Question:  When is that bitch Ana-Lucia going to die?

Answer: Brace yourself that question will be answered just as soon as OK, enough with all the teasing. It's time for the main event. In lieu of peppering the entire interview with SPOILER ALERTS, I present you with this one and only warning: Avoid the following Q&A if you'd prefer to remain in the dark about some of Lost's biggest mysteries, including scoopy stuff about those pesky digits, Shannon's death, the mysterious Mr. Eko and that creepy monster. For everyone else, dig in!

First off, I have a bone to pick with you, Damon. Last July, I asked you if a female character was getting killed this season on Lost, and you said and I quote: "I think it would be fairly silly for us to kill a woman  there are only three or four of them on the show. And they're all really hot." So, I guess my question is, how can I ever trust you again?
Damon Lindelof:
I never said we weren't going to kill a woman. I said it would be silly. And you know, Carlton and I are pretty silly guys. You should see the hat that he's wearing right now.
Carlton Cuse: That's all I'm wearing.
Damon: And also a sock, but that's another story.

Did it bug you that Maggie Grace's people leaked that tidbit about her possibly joining the cast of X-Men 3 over the summer? It was a pretty major tip-off that she might be leaving the show.
Carlton:
There's no incentive for them to preserve the creative sanctity of Lost. You have an agency full of people whose job it is to get Maggie Grace other work. And how could we begrudge her that? We can't prevent her from going out and earning a livelihood, you know?

There's the perception that Maggie had to turn down X-Men 3 because of Lost.
Carlton:
I don't think that was the circumstance. We would have been accommodating had she been offered that job.
Damon:
Carlton and I would have bent over backwards to see if there was a way to make it work.

Why was Shannon marked for death?
Damon:
It was by no means a result of Maggie's abilities as an actress, which, we felt were gaining ground every time we saw her on the screen. But Shannon is a 22- or 23-year-old character, and the flashback stories and limitations in terms of her life experience. The younger the character is on the show, the more limited you are in terms of stories you can tell. So, before we started running Shannon into the ground and doing the same stories over and over again, it felt like it was a very natural time to kill [her] off. And the idea that was appealing to us, and certainly to Maggie, was that we would finally show Shannon in this different light. Make her incredibly sympathetic and then she would die.

Will Shannon be back, like, say, in one of Jack's flashbacks?
Carlton:
It's always possible she could pop up in someone's backstory. But she is definitely dead. When a character dies on the island, they stay dead.

Are you concerned that Ana-Lucia is beyond redemption? I can't tell you how many e-mails I got from AA readers asking, "When is that bitch going to die?!" Actually, I can tell you: 124.
Carlton:
At the beginning of last season, people didn't like Josh Holloway's character either. And by the end of the season, he was one of the most-liked characters on the show. It'll be really interesting to see, as we tell more about Ana-Lucia, whether that changes the audience's perception of her. We think it will.
Damon:
In the same moment that we decided Shannon would die, [we also decided that] Ana-Lucia would be responsible for that death. It would be the first time one castaway was responsible for killing another, and it would give so much inherent conflict and trauma [heading to] the merge. We're walking a very tenuous tightrope with her, but we feel that over the course of the next two episodes the audience will hopefully get a better understanding for that character and what she's been through.

Can you confirm that Shannon was, in fact, shot? Fans have been speculating that she looked like she had a stab wound.
Carlton:
She was shot.
Damon:
People are getting a little too

They're reaching a little too much?
Carlton:
They totally are. And she did not have a Dharma Initiative stamp on her.

Let's talk about Malcolm David Kelley and Walt. Why was his role reduced this season? Were you concerned about him aging faster than the time line on the show?
Carlton:
That's a legitimate issue. We've only gone 50 days on the island, and he's a kid in puberty. But Walt's disappearance and, ultimately, Michael's efforts to reunite with him were part of a grander plan. There are also financial considerations. Since Walt wasn't going to be around for a lot of episodes, we had to make an arrangement to have his role be a more reduced role.

