Maybe being a true "Lost" fan means being constantly frustrated. We want answers, we want clues, we want to know all, and now; and yet "Lost" would lose us if it showed its cards too quickly, and too easily. "Lost" is the classic hard-to-get lover -- so evasive, and therefore so desirable.
The show's fall finale, which aired Wednesday night, was a case in point. The hour revealed nothing significant, dodging every chance to give us a few good chunks of fact. For example: Near the end of the episode, Jack dupes the Others by holding Ben hostage on the operating table. And what does Jack request in exchange for Ben's life? He doesn't demand to know who they are, why they're on the island, or why they're torturing him. Instead, he asks them to free Kate.
And still, even while the episode didn't add to the overall mythology of "Lost," it was compelling TV. The focus was on the Jack-Kate-Sawyer triangle, and the way the Others have been trying to manipulate it. Turns out Jack loves Kate, but Kate loves Sawyer. Indeed, Kate and Sawyer tore off each other's clothes, and we can safely assume they went on to make love. And the Others allowed them to make love, so that they could use the images to motivate Jack to operate on Ben.
Major ick factor: Kate and Sawyer made love on camera. If, as I sometimes wonder, the Others are genetically engineered humans studying the mating rituals of real humans, then they are certainly doing some terribly detailed research.
This romantic business can feel like a bit of wheel-spinning, and the big cliffhanger -- will Kate stay with Sawyer, or run knowing she's not on the same island as her friends -- was not really so big.
Kate's back story in the episode also felt like wheel-spinning. As with so many of the flashback segments on "Lost," the tale of Kate's brief marriage to a cop had no new relevance. It didn't add to our understanding of pre-island Kate; we already knew she was on the run, from the cops and from herself. And it didn't clearly contribute to the island mystery, in the way Hurley's story did when it featured a glimpse of Libby.
And yet, despite all the writers' withholding, and the ever-growing complications that threaten to defy a coherent endgame, many of us will return to pick up the saga when it comes back in February. ABC probably made a mistake by splitting up the season; the more creatively sound way to eliminate repeats might have been to start the new episodes in January, the way Fox starts "24." But then the network wouldn't have been able to use "Lost" in all three sweeps months, November, February, and May.
Six episodes are hardly enough to push the series into high gear, especially with such a large -- and growing larger -- cast of characters. It has been too long since we've spent much time with Hurley, Charlie, and Claire, and that's just frustrating.