Elizabeth Mitchell, Henry Ian Cusick

Wednesday's episode of Lost (9 pm/ET, ABC) is titled "Dead Is Dead." It purports to tell the story of Ben's atonement for his many sins, but it brings to mind that pesky rumor we keep hearing: Two main characters will die before the end of the season. And not Frogurt-caliber characters — people you actually care about. Putting aside for a second the fact that dying on Lost doesn't exactly mean a trip to the unemployment office, let's examine a few likely suspects, and then tell us who you think is going to take that long island dirt nap.

BEN
FOR HIM Last we saw him, little Ben was on death's door after getting plugged by Sayid. Sure, Richard Alpert said he could save him, but can he really? Plus, see above — the episode is called "Dead Is Dead" for a reason.
AGAINST HIM In revealing the backstory of Ben's fractured childhood — and his fate at the hands of the Hostiles — the character has become infinitely more sympathetic. In addition, Lost appears to be headed toward a showdown between Ben and Widmore, and it's still too early for that confrontation to take place.
NARRATIVE PUNCH Lost without Ben would certainly be duller. Good guy or bad, he has double-crossed nearly everyone in the cast.

CLAIRE
FOR HER There is a well-developed conspiracy theory that claims that Claire actually died in that explosion in her house in New Otherton. Supporters point to her last communication with Miles (aka Señor Ghostbuster), her abandonment of Aaron and her cozying up to Christian, her dead dad, inside Jacob's cabin.
AGAINST HER There is no indication that Emilie de Ravin has been on set at all this season. Plus: Emilie de Ravin told us already that Claire will return as a regular cast member for the final season.
NARRATIVE PUNCH There are still a few unanswered questions in Claire's backstory, but most revolve around the significance of Aaron. In short, we might like her more as a ghost.

DESMOND
FOR HIM Desmond would do anything to protect Penny and their son, Charlie — including die to save them.
AGAINST HIM Daniel Faraday has hinted at Desmond's importance in the show's evolving time-travel conceit, in that the rules don't appear to apply to him. Now that the gang is stuck in 1977, he may be their only hope of rescue.
NARRATIVE PUNCH Desmond is a popular character, especially with the lay-deez. (Holla!) They would riot if he was killed.

HURLEY
FOR HIM Truthfully, there is no indication that it would be him.
AGAINST HIM Hurley is the Oceanic 6's truth-teller; he keeps everyone honest. Hurley seems to be the most accessible character through which to tell the story of "the numbers," an annoying plot point that has yet to be adequately explained.
NARRATIVE PUNCH Dude, it would totally suck.

JULIET
FOR HER The blogosphere erupted when it was revealed that Elizabeth Mitchell had been cast in the remake of the V miniseries. Did that mean she was leaving Lost?
AGAINST HER
Though the rumors persist, ABC says the role is just a guest-starring gig; plus, we're hearing Juliet appears in Season 6.
NARRATIVE PUNCH Long-suffering Juliet seems to have finally found peace with Sawyer among the Dharma Initiative. Killing her now would be especially harsh — and dramatically potent.

KATE
FOR HER There were rumblings earlier in the season that Evangeline Lilly was available to audition for pilot season, which sent Lost fans into a tizzy that Kate might be exiting.
AGAINST HER The rumor was quickly silenced. ("Not even remotely true," a source told TVGuide.com.)
NARRATIVE PUNCH Needless to say, losing Kate before the end of the series would be truly shocking.

PENNY
FOR HER After Widmore killed Ben's "daughter," Alex, Ben pledged revenge. Last we saw Ben, he had an errand to run at what appeared to be a marina. He then boarded Ajira Flight 316 bloodied and bruised.
AGAINST HER Penny and Desmond's globetrotting (indeed, time-trotting) romance has become the heart of the show. It would be downright cruel to break up this happily reunited couple after their long, torturous separation.
NARRATIVE PUNCH Sucker. To the kidneys. And the heart. Sniff.

SAWYER
FOR HIM As Jim LaFleur, Sawyer holds a prominent position within the Dharma Initiative. But as James Ford, survivor of Oceanic 815, he has other goals. As his two interests start to diverge, it's possible that Sawyer's double-agent routine will be discovered.
AGAINST HIM The Kate-Jack-Juliet-Sawyer love rectangle is an endless source of discussion for the fans. They'd never remove one of the variables, would they?
NARRATIVE PUNCH
Killing Sawyer just as he redeemed himself would be bittersweet — and characteristic of Lost.

SAYID
FOR HIM After shooting little Ben, Sayid is Dharma Public Enemy No. 1.
AGAINST HIM His recent declaration — "You were right; I am a killer" — seems to indicate the beginning of a redemption story arc.
NARRATIVE PUNCH Hard to say. We love Naveen Andrews, but how much more do we need to know about Sayid?

SUN
FOR HER She's hanging out with Christian lately, and he tends to show up, Grim Reaper-like, just before people meet their maker (see: Locke, Michael, Claire?).
AGAINST HER Similar to Des and Penny, Sun and Jin's flawed romance sneaked up on us. Sun has already believed Jin dead; isn't that enough?
NARRATIVE PUNCH Killing her off before (or even after) she finds Jin would make for some terrific drama.