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The 10 Most Important Episodes of LOST

  The 10 Most Important Episodes Of LOST

43:30. Not as familiar to Lost fans as the infamous Numbers, but important nonetheless. You see, nearly every episode of Lost since the first season has generally clocked in at 43 minutes, 30 seconds. Entire weeks and months spent waiting for just under 45 minutes of fun. Why do we do it? Because even the most casual Lost fan knows that every given week, something will happen in that 43:30 to keep us buzzing until the next episode airs.

But more than just twists and turns, every season of Lost features one or two episodes that simply change the way you watch and experience the show. So, in honor of what’s lining up to be an earth-shattering finale, we break down the top 10 game-changing episodes in Lost history:

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10. Stranger in a Strange Land (Season 3, Episode 9)

Some would claim this snooze fest of a flashback episode doesn’t deserve to be ranked on anything other than Comic Book Guy’s “Worst Episodes Ever” list. Coming a week after the mind-melding “Flashes Before Your Eyes”, the highlight of this Jack-centric episode was … Matthew Fox flying a kite with Bai Ling. Talk about over-the-air Ambien; even series co-showrunner Carlton Cuse has gone on the record saying this episode is “not good.” So why is it listed here? Although the transparent stalling represented a creative low in the storytelling, it gave Cuse and series co-creator Damon Lindelof the ammunition needed to convince ABC to agree to an unprecedented arrangement—a preannounced end date to the show. So while the meaning of Jack’s tattoos might not have been worthy of an entire flashback, Lost fans can point to “Stranger in a Strange Land” as the turning point in the show’s narrative and structure.


9. LaFleur (Season 5, Episode 7)

The best payoff of the time-skipping that dominated the early going-ons of season five was seeing a clean-shaven Sawyer kicking ass and taking names as Dharma sheriff LaFleur. On a larger level though, the episode was important in advancing the on-Island timeline forward three years and surprising us—and eventually the Oceanic Six for that matter—with all that had changed over that time. Jin now speaks English, Miles is BFFs with Sawyer and, in the most surprising development, Juliet and Sawyer are making out and living under the same roof. Paradise found, as they say, even if it’s in the pre-Star Wars past. Unfortunately for the happy couple, the sight of Freckles on a bluff was enough for Sawyer to realize that their peaceful existence was about to evaporate in a flash.


8. Cabin Fever (Season 4, Episode 11)

Aside from a brief loss of mojo at the end of season two, John Locke’s role among the survivors has always been that of Island champion, preaching a connection to its mystical forces since the first days after the crash. While this was always assumed to be a leap of faith on Locke’s part, “Cabin Fever” twisted things around for the first time by suggesting that instead of finding the Island, the Island found him. Tracing Locke’s history back from his birth through his stint in a rehabilitation center for his legs, we see vignettes of an ageless (?!) Richard Alpert and the mysterious Matthew Abaddon checking in on John at key stages in his life. But as we came around to the notion that Locke was destined to become the head of the Others, hindsight colors the on-Island storyline with a much darker tone as we now understand that the Man-In-Black-As Christian was simultaneously exploiting Locke’s belief in this very destiny to put into play his own plot to leave the Island.

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7. Ab Aeterno /Across the Sea (Season 6, Episodes 9 and 15)

Okay, cheating a bit here by lumping these two together, but unlike Jacob and the Man In Black we don’t have to follow any sort of celestial rules here. The flashback episodes from Season Six did more than fill in the back-story of these previously enigmatic characters and illuminate some of the Islands’ core mysteries; they also established the stakes and motivations that are driving the show towards its conclusion. “Ab Aeterno” brought Richard to the forefront, explaining his servitude towards Jacob and providing the first real explanation about what the Island’s purpose is. “Across the Sea” was a polarizing episode for fans and probably should have come earlier in the season, but if one had been told they would get an answer to the origins of the frozen donkey wheel, the Smoke Monster and Jacob’s powers in one episode, who wouldn’t have signed up for that? The only question is why Damon and Carlton cast President Bartlett’s former press secretary as Mother, only to have her deny us answers! Either way, we’ll never look at a wine bottle the same way again.


