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Last chance to get Lost -- and I didn't

The much-awaited first episode of the final series of Lost was preceded by a recap, which is something of a misleading description.

The word 'recap' suggests a degree of resolution. Conversely, watching the hour-long programme was tantamount to being introduced to the principles of quantum physics after downing a bottle of whiskey.

Perhaps I would have found it more enlightening had I watched it from the beginning (whatever that means in Lost-land), but the mental torture became too much. And by that I mean conversing with the diehard fans...

Watching Lost is a bit like dwelling on human existence. You can hypothesise and theorise into perpetuity, but every corner you turn leads you into a space darker and more abstract than the one before.

The producers call it "purposeful ambiguity". I call it cruelty.

Last night's episode was as labyrinthine as expected. The episode now follows two timelines, following the detonation of the hydrogen bomb at the end of fifth season.

The reset 2004 timeline returns the original cast on to the original flight. Charlie is unconscious after swallowing his stash in the bathroom, only to be resuscitated by Jack.

But there is no hero's praise, though. In fact, he's furious with him for not letting him die.

Meanwhile, Jack's father's body has gone missing and Kate is a fugitive once more after she manages to escape her minder.

In the reset 2007 timeline, the survivors are still on the island but life has skipped forward. Juliet survives the drop to the bottom of the hatch but only long enough to kiss Sawyer goodbye and deliver a message through Miles: "It worked."

What's interesting is that in the 2004 timeline, many of the characters share exchanges with one another, despite having never met before.

It looks like series six will show that the characters are inextricably linked.

It looks like they will impact on each others' lives, even in a different dimension.

For instance, Locke and Jack shared a curious exchange, which resulted in the spinal surgeon giving the wheelchair-bound Locke his card and offering him an "on the house" consultation.

The question is whether the characters will realise similar faiths in both dimensions?

Actually, there are a few more questions than that: Sayid died before rising from the dead (expect more biblical parallels in this series) but what exactly is he? Where did Jack's father's coffin go? Now that Julie is gone, will Kate end up with Jack or Sawyer? Saying that, is Julie really gone? Does the fake Locke, who is in fact the Smoke Monster, really just want to go home? Who am I, and why am I here?

Answering one question in Lost opens up another five for discussion, and for that alone it has to be praised.

No other programme in TV history has sparked so much critical and philosophical debate. The producers assumed an intelligence in TV viewers and, as such, set the bar high for other programme-makers.

While most sitcoms have people staring at the screen like lobotomised rabbits, Lost viewers dissect every word, every beat, every scene because -- ostensibly -- everything is a clue.

That's why I won't be watching the next 17 episodes. One of the few certainties of the show is that not everyone's theory will be proved correct.

I'm reminded of Hurley's famous line: "Don't worry, dude. Everything will be fine when Jack changes the future. Or the past. One of those."

It won't be a lock-and-key resolution and you can guarantee that new doors will open even as the last-ever episode is ending. I don't think I can bear being Lost forever...

Katie's stars

Lost ****