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At a loss with Lost

Left to right are -- wait a minute, that's way too much work.

The fourth season's first two episodes of Lost arrived in the mail this week. What to do? Quickly devour them with the understanding that ABC may send a hit team to this residence if a subsequent review breathes a word about just about anything.

It's probably safe to say they're in color, have spoken words and represent one-quarter of eight episodes that were completed before the writers' strike kicked in. There were supposed to be a total of 16 this season. But now there's no chance of completing that many by the presumed May cut-off date for airing new episodes.

Also, Lost will have two more 16-episode seasons -- at least that's the plan -- before calling it a wrap during the 2009-'10 TV season. That would be a grand total of 48 more new hours. And oh yeah, the fourth season launches on Thursday, Jan. 31 at 8 p.m. (central) after a one-hour appetizer called Lost: Past, Present & Future.

Otherwise TV critics are being strongly urged to "use discretion in reviewing this show by not revealing any plot details that contain 'spoilers.' We also ask that you refrain from discussing the following:

***The Oceanic Six

***Any details about (can't say who's can't say what), or that he even has a (can't say what).


***Who goes with Locke and who goes with Jack.

***Any details about the four strangers/freighter people's back stories/flashbacks."

OK then, my work is pretty much done here. Except to say that Lost is as perplexing as ever, perhaps even more so. And that despite its often maddeningly slow pace, overwrought music and big jumble of characters, it also remains oddly captivating and compelling -- to this viewer at least.

Have a good day.