They're back. Back where they belong. Back where we want them to be. Nearly 21 months after Jack first bellowed ''We have to go back!'', the Oceanic 6 (minus Aaron, and don't ask why, or else Kate won't kiss you) finally undertook the perilous journey back to the place they never should have left back to The Island, back to their ''mythic estate,'' to borrow a phrase from James Joyce's Ulysses, which last night's episode had the audacity to namedrop. For now, we only know of three who successfully fell to Earth all the way to The Island's Dharma Initiative past, no less. There's Jack, blinking awake as he did in Lost's very first episode, this time looking not hopelessly lost, but gloriously born again. There's Kate, whose motivations for making the return trip were deliberately kept from us (all the better for a future flashback episode, my dears). And there's Hurley, whose carry-on baggage included a new comic book (one of my all time favorites, Y: The Last Man, written by Brian K. Vaughan, who also happens to be Lost producer) and a guitar case a token of Charlie, required to complete the set of symbolic talismans needed to conjure some portal-opening magic. (I think.)
As for the fates of Ben, Sayid, Sun, and pilot Frank Lapidus not to mention John Locke's corpse and those two mystery characters haunting business class like ghosts (more later) I'm sure they'll turn up soon. I'm banking on all of them (not Locke, natch) being the Mystery Rafters who were using the castaways beach camp and then later fired on Sawyer's outrigger a few episodes ago during one of the Left Behinders time flash adventures. (The proof: Sawyer and co. found an Ajira Airways bottle in one of the boats.) And how about this for a crazy theory: Remember back in Season 3, when the Others made Kate and Sawyer do hard labor on Hydra Station Island? According to Lost lore, the thing that they were helping to build…was an airplane runway. So…what if instead of getting magically downloaded out of the sky by The Island like Jack, Kate and Hurley, Ben's Ajira contingent merely landed safely on that runway? What if the very reason that Ben wanted to build that runway was because somehow (Jacob? Time loop? Precognitive powers?), he knew that one day he would need it?!
It was certainly an episode explicit and implicit with deep thoughts and wild possibilities, but they were all in service of an ironic mission: Bringing Lost back down to terra firma after five episodes of challenging, far-out time-travel storytelling. ''316'' that was the title, and for many more reasons than one was a proverbial pilot episode for a whole new chapter of the show. It effectively returned the series to a place where all fans the in-too-deep geeks like me who want meaty mythological disclosures, as well as the normal people who just want powerful, character-driven stories can find some common-ground appreciation. By reuniting the castaways in the setting we all know and love, and by conspicuously omitting key details from various character arcs (Why did Hurley change his mind? Who was that woman with Sayid? How did Ben get roughed up?) that will surely require some traditional flashback storytelling in order to fully reveal, Lost's time-traveling, time-looping, Back to the Future fifth season has now gone all Season 1 on us.
NEXT: Jack joins the faithful