What was the big surprise at the Lost panel today? Michael (Harold Perrineau Jr.) is coming back to the island, though the surprise wasn't as big as it was planned to be after the announcement was made at yesterday's TCA event ( see Ausiello's blog from the event yesterday).

While the "big surprise" was lessened a bit, "Team Darlton" (Damon Lindeloff and Carlton Cuse) had a few tricks up their sleeves for the packed room, many of whom started lining up 3 hours before the panel began. They were more than willing to answer questions from fans, except each was armed with a bell that they would ring if they felt the other was going a bit too far with their answer; the bells were used far too often, followed by the groans of fans. A fan followed up on the Michael announcement by asking for more information on how he'll return, and before Carlton Cuse had a chance to answer, the sound of a bell could be heard off-stage, and Harold Perrineau Jr. emerged to an eruption of applause from the audience; it was only time the bell was met with applause. They wouldn't reveal when Michael returns, but they said Perrineau would be a series regular in the fourth season, and his return would be near the start of the season.

Fans were very curious about the use of the flash-forward in the season finale, and Darlton revealed that they'll be used in season 4, while still continuing with flash-backs. The big question is how far forward, and with whom, since a future-flash would reveal details about the current situation on the island (we already know Jack and Kate survive, since they were in the first flash-forward). Flash-forwards were always in the works, they just had to decide when to reveal the plot device to the audience, and the season 3 finale seemed like the best time.

There were other random facts reveled in the panel:
-The show will have an end, and the finale won't leave fans hanging with 10 seconds of black
-We'll find out more about Libby in season 4
-Rousseau's story will be told, but probably not until season 5
-Season 4 will premiere in February, and will run for 16 weeks without reruns. Seasons 5 and 6 will also consist of 16 episodes.
-A trailer for the Lost video game was shown, though most of the footage showed characters in the jungle. The game is being developed by Ubisoft Montreal
-Ben didn't plan to be caught in Rousseau's trap, and where he was going at the time will be revealed
-What happened to the balloonist Henry Gale? Ben didn't kill him, but "they had words."

The panel ended with a recently discovered Dharma film talking about station 6, "The Orchid." It's not a botanical research station, but is highly volatile, and potentially dangerous experiment. The film shows Dr. Marvin Candle holding a rabbit with the number 15 on his side, written in black. Objects begin falling behind Candle, the camera moves, and an identical rabbit appears on a shelf. They start shooting the opening to the training video again before the film runs out. Could this be a cloning experiment? Hopefully that's answered in season 4.