Michael Emerson, who plays the creepy Benjamin Linus on "Lost," says few in the cast or crew knew about the flash-forward scene that ended Season 3.
LOST? Find your way back to the story
A new season begins, with the island's secrets still pretty much intact
Apparently, "Lost" viewers aren't the only ones kept in the dark. Show writers and producers hid the shocking flash-forward that defined the end of Season 3 from almost everyone -- including key actors in that episode.
The made-in-Hawaii hit "Lost" returns with two days of viewing on KITV/ABC:
» Wednesday: A repeat of the two-hour Season 3 finale, "Through the Looking Glass," airs at 8 p.m.
» Thursday: A review, "Lost: Past, Present and Future," airs at 7 p.m., followed by the season premiere, "The Beginning of the End," at 8 p.m.
"In my script for the finale, those scenes were blank pages," says Michael Emerson, who plays the sometimes creepy, occasionally charming and always enigmatic Benjamin Linus, leader of the Others. "They were secret scenes. Only Matt (Fox) and Evangeline (Lilly) had those scripts. Of course, everybody was besieging them, because we're all sort of 'Lost' geeks, even when we're on the show. We'd get together for parties and ask, 'What's going on?' Matt got us all excited by saying, 'I can't tell you what it is, but it is the greatest development since the pilot; it is the thing that puts the show where we always dreamt it would be.'"
Emerson, a prominent participant in the season wrap-up, finally understood with the rest of the world -- when the episode aired. "One of the mysterious things about being a regular on this show is that nobody tells you anything."
That includes inside information about the writers' strike that began Nov. 5. "It's completely up to me to keep abreast of things," he said. "It's not like the producers call my agent with updates."
Crew members received pink slips, and actors under contract can't start a theater gig or sign on for a movie. Essentially, they remain on call. Emerson spends his time at home in New York City seeing Broadway shows, reading a biography of Marco Polo, catching up with friends, feeling nostalgic for Hawaii and contemplating the status of the Waikiki apartment he sublet. "I guarantee you, the day after I vacate that apartment, I'll get a call saying we're going back to work," he says.
ABC planned 16 episodes of the serial thriller this year, but only eight have been completed and as Emerson explained, "There will come a magic date in February or March when they'll just have to scrap the season if the strike isn't settled." That could lead to two longer seasons before the show ends in 2010.
Either way, the eighth episode finishes with a nice punch. "It wouldn't be disastrous to let it hang right there," he said. "It's a thrilling reveal that will lay the groundwork for a whole lot of changes."
But that's still eight weeks away. In the absence of a red-carpet premiere at Sunset on the Beach this season, Emerson says he and his wife will stay in New York to dine with friends, watch the first episode on their wide-screen TV and "be 'Lost' geeks together."
The castaways have battled for survival, matched wits with the Others and fought their own demons to arrive at the beginning of the fourth season hopeful of rescue.
An overview of the fourth season, courtesy of Michael Emerson (Ben Linus):
Who are the bad guys? "Let's check the body count at the end of Season 3!" Emerson notes in good humor. "Many slaughtered Others and very few Lostaways hurt. Who are the really bloody-minded men?"
In the final episode, Ben yells to Jack, "Making that call is the beginning of the end. Jack, please, you don't know what you're doing! If you phone her boat, every single living person on this island will be killed."
Ben returns full circle to his beginnings as a manipulative captive who provokes everyone around him -- maintaining a position of power, even from a place of apparent disadvantage.
"Now more than ever before, he's improvising. He has nothing; he doesn't even have a way to talk to anybody." Just as he did when he pretended to be Henry Gale, "it's almost like taking the physical punishment is part of his plan. It's a piece of strategy, and he doesn't really feel the pain the way a normal person does. He's happy at the end of a beating because he has provoked someone else to reveal something about themselves. Or why would he take it with such equanimity? He goes out of his way to press hot buttons! So it must be that he's getting the result he wants. Because it always comes around later that someone else is going to have to feel badly, or beholden to him. Because the beatings are never given with the full knowledge of the facts."
Down the road, Ben will be vindicated: When Ben tells Jack not to use the satellite phone to call the freighter, he means it. "Ben doesn't lie about those kinds of things. In fact, he really doesn't lie that much!" When he does, "he has his reasons."
In the deteriorating situation, Ben must learn to live by wits alone, and this test "may make some adjustments in our sympathies." Indeed, Emerson has played the ruthless yet vulnerable leader as someone who "ultimately would be reconfigured as a character who has heroic dimension."
Emerson admitted to e-mailing producer Damon Lindelof at one point to ask if he had been deluding himself about Ben's potential. Lindelof encouraged him to carry on because everything would be "recontextualized." Eventually.
Need more evidence? Listen to Jack's last words in the Season 3 finale: "I actually close my eyes and pray that I can get back," he says to Kate in the flash-forward. "We made a mistake. We were not supposed to leave. ... We have to go back!"
