In honor of LOST (finally) returning tonight, here's is some required reading, courtesy of EW:
You've got questions, we've got answers — straight from the mouths of Lost exec producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. We sifted through more than 2,000 queries from EW readers and presented the most pressing to the powers that be.
What happened to Michael and Walt?
CARLTON CUSE: We put a pin in the Michael and Walt story for the season, but by no means is it over. It would be very strange for the end of Michael and Walt to just send them off in that boat without any acknowledgment of what has happened. But if you look at the bigger picture of Lost, there's a circularity to the way that story is going to unfold in the overall mythology, and that is a long, planned approach. Yes, we'll get back to the Michael and Walt story, and it will be really compelling when we do. But that's most likely a year 4 story.
DAMON LINDELOF: Michael and Walt are the first characters on the show to ''get off the island.'' But the pervasive question remains: What is ''off the island''?
Are we going to get the history of the Others in one shot, or will this be revealed over time?
LINDELOF: It's definitely unfolding. We will begin to find out how certain members of the Others joined the Others. Episode 7 should play as a surprise to some audience members that Juliet was not born on the island — she came off the island and was recruited by the Others. So some of them were born there and some of them were recruited, but what they are there to do will be revealed before who put them there and why.
CUSE: The connection between the Others and Dharma gets revealed in episode 11.
When will we see Libby again? Will we ever learn how she got into the mental hospital with Hurley?
CUSE: Given everything else we have to tell, that's going to be a mystery that's going to have to get answered in year 4.
LINDELOF: There's really one significant missing piece to Libby's story. We saw in the season finale last year that she met with Desmond, she gave him his boat, and we know that her husband died — and then we know that subsequent to that, she spent some time in a mental institution, the same one as Hurley. The question the audience wants answered is, How did she get from A to B — from Desmond to the mental institution? We know the answer to that question, but the only way to tell that story is through another character's flashback, and that character would have to be another character on the show who is not among the beach dwellers.
What is the significance of the horse that Kate saw?
CUSE: People seem mystified by this. I would say this: We have seen a number of apparitions on the island, from Jack's dad to Kate's horse. You'll be getting more of an understanding of those apparitions during the course of this season.
LINDELOF: What is the nature of those apparitions? By definition, an apparition shouldn't be something you could go up and touch, or that other people should be able to see. And yet, Kate's horse is real. It is living in the physical world. Sawyer sees it; Kate goes up and touches it. Does the horse bear a striking resemblance to a horse that provided her an escape in her past as a fugitive, or is it the same exact horse? That is a fundamental question. But look at the show in total. Here's Christian Shepherd [Jack's dad]. Here's Yemi [Eko's brother]. Here's the horse. Here's Walt. [Remember, Walt appeared to Shannon, and later to Shannon and Sayid in a backwards-speaking vision.] Are all those things the same thing, or are some of them different things?
CUSE: We're also using these things to set up an animated sitcom spin-off called ''Kate's Horse and Sayid's Cat.''
LINDELOF: That's right. Sayid's cat is coming up in episode 11. We're not joking.
CUSE: Except for the animated part.
What is the meaning or significance of the two skeletons that Jack and Kate found in the cave of season 1?
CUSE: The answer to that question goes to the nature of the timeline of the island. We don't want to say too much about it, but there are a couple Easter eggs embedded in [the Feb. 7 episode], one of which is an anagram that actually sheds some light on the skeletons and hints at a larger mythological mystery that will start to unfold later in the season.
LINDELOF: There were certain things we knew from the very beginning. Independent of ever knowing when the end was going to be, we knew what it was going to be, and we wanted to start setting it up as early as season 1, or else people would think that we were making it up as we were going along. So the skeletons are the living — or, I guess, slowly decomposing — proof of that. When all is said and done, people are going to point to the skeletons and say, ''That is proof that from the very beginning, they always knew that they were going to do this.''
Last season, we saw in Ana Lucia's flashback that she witnessed an argument between Christian Shepherd and a woman in Australia, in which Christian demanded to see his daughter. The burning question/conspiracy theory that fans have is this: Is Claire Jack's half sister?
CUSE: We're not going to answer that question — but the show will. In the next six episodes.
Did Desmond's failure to press the button REALLY cause the plane to crash — or is there more to this story?
LINDELOF: In terms of the pragmatic reality, Oceanic 815 never would have crashed had Desmond pushed the button. But is there a larger, more faith-based, spiritualized reason that these people happened to be on that plane when he failed to press the button? If Desmond hadn't run into Jack at that stadium, would he have made the same choices that he made in his life? They all impact each other's lives. The fact that that guy is on that plane up there, and Desmond brings that plane down, it speaks to an interrelatedness among characters, why these people, why do they all connect. No amount of mythological answers will ever speak to this. That's the one thing that when the show ends, you won't have a causal explanation for why did all these people interconnect. Why some, why not others? The answer is just that they just do. The show is a massive Rube Goldberg device, in which all the components of the machinery are humans.
Even though The Hatch blew up, will we return to the mystery of the Dharma map that Desmond's previous Hatch occupants were painting on the retractable blast door?
CUSE: We will be visiting another Dharma station soon. But the map becomes less important, because when they visit this new station, they'll be getting some new information that helps them understand where the Dharma people lived and where their stations are.
Will Penelope ever become a significiant character, and when will we get a follow-up to the monumentally dramatic revelation at the end of season 2 that the EM burst was detected off the island?
CUSE: Penelope's story continues in episode 8 [Feb. 14] in Desmond's flashbacks. We put that scene at the end of the season finale for a reason, and like the anagram, they're components to a larger revelation. You'll learn more about why we put that scene at the end of season 2 by the end of season 3.
Does time pass differently on the island than off the island?
LINDELOF: That's a really perceptive question. We know that the Others taped the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004... so that would seem to indicate that time flows the same both on and off. But then again, when the sky turns purple and the ground shakes... wait. Hold on. Carlton is wringing my neck.
CUSE: Yes. Time passes very slowly because they don't have American Idol to watch.
In the ''death of Mr. Eko'' episode, it was my interpretation that the Monster was able to assume human form, i.e., Eko's brother. Am I crazy for thinking that? And will we learn anything more about the Monster's origins this season?
LINDELOF: You're not crazy. You will see the monster again this season. Its origins, however... well, you'll have to wait.
CUSE: Whether or not you learn more about it will depend on how obsessive you are. If you enjoy recording the program and studying individual frames, you might. But really, is that healthy?
Is there a mystery you will never solve?
LINDELOF: We will never give story time to revealing the construction of the infamous rope bridge.
CUSE: And honestly, we're never going to tell you why the French lady has a Yugoslavian accent.