Whether you use him once or twice a year or every week, the aging thing will still be an issue, no? Might you recast?
Damon:
To answer that question is sort of to reveal what the plan is for Walt, and there is a plan. I always feel like recasting is the nuclear option. You do not do it unless it is absolutely, 100 percent necessary. But obviously, we have a story that we want to tell about Walt and about Michael and Walt.

Last week Shannon and Sayid gave us our first big Lost sex scene.
Carlton:
It was the second big sex scene. Boone and Shannon had sex together [last season]. So, if you have sex on the show, you're pretty much going to end up dead.

So, who's having sex next?
Carlton:
(Laughs) As we move into the middle run of episodes, we're definitely emphasizing the Jack-Kate-Sawyer romantic triangle. The level of sexual tension between those three characters is definitely being ramped up.

How will Ana-Lucia figure into it?
Damon:
As the respective leaders of their respective units, Ana-Lucia and Jack have a great deal in common with each other, and that's definitely something we're going to be exploring. But [the fact that] Ana-Lucia inadvertently murdered one of the members of the tribe doesn't exactly [lend itself] to candlelight dinners and walks on the beach. She is a woman; she will have romantic entanglements. But I think the one that will begin to emerge over the season will be the one that you least expect.

What about Charlie and Claire?
Carlton:
We're definitely going to be paying attention to their relationship, but it's not going to turn in ways the audience expects.

Will we get any clarification about the numbers this season?
Damon:
Carlton might want to punch me for actually going on record and saying this, but I think that that question will never, ever be answered. I couldn't possibly imagine [how we would answer that question]. We will see more ramifications of the numbers and more usage of the numbers, but it boggles my mind when people ask me, "What do the numbers mean?"

Will we find out why Ethan abducted Claire?
Damon:
Yes.
Carlton:
You'll learn more about it this season.

Will Claire get some of her memory back?
Damon:
The loss of her memory happened so long ago that it requires a sort of deft touch in order to reintroduce the concept. Once we start assuming that everybody is intimately familiar with everything that has ever happened on the island, I think the show risks becoming slightly confused. But all of that stuff is in play. It's just a matter of when and how we reactivate it.

Are you still planning to reveal why the plane crashed this season?
Carlton:
Yes.

Are you saving that little doozy for the finale?
Carlton:
We're saving it until later. We consider that on the ground of fairly major revelations.
Damon:
We don't want to stick that one in the middle of March.

ABC billed last week's episode as the one "everyone will be talking about." What'll be the next one "everyone will be talking about"?
Carlton:
Ironically, it's the next episode [airing tonight]. We think for us, it's even more of a water-cooler episode than the death episode. This is really a very special episode in that it's kind of a concept episode. It deviates from the form and style of our other episodes.

On Nov. 30 we'll finally learn what Kate's precrash crime was that landed her in so much hot water. Any other big flashback revelations this season?
Damon:
In the next string of episodes, one of the really compelling backstory elements is what happened to Jack's marriage. We think Julie Bowen is amazing and she and Matthew Fox are so great in scenes together, and I think the audience is really curious as to what went wrong there.
Carlton:
And you should pay attention to Mr. Eko's stick.

Seriously?
Carlton:
Yeah.
Damon:
Keep your eyes on Mr. Eko's stick.
Carlton:
That stick is an important ongoing clue.

Will we learn more about Monster this season?
Carlton:
Definitely.
Damon:
Absolutely.

Has Disney approached you about doing a Lost feature film?
Carlton:
No.

And if they did, what would your response be?
Damon:
I would punch them as hard as I could. We couldn't even begin to wrap our brains around how we would produce a feature film. Obviously, the production team in Hawaii is amazing, but the amount of time [it would require] to do a TV show and a feature on top of each other I think it's safe to say it would be impossible.

Last question: Will there be another death this season?
Carlton:
(Laughs) You're very good, Michael, but we can't say.

On that note, it's time to wrap up the special super-sized Lost portion of Ask Ausiello. Come back next week for more from D&C, including a preview of this spring's highly-anticipated Darren Aronofsky-helmed outing. Hey, maybe he'll kill that bitch Ana-Lucia!