The second most annoying thing about 'Lost'

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ABC did a good job getting viewers back up to speed when “Lost” returned last night (at its new time of 9 p.m. Thursdays) after an eight-month absence. Between Wednesday’s repeat of the two-hour Season Three finale (complete with informational “pop-ups” to fill in details) and last night’s clip show lead-in to the Season Four premiere, most viewers’ memories were adequately refreshed. Besides, it’s not like ABC had anything else to air with the writers' strike going on.

Putting aside the matter of “Lost’s” enigmatic, convoluted storyline, the new episode reminded me of the other thing that drives me crazy about the show. I can excuse some of the endlessly teased-out mysteries and structural oddities. I appreciate that they’ve switched to even more ambiguous fast-forwards, since they probably realized they’ve exhausted the flashback-of-the-week trope. I don’t like the way they’ve gone to the trouble to introduce new castaways (Ana-Lucia, Libby, Mr. Eko, Nikki, Pablo), only to kill them off in brutal fashion, but I can see that they’d want to keep the cast from getting unmanageably huge.

What steams me most about the show is the way so many intriguing characters behave so insufferably so often. Even the show’s vying “heroes,” Jack Shephard (Matthew Fox) and John Locke (Terry O'Quinn), keep secrets and behave unilaterally, like little dictators. The infighting over whether they should call the "Rescuers" from the Season Three finale (which spilled over to last night's conflict) is a perfect example. Is it too much to ask that the castaways vote on big issues? Could someone voice a problem before, say, throwing a knife in someone’s back?

And Jack and Locke aren’t the only ones. Central characters lie compulsively -- such as Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell), the recovering "Other" -- but then get all huffy and indignant when someone calls them on their bullshit. Untrustworthy characters complain to high heaven when other people don't trust them. I can forgive "Lost" its mysteries, but the self-righteousness drives me out of my mind.

That said, the Season Four finale built compellingly on the momentum of Season Three's comeback episodes. I'll put my comments under the cut to avoid spoilers. First, though, here’s that “Special Message from Oceanic Airlines” commercial they teased throughout the episode, just in case you didn’t want to sit through “Eli Stone” to watch it:

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The advantage to populating "Lost" with such self-centered, type A characters is that fireworks can really fly when they turn on each other, and the season premiere offered plenty of that, even though it revealed practically nothing about "the Rescuers" (except that Jeremy Davies plays one of them). Putting big-hearted Hurley (Jorge Garcia) at the center of the season premiere was a masterstroke, partly because he brought a fitting gravity to the Season Three sacrifice of Charlie (Dominic Monaghan delivered perhaps the “best death” in the show’s history). His mournful qualities gave emotional weight to the island skulduggery.

Hurley's flash-forward arc was appropriately circular: Since he spent time in a mental institution before the plane crash, having him return to the same place hinted at the severity of the traumatic events that we'll presumably see later this season. The fact that he refers to “the Oceanic Six” as quasi-celebrities implies that only six people will eventually leave the island: Hurley, Kate, Jack and three others not yet identified (although one was presumably in the coffin in the Season Three finale). Incidentally, this article claims to know whom the new episodes will focus on (whether in flashback or flash-forward, it doesn't say).

The endings of both Season Two and the six-episode run in the fall of 2007 each made me so frustrated that I swore I'd stop watching the show. But apparently I can't quit on "Lost," so I'm not going to make pretense anymore. Sometimes I think it would be less frustrating just to wait until it finishes and watch the whole thing on DVD; I definitely think fans like me who complain about it will speak of it in worshipful tones when the "Lostaways" leave the island for good.

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