''The Lie'' aspired to answer a question: Can Lost's new season 5 version of fragmented, time-toggling storytelling effectively sell an old fashioned Lost yarn built around a single character wrestling with a certain aspect of his or her past? The test subject for this experiment was Hurley. The emotional issue the show saddled him with was his profound guilt over lying about the Left Behinders still on the Island... wherever/whenever it may be. Could he make peace with the cover-up at the expense of compromising his values? Or would he trust his gut and come clean, even at the expense of inviting catastrophic consequences for himself and his friends?
I've had the opportunity the watch ''The Lie'' a couple of times, and I've come around to really digging it and feeling hopeful that New Lost could still generate the emotional resonance of Old Lost. But I must confess, upon first viewing, I had trouble feeling it or buying into it, and I wonder if you did, too. My problem was with the lie itself, or at least the rationale for it. Jack's over-emphasis on needing to protect those left on the Island made no sense to Hurley and it didn't make much sense to me, either. We saw the Island vanish. That fact alone afforded their friends safety from Charles Widmore. But Jack persisted, and Hurley folded, which also didn't make much sense to me; I never saw Hurley as the kind of guy to give up on his friends or his moral compass. He took out his frustration on Sayid, whom he thought had an abiding interest in honesty, integrity, and living with a clean conscience: ''You know what, dude? I'm going to remember this. And someday you're going to need my help, and I'm telling you right now: you're not getting it.''
And on this contrived threat, Lost hung a whole episode about Hurley eating his words as he tried to dodge the cops and revive tranquilized Sayid. But Hurley's arc never failed to amuse. His encounter with Ana-Lucia's ghost worked for me (''Stay away from the cops,'' she scolded, one of many tips she offered to help him through his surreal journey), and kudos to Michelle Rodriguez for having a sense of humor about her place in Lost lore and her rap sheet. I liked how that moment was embellished with Cheap Trick's ''Dream Police'' and I laughed hard at Hurley's hideously kitschy ''I (HEART) My Shih Tzu'' T-shirt. (I wish I could vamp for several hundred words about the secret meaning of Shih Tzus to Lost, but alas, Shih Tzus totally fall within my decoder's blind spot. Sorry.)
While the lion-faced Lotto dude searched for sanctuary and peace of mind, Ben's quest to get the Oceanic 6 (and Locke's dead body) back to the Island drove an intriguing subplot that eventually dovetailed with Hurley's arc. We learned that Ben has off-Island helpers a secret society of normal-folk Others, blue collar tradesman who by day cut meat and lay carpet and by night protect our quantum infrastructure. (Or subvert it, if you're inclined to think them bad guys.) I got a Carl Sandberg vibe off Jill the Butcher the poet's ''Chicago'' paints the Windy City as if it were a pitiless, sentient entity (see: The Island) and Ben certainly can be seen in lines like ''They tell me you are wicked',' and ''They tell me you are crooked'' and ''They tell me you are brutal'' but that probably doesn't have anything do with anything. We learned that Locke is the lynchpin in Ben's scheme. Unless he gets him back to the Island, ''everything we're about to do won't matter at all.'' Might Locke be born again once his corpse returns to the Lame-Leg Revival Island? That's the vibe I got when Jack anxiously asked ''He's dead, isn't he?'' and Ben didn't reply at all. If the castaways' departure has made a big mess of the timeline if it has created a fraudulent timeline that is quickly becoming as untenable as the Oceanic 6's conspiracy then maybe Locke's death is one of the anomalies that will get course corrected once the castaways return.
NEXT: Mrs. Hawking returns