurring motifs: an eyeball popping open. But that was old Lost, the Lost of flashbacks and Island despair and castaways waking up and orientating themselves to a new reality, one marked by sandy beaches, whispering jungles, and buried laboratories stocked with books, records, and candy bars. (Man, I want my own Hatch!) This is the new Lost, the Lost of flash-forwards and Island hope and six castaways in particular grappling with the disorientation of old lives that don't feel quite right and old ghosts that won't let them go. So, appropriately, we began with a discombobulating fake-out: an image of fruits set against an ocean-blue sky, the sound of seagulls cawing in the distance. We must have been on the beach, right? Nope! We were in the freight yard of a produce-shipping company in...where? And when? What the hell? Exactly. Exactly! (Huh?)
But quickly, we got our bearings. The city: Los Angeles. The time: the flash-forward off-Island future (or present, if you're now prone to think of Lost's on-Island action as happening in the past). (Tricky stuff, these time-toggling dramatics, ain't they?) The star of the show: lotto-winning, mentally shaky, food-challenged Hugo ''Hurley'' Reyes. As the episode opened, Hurley was leading the coppers on a high-speed chase in his daddy's old Camaro, blowing through that stack of fruit and crashing into the parking lot of a store in the midst of an everything-must-go fire sale. (Some winky subtext here? Remember, the producers of Lost successfully negotiated an end date 2010 for the series during the off-season.) Hurley tried to run, but the big man has no stride. As the policemen carted him off, he yelled, ''Don't you know who I am? I'm one of the Oceanic 6!'' And with that, the premiere gave us Season 4 Burning Question No. 1: If the Oceanic 6 are six survivors of Oceanic 815 who made it off the Island (and became famous for doing so), and we know that three of the six are Jack, Kate, and Hurley, then who are the other three? (This is why God invented message boards. Post your bets below.)
The car-chase teaser sequence was altogether fitting for a brisk overture episode that cut to the chase in a number of ways. In addition to providing an immediate answer to the ''How many people made it off the Island?'' question posed by the season 3 finale, the episode picked up right where we left off on the Island, with the castaways awaiting rescue from the folks on Naomi's freighter. The last two seasons gave us premieres that focused on small groupings of castaways (Jack in the Hatch; Jack, Kate, and Sawyer at the Hydra Station), which made for rich stories but also got their years off to slow starts because it took about two more episodes to wrap up all the other cliff-hanger loose ends. But ''The Beginning of the End'' peeked in on everyone, and was almost all the better for it. I really liked the check-ins with Sawyer (bitterly loading his gun; trying to engage Hurley about Charlie's death) and all things Ben-on-a-leash. But Jin and Sun seemed to get short shrift. And that Rose and Claire moment, in which Bernard's wife told Aaron's mommy that she'd better reward Hero Charlie with some beach-blanket action umm, yuck?
NEXT: Jack pulls the trigger