Terry O'Quinn by Mario Perez/ABC Terry O'Quinn by Mario Perez/ABC

Remember the time you couldn't figure out how to move that sofa from one room to another? Lost co-executive producer Jean Higgins feels your pain. And then some. Right now, she's preparing to move an entire island. After all, that's what Christian Shephard advised Locke to do in the May 8th episode. Though Higgins isn't at liberty to reveal how such a feat will be attempted, she will say that it calls for a new set piece - and "a very interesting" one at that. "It will be cool," she adds, proudly.

Well of course it will be cool this is Lost. And as Team Darlton (executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse) dream up far-out twist after far-out twist, Higgins leads the team that brings their fantasy to reality. "Whether you're doing something as crazy as getting a freighter or doing helicopter or underwater work, this is not your normal TV-show kind of stuff," she points out. "You're constantly stretched and pushing the envelope, and I love Damon and Carlton for it."

Bits and Teasers
Higgins is not a writer-producer, and as such cannot divulge much about the two-part, three-hour finale launching this Thursday and concluding May 29. ("That's a Damon and Carlton question, truly," she will defer if you push too hard.) Instead, she offers the occasional iota of intel or her best guess-slash-opinion. For example: Don't read anything (as some onliners have) into the fact that Christian wasn't in his usual suit and tie when he and Claire (!) confronted Locke. Battlestar alum Michelle Forbes' involvement in the finale? Higgins will only say "it's interesting, given the context of where she appears," And don't scream, "Continuity error!" as Jack lumbers around immediately after an appendectomy. "Things heal much more quickly on the island," she reminds. "Locke walks, Rose's cancer is in remission.... You can't look at recovery in the usual way."

And while Higgins can confirm that the latest Jack-Kate flash-forwards transpired well before the Season 3 finale's "We have to go baaaack!" scene, she won't pinpoint what exactly it is that Kate promised Sawyer and thus enrages her fiancé. "I would say that will come out most likely next year," she ventures.

Higgins deals in a far more meaningful commodity than spoilers. She brings Lost to life. You can sense a feeling of accomplishment in her regard for the billowing baddie who recently surfaced with resolve. "The Smoke Monster is looking as good as it ever has," she boasts. "The visual effects department is great this year." (The "Tunisia" scenes, with the endless dunes in the background? That's a Hawaiian coral quarry with a CGI backdrop.) "You don't always see the visual effects, but we have them on every show. Sometimes it's as simple as taking out telephones poles, or sailboats in the ocean. And sometimes it's a Smoke Monster."

Island Fever
Higgins also keeps tabs on the cast, some of whom late in the season start feeling the wear-and-tear of filming far from the contiguous States. "They work a lot when it's their episode, but we try to even out the load," she explains. "It's not like somebody has to be there constantly every single day." That said, "At this point, they would probably not mind more time on the mainland. All of their careers have taken off, and [accommodating] an interview on one of the talk shows is a three-day proposition. We try to be very aware of that."

For all her efforts, Higgins is no "Jacob," and some things are simply not within her control. But that is where "happy accidents" are born. For example, Lost reportedly has big plans for Richard Alpert, the seemingly ageless Other who last week flitted in and out of Locke's flashbacks. But that was not part of some grand plan; rather, it was begotten by CBS' cancelation of Cane and Nestor Carbonell's newfound availability. "It would be lovely to say that we control every nuance, but it doesn't happen that way," she admits. "Things are sometimes more organic."

Playing with Time
Another element beyond Higgins' control is Lost's Thursday time slot, which was 9 pm at the start of the season (while Grey's restarted its post-strike engines), then switched to 10. "I would love to see us on earlier," she says. "But on the other hand, DVRs are so prevalent, I'm not so sure it would make a difference. Lost has found its audience, and they find us, no matter what. That loyalty is terrific."

Stranger Days Ahead?
Before wrapping up our chat, I point out to Higgins that with every new season, Lost has introduced a new phalanx of players the Tailies, the Others, and most recently the Freighter Folk. Will that pattern persist when January 2009 arrives? Might a new mysterious entity enter the narrative? "I would say it would be strange if there wasn't one," is all Higgins will allow.

Now it is time for Higgins to return to work. After all, the final footage for the finale has just been shot, and it's time to finish making Season 4's magic. "We've been going at it 24-7 [since the strike]. It's been grueling," she says. "But this show is 100-percent physical and 100-percent mental. You cannot back off at any time."

And boy, are we glad they don't. - Matt Webb Mitovich