By Jeff Jensen
Updated February 19, 2009 at 07:45 PM EST
Credit: Mario Perez/ABC

They’re back. Back where they belong. Back where we want them. Nearly 21 months after Jack first bellowed the words “We have to go back!,” the Oceanic 6 (minus Aaron, and don’t ask why, or Kate won’t kiss you) finally undertook the perilous journey back to the place they never should have left — back to The Island, back to their “mythic estate,” to borrow a phrase from James Joyce’s Ulysses, which last night’s episode had the audacity to namedrop.

For now, we only know of three who successfully fell to Earth — allthe way to The Island’s Dharma Initiative past, no less. There’s Jack,blinking awake as he did in Lost’s very first episode, but thistime looking not hopelessly lost, but gloriously born again. There’sKate, whose motivations for making the return trip were deliberatelykept from us (all the better for a future flashback episode, my dears).And there’s Hurley, whose carry-on baggage included a new comic book(one of my all time favorites and a certifiable masterpiece, Y: The Last Man, written by Brian K. Vaughan, who also happens to be Lostproducer) and a guitar case — a token of Charlie, required to completethe set of symbolic talismans needed to conjure some portal-openingmagic.

As for the fates of Ben, Sayid, Sun, and pilot Frank Lapidus — not tomention John Locke’s corpse and those two mystery characters hauntingbusiness class like ghosts (more later) — I’m sure they’ll turn up soon.I’m banking on them being the Mystery Rafters who were using thecastaways beach camp and then later fired on Sawyer’s outrigger a fewepisodes ago during one of the Left Behinders time flash adventures.(The proof: Sawyer and co. found an Ajira Airways bottle in one of theboats.) And how about this for a crazy theory: Remember back in Season3, when the Others made Kate and Sawyer do hard labor on Hydra StationIsland? According to Lost lore, the things that they werehelping to build… was an airplane runway. So… what if instead ofgetting magically downloaded out of the sky by The Island like Jack,Kate and Hurley, Ben’s Ajira contingent merely landed safely on thatrunway? What if the very reason that Ben wanted to build that runway was becausesomehow, someway (Jacob? Time loop? Precognitive powers?), he knew thatone day he would need it?!

It was certainly an episode explicit and implicit with deep thoughtsand wild possibilities, but they were all in service of an ironicmission: Bringing Lost back down to terra firma. “316” — that wasthe title, and for many more reasons than one — was a proverbial pilotepisode for a whole new chapter of the show. It effectively returnedthe series to a place where all fans — the in-too-deep geeks like me whowant meaty mythological disclosures, as well as the normal people whojust want powerful, character-driven stories — can find some commonground appreciation. By reuniting the castaways in the setting we allknow and love, and by conspicuously omitting key details from variouscharacter arcs (Why did Hurley change his mind? Who was that woman withSayid? How did Ben get roughed up?) that will surely require sometraditional flashback storytelling in order to fully reveal. Lost’s time traveling, time looping Back to the Future fifth season has now gone all Season 1 on us. (More to come in a few hours. In the meantime: Talk!)

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