‘Lost’ season opener arrives, and it’s a gripper

  • By Frazier Moore Associated Press
  • Tuesday, January 29, 2008 2:18pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

NEW YORK — Are the island castaways of “Lost” mere hours from rescue? Or will their latest chance at freedom turn to dust, like all the others?

That’s a no-brainer. The title of the series isn’t “Found.” And as the long-awaited new season of “Lost” begins Thursday (9 p.m. on ABC), the first episode strongly suggests the castaways are about to lose again.

They’re awaiting help from a rescue party from a freighter anchored offshore. But as they wait, the chilling likelihood takes hold that their potential saviors could instead spell their doom.

There are no shockers in the episode, the first of eight in the series’ truncated fourth season. But this is a gripping hour involving all the principal characters that sets the stage for the season ahead. And after eight long months’ absence, it’s a welcome sight. (Relax: No spoilers ahead.)

From last season’s finale, we already know that rock star Charlie (played by Dominic Monaghan) made a perilous quest to disable a jamming device that had prevented the group from summoning help from a just-acquired satellite telephone. He died carrying out his mission, but not before relaying a warning to his comrades to beware of the so-called freighter people.

The next step in the rescue plan was for the group to make a trek to the radio tower and shut off a tape-loop rescue plea that also was interfering with any other transmissions.

There, Ben (Michael Emerson), the less-than-trustworthy overlord of the Others, implored Jack (Matthew Fox), the survivors’ reluctant leader, not to place the call to the freighter people.

Jack sneered at Ben’s words. The call was made, and the new episode begins, much as last season’s finale did, with Jack somewhere in the future — drinking. With this recently added flash-forward storytelling feature, Jack is seen in his Los Angeles kitchen mixing a morning cocktail when his eye falls on TV coverage of police in hot pursuit of a speeding motorist.

The car crashes and the driver is arrested. Jack realizes it’s one of his fellow former castaways, who is haunted by the past and sees visions of the dead. Jack, who himself is plagued by substance abuse, unrequited love for Kate (Evangeline Lily), and other demons, pays this person a visit. There is mention of a dreaded secret they share.

In a scene back on the island (and back in time), the portly Hurley (Jorge Garcia) runs into Locke (Terry O’Quinn), who long ago had “gone native” and has no desire to ever leave the island.

“It’s gonna be hard to talk (Jack) into thinking they’re not coming here to rescue us,” says Hurley, who, with Locke, shares Ben’s alarm for what the freighter people might do.

“We’re just gonna have to try our best,” says Locke, “because if we can’t talk him out of it, then Charlie died for nothing.”

By the end of the hour, the castaways are split into two factions — those aligned with Ben and Locke who believe the freighter people represent a mortal threat and Jack’s group, still holding out hope for rescue, even as they start to fear the worst.

Thursday’s new episode will be preceded by “‘Lost’: Past, Present &Future,” a recap hour of the saga of the Oceanic flight 815 crash (at 8 p.m.). And tonight, last season’s splendid two-hour finale will be repeated (at 9 p.m.) in “enhanced” form, with on-screen text containing commentary and clues.

In short, “Lost” fans should be rejoicing. And even with just eight episodes currently on tap thanks to the writers strike, ABC has promised another 40 will eventually follow, leading up to the series’ finale in 2010.

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