6. Live Together, Die Alone Parts 1 & 2 (Season 2, Episode 23-24)

The most underrated Lost episode of all time for many reasons (the four toed statue and the reveal of Henry Gale as the leader of the Others among them), but we’ll just focus on Desmond and its surprise ending for now. Desmond’s flashbacks marked the first time we not only had flashbacks for a character not on Oceanic Flight 815, but also saw events on the Island before the crash. The revelation that Desmond crashed the flight was a large enough twist to end the episode on its own right, but leave it to a bunch of Portuguese guys playing chess on one of the poles to let us know there might be hope of rescue for our castaways in the series’ first post-crash, off-Island scene ever.


5. Walkabout (Season 1, Episode 4)

Unexpected back-stories are one thing; miracles are another. While it’s surprising to learn that the pretty girl is actually a fugitive and the fat guy is a multimillionaire lotto winner, it’s something else entirely to discover that the wild man running around the jungle with a suitcase of steak knives is a paraplegic. There are many great John Locke episodes throughout the series, but this introduction to the characters tortured past, belief in the Island and destiny set the bar high for all flashback stories to come.

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4. The Incident Parts 1 & 2 (Season 5, Episodes 16-17)

While a lot certainly happened in this episode, the real wrench in the series’ narrative comes at the very beginning. A man in black and a man in white cryptically discuss the arrival of a ship that looks a lot like the Black Rock, debating the morality of humanity and making cryptic allusions to “loopholes” and “progress.” Almost akin to The Architect’s speech in The Matrix Reloaded, the scene was bewildering at first yet deeply important in its implications. What we did know for sure is that it was time to forget the series’ earlier tussles between Locke and Jack, the Survivors and The Others and Widmore and Ben; suddenly, our Losties struggles are recast as part of a larger battle between the previously-unseen Jacob and a Man in Black. Controversial in the sense that not even the craziest Lost theorist could really see this coming—after all, it’s a bit late in the game to tack a super villain onto the narrative—the conversation continues to be a crucial clue to deciphering the series’ end game.


3. The Constant (Season 4, Episode 5)

Lost meets Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” as Desmond’s conscious becomes unstuck in time, traveling between present day 2004 and 1996. Many would argue that it is the show’s best episode, and while that will not be disputed here, it is in many ways a self-contained adventure within the larger series. Until season six, Desmond’s time-travel antics didn’t have much of an impact on any of the Losties other than poor Charlie and Faraday; nevertheless, if this episode wasn’t the emotional and structural grand slam that it turned out to be, the time travel and alternate reality twists and turns of seasons five and six would have been a much harder sell.


2. Flashes Before Your Eyes
(Season 3, Episode 8)

After seven episodes of Grey’s Anatomy on the Island—Ben needs a life saving operation! Jack and Sawyer in a love triangle for Kate! Cage sex! — and a long hiatus to boot, to say this episode came out of left field would be an understatement. Reinvigorating many a Lost fan’s belief in the series (only to be slightly crushed a week later—see entry 10 on this list), this episode redefined what a flashback episode could be by introducing a new element—time travel—into the show. The rule of “whatever happened, happened”, as defined by Eloise Hawking, brought the dichotomy between fate and free will to the forefront of the series where it has remained as a source of tension ever since. The episode even managed to hit on a poignant level as well, with Desmond’s prophetic warning to Charlie remaining one of the most chilling and heartbreaking moments in Lost history.


1. Through the Looking Glass Parts 1 & 2 (Season 3, Episodes 23-24)

Was it the beard? Jack’s RAZR cell phone? Unscrambling Hoffs-Drawler and figuring out it’s an anagram for flash-forward? Or were you so totally blindsided by Kate’s rendezvous with Jack at LAX that the good doctor screaming about going back to the Island didn’t register because of the realization that they actually got off. Isn’t the show called Lost for science’s sake? The season three finale unquestionably changed the show forever. Too bad it was more than a year before we learned who was in that pesky coffin!

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