Doc Jensen on what you need to know before the Jan. 31 season premiere. Plus: A personal reflection on how ''Lost'' helped him through a difficult time

‘Lost’ (S4): Preseason cheat sheet

In which we usually attempt to impart some quasi-cryptic intel from Lost executive producers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof about the next new episode. However, the storytellers-in-chief are currently on strike and unavailable for comment right now on the Jan. 31 season premiere. So, to whet your appetite — and to honor their words — I present you with a line of dialogue, penned by Messrs. Cuse and Lindelof. I leave it to you to find out who says it.

”I’m thinking of growing a beard.”

Lost is back. Awesome.


12 things that you need to remember about Lost in order to fully appreciate the premiere

Psychically enhanced son of Michael. At the end of the second season, he and his dad hopped on a boat and got away from the Island. But at the end of season 3, he reappeared on the Island, looking older and taller, beckoning a wounded Locke to climb out of the Dharma death pit. Kids say the darndest things. Especially creepy kids.

Christian Shephard
Jack’s emotionally callused, alcoholic surgeon father; also sired Claire on the down-low while Down Under. Died during a bender in Sydney; Jack was bringing his body back on Oceanic 815. At one point, Jack thought he saw Christian walking around the Island, spying on him and being all creepy and stuff. Doc Boozy Jr. ultimately found Doc Boozy Sr.’s coffin, but the body was missing. (Cue dramatic music.) Whassup with Jack acting like his pops was alive in the season finale? Matthew Fox told my pal Dan Snierson that it was drugs messing with his head. You buying that?

Hurley’s imaginary friend/loony-bin buddy, a tempting devil and the embodiment of his eating/control/fear-of-change/self-esteem issues. Last seen plummeting to his death on the Island. Was he real? Hallucination? Both? Freakin’ questions. I hate them! I love them! Hold me?

A possible explanation for that aforementioned Christian Shephard sighting on the Island. Ditto Mr. Eko’s brother. Ditto Ben’s mommy. Personally, I don’t believe in ghosts. But I would say that for anyone haunted by the past, ghosts are, like, totally real. Anyway, I have a hunch that ghosts, figurative or literal, will play a big part on Lost this season. We already got ourselves a bona fide haunted house:

Jacob’s Shack
A small ramshackle cabin in the jungle, allegedly occupied by a bearded, croaky-voiced spirit named Jacob who until recently only made himself visible — and audible — to Ben. But late last season, Locke paid a weird visit to this haunted house and met its spectral tenant, fond of rocking chairs and prone to hucking junk during fits of frustration. Is Jacob bound by the conventions of time and space? How about his house?

NEXT PAGE: Naomi, Camaro, Parapsychology, and Big Mike

British adventurer; alleged castaway savior; suspicious freighter character. Arrived on the Island one dark night after parachuting from a helicopter that crashed in the ocean. She told the castaways that she was part of a rescue team hired by Penelope Widmore to find Desmond Hume. Mission accomplished! But is she telling the truth? The communiqué that Charlie picked up from Penny herself during his ill-fated Looking Glass swim suggests that Naomi is full of crap. That’s Locke’s theory, too — hence, why he threw a hunting knife into her back in the season finale. Fun Fact! Naomi was a big Driveshaft fan and can speak Portuguese!

Car belonging to Hurley’s father, passed down to the round mound of dude. Symbolic of daddy issues and struggles with hope and despair, idealism and cynicism, faith and faithlessness. It’s an early ’70s model, red with white down the middle, and blessed with a functional eight-track cassette player. Theme song: ”Shambala” by Three Dog Night. I was never really a car guy growing up. But I think my son is going to be, and when he gets old enough to watch Lost with his old man, I bet he’ll like Hurley’s Camaro. By the way, my son’s name is Ben. How weird is that?! (Answer: Not very.)

If you recall the orientation film found in the Swan (see: season 2, episode 3), the Dharma Initiative was conducting experiments into ”parapsychology,” or supernatural abilities that could include things like ESP, precognition, mental projection, and telekinesis. On a possibly related but probably tangential note, are you guys into ”The Secret”? You know: that Oprah-endorsed, power-of-positive-thinking/mind-over-matter self-help stuff that was something of a pop-culture sensation a year or so back? After watching Hurley will the Dharma bus back to life last season in the Tricia Tanaka episode, I kinda wonder if there could be a connection between ”The Secret” and Lost. Might I have some additional thoughts on this matter in our TV Watch recap of the season premiere on Friday? I just might.

”Big Mike”
His mother knew him better as ”Mike Walton.” LAPD partner of the late, not-so-great, dead-baby-haunted cop/vigilante/murderer/Christian Shephard booze buddy/Sawyer fornicator Ana Lucia Cortez. Rocks a mustache, as most cops do. Dude cops, I mean. Weird, huh? Is that a cop-code thing, these mustaches? Take my dad. He’s a cop. And guess what? Tom Jensen has a mustache. I asked him about this, and after a long, baffled pause, he explained, ”Well, the reason I grew my mustache, was because I became a police officer when I was 23 and I looked like I was 15.” He also suggested that since cops must adhere to strict guidelines about their appearance (short hair, no beards), they grow mustaches ”just because they can.” Then Dad’s trademark wit kicked in. ”I think we all want to look the same so that if anyone files a complaint against us, they won’t know who to file it against.” See! I knew there was a conspiracy! PS: My brother’s name is Mike. He’s kinda big, too. Coincidence? (Answer: Yes.)

