This write-up contains slight, thematic spoilers regarding the Feb.28 episode of Lost. As I screened the next episode of ABC's Lost (airing Feb. 28 at 10 pm/ET), and as the germ of the idea for this blog entry entered my head, I instant-messaged a flurry of comments to a revered colleague here at TV Guide. In response, I was urged, "Don't be a

Lost hater." "But," I hemmed, "this episode is derivative of itself. And the mystery/humor mix is 'off.'" Having now surveyed the entire hour, however, I am here not to hate or even dislike, but rather hold out the highest of hope for the balance of Season 3. Hope is actually the theme of this week's episode. In "Tricia Tanaka Is Dead," Jorge Garcia's Hurley, upon discovering a car inside the jungle, flashes back to the midst of his bad run of post-Lotto luck. (A Chongless Cheech Marin guest-stars as Hugo's pop, and there is a classic "WTF?" Lost moment as Ms. Tanaka's fate is sealed.) It could be argued that it is a critical episode for the series, covering the reunion of everyone (minus Jack) at the base camp as Kate and Sawyer find their way back home. For eight or nine episodes now, Lost has split its time between "Others Island" and (to a much lesser degree) the happenings of the original castaways. Now, the band is back together, as Elwood Blues might say. But is there that same magic? I'm getting to that. The thing about Others Island is that, while offering some (I would argue too much) exposition, what happened there was rather bleak, a bit dark. That is in stark contrast to this week's episode, which plays Hurley's unexpected discovery for many laughs. (Roger, the poorly disguised VW bus' long-dead driver, was apparently a Dharma janitor in the midst of a beer run. Will Michelle Rodriguez and Cynthia Watros appreciate the drink-and-drive irony?) Hanso knows, Lost fans need this breath of fresh air and lighter fare. At first glance, and with a few minutes left in the episode, I got to thinking how once upon a time, Hurley fashioned a golf course to serve as a diversion from the harsh fact that there would be no rescue team arriving for Flight 815. Now he has the dream of starting up the decrepit bus, a charming folly had Hurley not... once fashioned a golf course to serve as a diversion from the harsh fact that there would be no rescue team arriving for Flight 815. But as the remaining minutes unspooled and some wonderfully, wonderfully incongruous music swelled, my skeptic's frown was turned entirely upside-down. (Thank you, my IM pal, for urging me to hang in there.) What I was about to write off as a retread of Hurley's previous flashbacks instead proved to finally move his story forward, all the while dovetailing very nicely with the "hopeless" story line of a fellow castaway. With one click of an 8-track player, I was back at the golf course, that glorious, perhaps since-forgotten golf course. For good measure, a coda involving Kate quelled another quibble forming on my lips, that her (you would have to think) shocking reappearance at camp, alive no less, went almost without comment. Can Lost find its way back? Did Kate and Sawyer? Coming up in Interviews & Features: I interview Jorge Garcia about Hurley's latest lark.