What to watch for: Some familiar and fresh faces spice up Season 4. Look for reprisals from Harold Perrineau (Michael) and Malcolm David Kelley (Walt). New actors include Fisher Stevens, Ken Leung, Lance Reddick, Rebecca Mader, Jeremy Davies and Jeff Fahey.
"I predict great success with this batch," says Emerson. "They tried some new characters last season, but they went to the light end of the character scale ... and I don't think the fan base was having it. But these new characters are frightening. They're eccentric and dangerous, and they're woven very neatly into the story line."
He hints that the people on the rescue ship aren't what we might expect, leading to intriguing plot twists. "Instead of two opposing forces, we're now going to have three, and the introduction of a new foe may make for new and unexpected alliances among old enemies."
And the flash-forward concept? There's more where that came from. "They are going to take advantage of this new time frame and use it to good dramatic effect. It's such a stroke of genius to see that there is life after the island, and there's not necessarily a happy ending. ... There's going to be regret and guilt, misgivings and hauntedness."
We haven't seen the last of Harold Perrineau (Michael), although he left the island last season.
Get it all in 8:15:
More than eight months have passed since we last saw an episode (May 23, to be exact), so the best way to catch up on the first three seasons in a hurry is to watch "Everything you need to know about 'Lost' in 8 minutes, 15 seconds" on ABC.com. It's a rapid-fire summary of the characters and story delivered in a monotone voice-over laced with dry wit.
Sun and Jin, for instance, "have marital issues." Later we learn that "Sun is pregnant but Jin is sterile. What's up with that?"
We took an entire season to learn about the Others, but the condensed version indicates they are "the island's original inhabitants. They live in nice houses, have lots of food, hold book club meetings and don't want to be bothered. They also can't have children. Women get pregnant and die."
Other amusing lines:
» "Kate and Sawyer think they're going to die, so they have sex."
» "Charlie knows he's going to die, so he says goodbye to Claire. Very sad." And later, "Charlie drowns. Very sad."
» "Flash forward. ... Jack is a broken man, living in L.A. Jack has a beard. He's a drunk and addicted to pills. ... Jack tells Kate, 'We have to go back!' There you have it: Some will leave, some will not. Find out who in 2008."
How Season 3 began: Jack, Kate and Sawyer are taken to the bear cages at the zoological research station, while Jack is held captive in the underwater aquarium called the Hydra. Ben invites Kate to the beach for breakfast, offering coffee from a French press. "I gave you the dress so you'd feel like a lady," he says. She's not terribly happy.
Flashbacks involve Jack's wife leaving him, and his obsession with the false notion that his father is having an affair with her. On the island, Jack and Juliet get to know each other -- sometimes pleasantly, sometimes not -- as Juliet lays the groundwork for him to operate on Ben. We also find out that the Others are (or pretend to be) privy to intimate details about the survivors and their long-lost spouses, including particulars people often don't know about themselves (Jack's ex-wife is "very happy," for instance).
During the season, lots of time is devoted to Ben, Juliet, Jack, Kate and Sawyer, vaguely causing us to lose track of the Lostaways across the pond until the last episodes.
How Season 3 ended: A regular passenger aboard Oceanic flights that he hopes will crash, Jack dons an unkempt beard, drinks excessively and abuses prescription medications. Distraught after reading an obituary, he calls Kate (though we don't know this detail until the end). While driving home from the airport, he stops on a bridge to jump off. A woman distracted by the potential suicide in progress crashes, prompting Jack to abort his plans and save her instead.
He goes to the funeral home to visit the dead person from the obituary, only to discover that nobody else attended the viewing. When the operator of the funeral parlor asks, "Family or friend?" Jack answers, "Neither." The identity of this person remains a mystery.
On the island, the love triangle (quadrangle?) gets more complicated when Juliet smooches Jack before Jack tells Kate that he loves her (Kate, that is). Kate informs Sawyer that she might be pregnant after their wild night in the cages. Sawyer responds, "Well, let's hope you're not."
Thanks to information from Juliet and Karl, the Lostaways prepare for the arrival of the Others by rigging dynamite in the tents and arming Jin, Bernard and Sayid with guns before heading up to the radio tower. But the plan backfires slightly, and the Others take the three men hostage.
Meanwhile, Charlie takes a beating from a couple of gals in the "Looking Glass" underwater station, where he's trying to enable the satellite phone. Eventually, he learns that a musician programmed the code for the fateful jamming switch -- the notes to "Good Vibrations." He carries out his mission, then dies as Desmond predicted.
Back at camp, Hurley saves the day when he runs over the remaining Others with the Dharma van. Up at the radio tower, Naomi tries to call her ship. Just when it looks like everything will work perfectly, Locke emerges from his near-death state and shoots her. He and Ben agree on one thing: Neither wants to leave the island.