NEXT PAGE: The Doc on how Lost helped him cope with his wife’s cancer

A personal reflection on the season past and the season to come

Flashback, Jan. 31, 2007: Lost was at a low point. Critics and fans had turned on the show after a shaky start to a weirdly scheduled season. Ratings were on the wane. The big question: Had Lost lost it? The answer seemed far from certain, but hopes were high that the first episode of the new year, the Juliet-centric ”Not in Portland”, would mark a return to health.

Exactly one week earlier — on Jan. 24, 2007 — I was working on a cover story about Lost when my wife called. She sounded off-her-rocker drunk, which I knew had to be impossible, because Amy doesn’t begin drinking heavily until after dinner. Kidding: She rarely drinks at all. Through slurred speech, my wife attempted to explain that sometime in the past hour, she had gotten sick and passed out in the bedroom. Her hair was wet, as if she had taken a shower — but she had no memory of taking a shower. She was scared. What had happened to her? I immediately packed up my work stuff and headed home. On the way, worry got the best of me, and I called 911 and asked for an ambulance to go to my house. When I got home, I found my daughter, Lauren, sitting on the porch with a neighbor playing with a teddy bear the paramedics had given her. Amy had been taken to the hospital. Later that afternoon, we were given a preliminary diagnosis that was officially confirmed within a couple days. Amy had a brain tumor.

Eight days later, Amy had brain surgery, or what Doctor Jack Shephard would call a craniotomy. I remember walking her to the operating-room door and saying goodbye and trying not think thoughts like ”What if this was the last time I see her alive?” To get through the hours ahead, I tried to work on the Lost story. My great friend and Lost cohort Dan Snierson had basically taken over the job from me, but I wanted to remain involved. I needed the distraction. That afternoon, while he worked on the main feature, I tried to peck out the sidebar we had decided on weeks before. It was a cheeky assessment on which Lost character would be the next to die. I gave cancer-wracked Ben 6-to-1 odds, noting ”His health sucks.” I wrote these words while doctors sawed open my wife’s skull and scooped out three golf-ball-size clumps of growing cancerous matter that had tried to kill her. But I’m all about the gallows humor, so it was all good…at least until the surgeon came out and told me that Amy had an aggressive grade of cancer. He also said he had to leave some tumor behind because of its sensitive location. To try removing it would risk reducing her to a vegetative state or worse. ”Good call,” I told him.

Over the course of the weeks that followed, Lost helped me get through the strangest season of my life. I was at home, taking care of our two children and Amy as she endured 40 days of daily chemo and radiation treatments. I became even more immersed in Doc Jensen theorymaking. I took over the Lost TV Watch with ”The Man From Tallahassee,” just as the show was beginning a run of return-to-excellence episodes. And I became extremely invested in the show’s pressing behind-the-scenes drama — the efforts by the producers to negotiate an end to the series itself. It seemed to me that a lot of the criticism of Lost was rooted in the long-held suspicion that despite claims to the contrary, the show was just another making-it-up-as-they-go-along, ad-shilling shell game. I was convinced, right or wrong, that if the writers could write toward a fixed end, they’d at least have the opportunity to make good on their promise of a meaningful, satisfying yarn. It might be overstatement to say something like ”As I grappled with the uncertainty of my life, I sought answers and certainty from Lost.” But I’m sure that in my mad scribbling about the show, serious steam was getting blown. And I certainly was buoyed during by the unexpected and deeply moving outpouring of support from readers of this column. You didn’t have to do that. I’m very grateful that you did.

Today, Lost is in a different place. The show has its end date. It has renewed heat and creative energy, thanks to last season’s capture-the-imagination flash-forward finale. And all signs point to a new season worthy of our interest. My family is in a different place, too. Amy is doing well. She lives in the shadow of an official prognosis and she still takes chemo five days each month. That sucks. But she’s tumor-free. She’s a fighter. And she’s happy. Her hair has grown back; she has a cute short cut, just like she had when we first met. Our kids are as well as can be expected. We have all learned something about the necessity of community (”live together, die alone,” eh?) and grappling with the ambiguity that defines all of our lives. Lost didn’t teach me that. But I will say that in many fantastic, dynamic ways, it reflects that experience for me.

In the season premiere, titled ”The Beginning of the End,” you will meet a man who gets some bad news. His best friend has just died. The tragedy hits him hard, so hard that it threatens to imperil the meaning of his hard-fought survivor’s life. But he makes a choice — a choice to live a life worthy of his friend’s sacrifice. This will prove very difficult, maybe even impossible, and it will invite many unforeseen consequences. But it doesn’t make his conviction any less true or the choice any less correct. If I didn’t like this guy before, I love him to pieces now. He’s a dude after my own heart. Come back on Friday, and we’ll talk more about him some more.

Lost is back. We are back. Now let’s have some fun.

—Doc Jensen

Next week, we’ll have a reader-mail edition of Doc Jensen, focusing on your reaction to the season premiere. Please: Send feedback to