On ''Lost,'' as the Others approach and the Monster stirs in the jungle, the raft is finally launched
Lost, Harold Perrineau

”Lost”: The Others are coming

Last night’s episode of Lost left me exhausted, which is strange, considering how nothing really happened. It was a set-up for next week’s epic finale — an hour of putting all the pieces in place for the final moves of a well-played first season. Still, there probably hasn’t been an episode this year that has packed as much mythic meat on its bone. The French Lady. The Others. The Hatch. The Monster. The Black Rock. The Black Rock! We finally saw it, and wouldn’t you know, it’s neither black nor a rock. It’s a ship — or a moss-encrusted set left over from Pirates of the Caribbean, couldn’t tell — called the Black Rock. (A genius surprise — kudos to the writing staff for that twist.) Lost threw a lot of balls in the air last night, and my mind is still a little winded from catching all of them.

But this deceivingly inert episode was emotionally engaging, too. Michael finally launched his raft, which meant a lot of goodbyes. Some better than others. Walt bequeathing his dog, Vincent, to Shannon: cloying. Jin and Sun reconciling, with Sun giving him a Korean-to-English cheat sheet of nautical terms and Jin revealing to her he was leaving because he was determined to save her: gotta admit, I asked my wife if she could spare a couple tissues in her box for me. (Okay, I just totally lied there: I didn’t come close to crying, and my wife wasn’t even watching it with me, because she has an art class on Wednesday nights at 8. But I was touched, and that’s a big deal for me, okay? Okay?) And then there was Jack giving Sawyer a gun, which moved Sawyer so deeply (A loaded weapon? For me? Shucks, dawg, you do like me after all. Let’s go steady. . . .) that he finally spilled the beans about hanging with Jack’s drunken daddy and his whole ”I love my messiah-complex genius-doctor son. Maybe I should call him and tell him that. Nahhhhhhhhh!” speech. Honestly, I don’t know if I totally bought that scene between Jack and Sawyer, which I see as a product of the flawed Jekyll-and-Hyde characterization of Sawyer — one second a rogue, the next second a softie. He’s a complicated guy, and I wish the writers could find a way to capture that better than toggling him back and forth between shallow sentimentality and shallow anger. That said, the scene worked. I even asked the wife if she could spare me some more tissues. (Liar! Liar! Bad writer! Bad!)

The flashbacks bear some discussion, first because this was the only episode this season that has told more than one back story. We saw how various characters got on the plane that would bring them to Twilight Zone Island. Ian Somerhalder fans got to see boy toy Boone again, while parents around the country got to nod cathartically when Michael blew his stack after Walt cranked Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to 41 on the TV. (That is so me and my son.) But I suppose what we should really talk about is Jack’s meet-cute with future Lost regular Michelle Rodriguez, introduced in this ep as Anna Lucia, one of these flirty see-right-through-you types that immediately get under your skin with presumptuous personal questions and observations, which, because she’s smoking-hot Michelle Rodriguez, soon to be a regular cast member and therefore someone the show wants you to like ASAP, we let her get away with without wondering why Jack doesn’t flag down a cop, or at least worry that he’s being targeted in a John sting. Anyway, she and he swap banter about Jack’s dead dad, she tells him, ”The worst part’s over,” then licks her fingers (what was that about, anyway?) and walks off, leaving us all to think, ”I wonder if Evangeline Lilly is sweating her leading-lady status on Lost right now?”

Some other odds and ends and questions for you:

1. Sawyer’s real name (?) is James Ford. [Thanks for the correction, readers!]

2. Great entrance by the French Lady, whom I’ve never been a huge fan of. I think it’s the casting — the actress who plays her seems more melancholy and damaged than mysterious and creepy; I would prefer the ratio flipped. Otherwise, they should just find a DVD of Amélie in the plane wreckage and make her watch it: She’ll lose that homesickness in a second. But her entrance — emerging through the bush while Walt is visiting the Whizzing Tree — rocked. And then: ”The Others are coming.” When the words that come out of her mouth are kept to a minimum — or at least are as chillingly crafted as her tower-of-black-smoke story — the French Lady can be as useful and meaningful to Lost as, say, Cancer Man or Rat Boy were to The X-Files.

3. It takes a village to launch a raft. It really does.

4. ”The Dark Territory.” Oooooo, I’m scared. But cool: I loved how last night’s episode really expanded the geography of the island.

5. The French Lady on the Monster: It’s the island’s ”security system.” Thoughts?

6. Is Sun pregnant? That mention of her being ”really hungry” in her flashback seemed oddly conspicuous.

7. After next week, how are we going to ever survive the summer without new episodes?

What do you think?