Parallel timelines? A resurrected Sayid? The identity of the Smoke Monster revealed? Lost exec producers shed some light on the shocking premiere episode.

What is this strange new world where Oceanic 815 never crashed?

Lost’s final season will present two parallel realities: one in which time-traveling Jack (Matthew Fox) and friends failed to change history by detonating a bomb and are now miraculously back on the Island in 2007, and another reality in which the Island has sunk and everyone is in Los Angeles circa 2004. Viewers will see that the flash-sideways characters are the same in nature as their Island counterparts, but the life experiences that nurtured them may differ. The producers urge hardcore fans to track the deviations between timelines, most notably the presence of Desmond (Henry Ian Cusick) on the plane. But they also tell casual fans not to sweat it. ”You can follow the flash-sideways for what they are,” says exec producer Carlton Cuse. ”The differences don’t really need to be reconciled. That’s not critical for being able to process this season.”

Is there a relationship between the two timelines?

”That’s the critical question of the season,” says exec producer Damon Lindelof. Hence the decision to replace Lost’s trademark swoosh! sound effect when the show segues between Island and off-Island stories—to encourage suspicion. Will characters from one timeline become aware of the other? Will the timelines merge? WTH?!? The producers say those are exactly the questions you should be asking. But you’ll need to be patient for the answers. ”[Fans] are going to get a lot of mythological answers on the Island early in the season,” says Lindelof. ”But this idea of ‘what is the relationship between the two timelines?’ is more of a slow burn.”

Did the bomb really sink the Island?

No comment, say the producers, though they suggest taking a closer look at some of the conspicuous details, like the Four-Toed Statue, home to Island deity Jacob (Mark Pellegrino). ”It looks like New Otherton got built,” hints Lindelof, referring to the Dharma Initiative’s former compound. ”These little clues [might help you] extrapolate when the Island may have sunk. A couple of episodes down the road, some of the characters might even discuss it.”

Fake Locke = the Man in Black = Smokey the Monster?

Believe it. Says Cuse, ”Now you have enough information to ask the correct question, which is not ‘What is it?’ but ‘Who is it?”’ The producers promise that this season will explore the nature of conflict between Jacob and Locke/MIB (Titus Welliver)/Smokey, which involves fundamental questions like ”Is man good or evil?” ”That leads to the very end of the show, which is: ‘What is the destiny of these characters?”’ says Cuse. ”We’ve worked to show that there is good and evil in the characters and that they struggle to overcome their dark sides. Is redemption possible? Locke [Terry O’Quinn] is going to emerge on one side of the debate, and other characters will emerge on the other. But your sense of who’s good and who’s bad might change a bit over the course of the season.” Cracks Lindelof, ”We might not tell you what the numbers mean, but we have every intention of telling you whether or not humanity is essentially good or evil.”

Fake Locke said, ”I want to go home.” So…where’s home?

The Smoky Mountains, perhaps? Nah—too easy. While the producers won’t reveal a location, Cuse does offer up this warning: ”He wants to leave the Island. If you start thinking about the ramifications of what happens if the Smoke Monster can leave the Island…it’s maybe not a good thing.”

What happened to Sayid in the Temple?

First, some proper introductions. The Japanese Temple Master is Dogen (Hiroyuki Sanada, or as Cuse calls him, ”the Harrison Ford of Japan”). His unnamed American lieutenant is Lennon (Deadwood’s John Hawkes). The moment when a dying Sayid (Naveen Andrews) was dunked in the healing spring functions as the answer to last year’s mystery of how the Others healed Young Ben after Sayid shot him. Lindelof says this put-the-pieces-together-yourself approach to mystery resolution ”is exactly how we want to answer questions this season.” And what was up with Sayid’s ominously delayed resurrection? Apparently the spring is not working properly. ”Did the spring lose its potency as a result of Jacob’s death?” asks Lindelof. ”And how has the spring affected Sayid’s potency? That’s the real question.” Cuse: ”He took a million doses of Cialis. That’s what happened.” Lindelof: ”He can now make women pregnant just by looking at them. That’s episode 4.”