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‘Lost’ Stunner Opens Path to The End

What happened? (And if you don't want to know, stop reading now.)

After two head-spinning, show-altering hours of Lost (4 stars out of four) Tuesday night, odds are many of us could identify with that episode-closing question from the back-from-the-dead Sayid (if that is, indeed, Sayid). In the larger TV sense, here's what happened: We just witnessed a stunning, daring bit of TV storytelling that set the show on a new, series-ending path - one that will track the characters through parallel, alternate universes.

That, apparently, is what last season's nuclear explosion did, though the characters don't know it. We are now following two versions of their lives: In one, the plane never crashed and they all landed safely in L.A.; in the other, they're all back on the island (and together in time).

That's no easy task to pull off; few shows would even try. It worked because the script and actors so clearly delineated the difference between the two groups: one transformed by the island, one left as they were when we first met them.

There were answers. We know what the bomb did, what the smoke monster is, what Hurley had in his guitar case. But anyone hoping for simplicity - "this is where we're headed and what we must do to get there" - was bound to be disappointed. Lost has never been a simple show, and it can't turn into one now, not with hours left to fill.

Yet for all the questions it left open, the episode did give you the most important answer: what the season and the show are really about. The key is to focus on the characters and to realize, as the "not-Locke" said, that each is better for being on the island but doesn't yet realize it.

That's why, once you got past the fun of seeing the characters in their "original" states, you probably realized the people on that plane were not the people we've come to care about. Those people are back on the island: the Jack who's lost his hardened certainty, the Kate who's more open and giving, the Sawyer who sees people rather than con-man marks. They're on the hero's journey to redemption, and one way or another, they have to complete it.

How that happens, none of us can know. All we can know is that it's a waste of time and pleasure to let your fears about the eventual destination overwhelm the joys of the journey.

Enjoy the ride, leave the steering to the captain, and wait and see what's next.

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