''Lost'': EW goes behind the scenes of the season's most anticipated finale, as the castaways uncover new secrets about the island and prepare to battle the Others

SPOILER ALERT! Major plotlines revealed!

Among the many theories that have been formulated to explain the island, the monster, the numbers, and the 666 additional mysteries lurking within ABC’s Emmy-winning drama Lost, the most popular is that the passengers of Oceanic flight 815 are stuck in purgatory. But here in a lush thicket of jungle on Oahu, life bears a closer resemblance to a ring of hell reserved for torturing pretty Hollywood actors.

In the shadow of a crooked tree, Matthew Fox (Jack) and Evangeline Lilly (Kate) bat away hungry gnats dive-bombing their glistening skin. Outside the vine-choked doors of the hatch, Harold Perrineau (Michael) is being painted with sticky fake blood. And stomping through the underbrush is Josh Holloway (Sawyer), his dimpled mug pinched with panic. Things are a little crazy around here today, since sequences for the final four hours of Lost‘s brilliantly puzzling second season are being shot concurrently. And — oops — Holloway prepared for the wrong scene. Now he’s cramming for a cumbersome mouthful of typical Sawyer snark. ”’The artist formerly known as Henry Gale’ — what is that?” says the actor, shaking his head. He asks if he can ditch the tricky quip. Nope. Make it work, he’s told.

And he does, though the scene itself ends tragically, with Jack and the gang learning that Ana Lucia (Michelle Rodriguez) and Libby (Cynthia Watros) have been shot — by Michael, no less, though he has pinned their murders on that duplicitous Gale guy. Now the stage has been set for a fateful confrontation with the ominous, jungle-dwelling Others in the two-hour May 24 season finale. ”Being the one who pulled the trigger was freaky,” says Perrineau. ”The hatch used to feel like a safe haven. Now ghosts live there.” Burying his wildly bearded face in his hands, he half jokes: ”Why am I doing this career? I don’t have to kill anyone if I work construction!”