Last night's Lost really underscored that there are two compelling characters remaining on the show: Hurley and Desmond. We're probably going to judge the show's ending based on how it handles these two characters. Are you with me? Spoilers ahead...

So in one way, it makes sense that Hurley and Desmond would be the show's most vital characters at this point. They're both "special" — Hurley can talk to ghosts (whether he wants to or not) and Desmond can withstand super-zappy electro-magnetic fields and time travel without being bound by causality and all that. But more than that, they're the only two living characters on the island who are still having interesting relationships and, well, exuding energy. Everybody else looks increasingly worn out and bedraggled. And directionless. (How long have Sun, Kate, Sawyer and Frank been basically extras?)

We'll Judge Lost By How It Treats Hurley And Desmond

Hence, our suggestion for an iron-clad law of Lost's ending: As Hurley and Desmond go, so goes the show.

If Lost is really going someplace cool and interesting with both Desmond and Hurley, and preparing to offer us a satisfying resolution to their two love stories, then we'll judge the show to have been a success. (Well, probably. If Juliet comes back as an angel, then all bets are off.) If, on the other hand, the show shuffles Des and Hugo around for a bit, plonks them down at the right moment to serve as convenient plot devices, and then hustles them out of the way... then the success will not be so much.

Which is why last night's episode makes me a little bit nervous.

What do you think was supposed to be going on with Hurley last night? Seriously, it confused me a bit. The Island version of Hurley, that is. He's been stepping up as a major leader among the few remaining castaways for a while now — leading them to the temple at the start of the season and then leading Jack to the lighthouse later on. And last night, he hears from the ghost of Michael that if they try to blow up the Ajira Airways plane, they'll all die. This seems to be underscored after poor Ilana blows herself up. So Hurley takes it upon himself to blow up the rest of the dynamite aboard the Black Rock, to put an end to all this "suicide mission" talk. So far, so good.

We'll Judge Lost By How It Treats Hurley And Desmond

Then when Richard insists on trying to find a way to blow up the airplane, using grenades or whatnot, Hurley comes up with an alternate idea on the fly — they go talk to Locke. Whuh? Hurley tries to pretend that he's speaking for Jacob, but as usual he's the worst liar ever. And is it just me, or does Hugo look really weird in that scene, as shown in the clip above? He's a pool of shadow, against the bright motion around him. He looks sort of dark and creepy all of a sudden. Foreshadowing? The beginning of the rise of Dark Hurley?

So I get that Hurley is just trying to give them something to do other than going and getting themselves killed, but why this plan in particular? As opposed to, say, the perfectly good "find a place to hide out so the last remaining candidates don't get snuffed" plan?

A few possibilities suggest themselves:

1) Hurley really does just want to get off the island, and Smokey's offering the best chance at that.
2) The writers just needed to move those characters into position for some other upcoming plot development, so they concocted this plot development to get the chess pieces into place.
3) The writers are setting up Hurley as a Bad Leader, so that Jack can step up at the right moment and show that he's still got the stuff.

Most likely, it's a bit of all of the above. Hurley's spit-balling, plus he's still interested in getting off the island, plus the writers are doing a bit of plot-hammering. And the Jack thing was telegraphed pretty loudly last night, in the scene where Hurley admits he's clueless, and Jack says he's just following Hurley because Jack's still Guilt Guy and is therefore making a virtue of his emotional paralysis. What do you want to bet that Hurley is further demonstrated to be a terrible leader, just in time for Jack to bounce back and prove that he's the One True Hero and the true heir to Jacob's stubble-faced crown? Thing is, I don't really want to see Jack become the leader once again — I'm much more interested in seeing Hurley develop into a leadership role. So here's hoping I'm wrong!

We'll Judge Lost By How It Treats Hurley And Desmond

Meanwhile, Island Desmond got tied up, marched around, and tossed down a well. I think the promo for next week's episode showed a glimpse of him still alive and well (pun intended), so presumably he was saved by magnets or something. It was a smidge disappointing after last week's episode, in which Desmond seemed to have gained a whole new sense of purpose from his vision of the L.A.-verse, to have more of Desmond being captured, tied up and marched around in circles. Smokey didn't even have anything much interesting to say to Desmond before Timmyfying him. Let's hope that Island Desmond does get to be more than a prisoner or a pawn sometime soon.

Meanwhile, L.A. Desmond did seem to have a strong sense of purpose — he's traveling around awakening the other passengers of Oceanic 815 to their divergent universe. Hurley just needs a wee nudge, but apparently Locke needs to be hit with a car. Poor Locke. Are we sure that a brief chat with Locke over some Mr. Cluck's wings wouldn't have done the trick? (And yeah, it was cute that Desmond's chicken order number was 42.)

The other big part of last night's episode was the long-awaited reunion between Hurley and Libby. Which... left me cold for some reason. I wanted to be emotionally engaged with it, but it just didn't quite happen. Maybe because the whole focus was on how Hurley couldn't remember her, until he finally did in the closing minutes? Just like some of the other recent episodes, this episode seemed to end just when things were getting interesting. Besides the whole issue of whether Hurley would start to remember the island, the other big fascinating piece was seeing Hurley visit the Santa Rosa mental hospital once again for the first time, and sit on the other side of the madness/insight line, with the still-smug Dr. Brooks (Bruce Davidson). In this universe, there's no doubt that Hurley is sane, except when he starts to believe the apparently delusional Libby.

I have to admit I was severely underwhelmed with this episode, despite some brilliant moments. One of which was this great exchange:

Jack: Now what?

Richard: We get more dynamite. Or else she died for nothing.

Jack: Maybe she died to show us to stay the hell away from dynamite.

We'll Judge Lost By How It Treats Hurley And Desmond

Classic stuff. There were a few other great moments like that, including Michael apologizing, Hurley and Miles discussing Hurley's relationship with the dead, and the hints that the island is full of ghosts because people "can't move on." But this definitely felt like one of the episodes where you could see the exposed inner workings of Lost — and not in a clever postmodern way. Stuff is being shuffled into position, actors are standing around waiting to say their lines, and the crew is scrambling to find the right callsheets, as we watch.

That's one reason this recap is slightly later - I wanted to sleep on it and see if I liked the episode better in the morning. Sadly, nothing much changed.

So what did you think?