On a Monday morning earlier this month, the late-night talk-show host arrived on the Disney Studio lot in Burbank tasked with a mission: Grill Lost‘s executive producers, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, about their massively dissected drama, which returns April 24 to round out its critically hailed fourth season. Kimmel, a diehard fan since the pilot, has frequently championed the series on The Jimmy Kimmel Show .
Kimmel: The island heals some people and doesn’t heal others. For instance, Ben needed an operation from Jack to beat cancer, but it seems like Sawyer gets injured every sixth episode and by the next, he’s fine. Is that just a TV thing?
Carlton Cuse: Wow. [Laughs] Where are the softball questions, Jimmy? What about the warm-up?
Damon Lindelof: The short answer is, it’s not arbitrary. Yes, there is a certain degree of compressing story. The idea that everything you’ve seen has really happened in 110 days of real time feels fantastical, but that’s the convention of the show. However, who gets sick and how fast they heal is something we talk about. In the second episode back [airing May 1], that becomes a major issue in the story. One character gets sick and another who has had experience being healed voices exactly that question: Is there any rhyme or reason to it?
Cuse: The healing is related to the degree to which you are in communion with the island at any given moment. Perhaps Ben getting sick and needing surgery had to do with the fact that he had fallen out of favor, that his connection with the island was maybe not what it had been in the past. Kimmel: How do cast members find out they’re getting killed off?
Cuse: We call them ahead of the publishing of the script. So whenever we actually call a cast member, they’re always panicked. Even if it’s like, “No, we’re just calling to say you were great in this episode.”
Kimmel: Did you call Mr. Friendly beforehand to tell him he was gay?
Lindelof: [Laughs] No.
Kimmel: Do all the show’s writers know Lost‘s overarching secret, if there is one?
Lindelof: They all know what the island is and what the history of the island is. But if Carlton and I were kidnapped, and the kidnappers said, “We will not release them until you divulge the last episode of Lost,” I don’t know if the writers would be able to provide that.
Kimmel: I see. So you don’t trust your writers. [Laughs] But you do actually know the final specific scene?
Lindelof: We absolutely, 100 percent know what the last scene of the show is and could put [the pages] in a safe deposit box. But there is an asterisk next to that, which is that we’re slaves to fluctuations in reality. If one of the actors in that scene decided to stop being in Lost…
Cuse: Or, perchance, got a DUI, the entire ending of the show could change. Basically, the show is in the hands of Hawaii law enforcement. [Laughs]
Kimmel: People come up to you all the time with theories. Has anyone come close to cracking the code?
Cuse: I think there are two assumptions that people make that are incorrect. One is that the whole answer to Lost reduces down to a sentence. It’s not like searching for Einstein’s Unified Field Theory. And the second is that you have enough information to “crack the code.” The flash-forwards completely changed your notion of the show. So how could you do some accurate theorizing before you even knew those existed?
Kimmel: Has anyone made a really lucky guess?
Lindelof: In certain areas. Last season, when we showed what happened when Desmond turned the key in the hatch and he went on this little jaunt back in England, people started saying, “Maybe the electromagnetism on the island is related to space and time.” But that’s just one road on the map that is ultimately gonna be the entire show. The longer it goes on, the harder it is to construct a theory that basically answers everything you’ve seen so far.
Cuse: Even though we get asked a lot of questions about the mythology, Jimmy, we’re really trying to write a character show. We spend about 80-90 percent of our time talking about how the characters are lost in their own lives as people. The mythology is kind of the frosting on the cake.
Kimmel: Do you have one jerk on staff whose job it is to come up with all of Sawyer’s nicknames?
Cuse: I wouldn’t call him a jerk. [Laughs] I’d call him one of our most valued writers, and his name is Eddy Kitsis.
Lindelof: And Adam [Horowitz], too. They both come up with a whole cavalcade of them.
Kimmel: What happened to the smoke monster? High winds?
Cuse: We’ll see the smoke monster in the April 24 episode.
Kimmel: [Laughs] Do people find clues that surprise you guys?
Lindelof: In the pilot, there’s a still frame of Walt, and behind him, burnt into the fuselage wreckage, is what looks like a Dharma symbol. We’d talked about the idea that there had been a group of hippies on the island, but the phrase “The Dharma Initiative” or the design for the logo didn’t come along until much later. But it’s there and it’s not Photoshopped. Suddenly, you understand how hundreds of people can show up and see…
Cuse: The Virgin Mary in a piece of toast. It’s a mystery that’s even greater than our understanding.
Lindelof: We would love in moments like that to go, “Yes. We knew we’d be introducing the idea of the Dharma Initiative in the second season premiere and we wanted people to go back to the pilot and see that the symbol had been burned into the fuselage.” But if we had known, we wouldn’t have done it in such an oblique way. Sawyer would’ve went [adopts Southern twang], “Hey, what’s this?” We want people to see our Easter eggs.
Kimmel: Something I noticed early on is that many of the characters have issues with their lousy fathers.
Cuse: Is this the part where we have to cry?
Kimmel: Jack obviously. Locke. Sun’s father is a killer. Kate killed hers.
Cuse: You’d be better off just listing the people who have healthy relationships with their fathers.
Kimmel: Is that a coincidence?
Cuse: No. We’re sort of working out our own psychological traumas in front of 15 million people.
Lindelof: Look, there’s a certain aspect of the hero’s journey, whether it’s Luke Skywalker or Hercules or Harry Potter, where they’re either orphans or have incredibly dysfunctional relationships with their fathers. They haven’t been told what to do. They have to find a mentor character outside of their own family. The show’s called Lostand we always imagined it from the beginning as a show about characters trying to be better people and evolve past their own petty insecurities and problems. And if you’re gonna do flashbacks, some of them are gonna be about stuff that was put on them by their parents.
Kimmel: Is the person in the coffin someone who’s not from the island?
Lindelof: [To Cuse] Tread lightly.
Cuse: You will know who’s in the coffin before the season is over, and it will not be like, “Who’s that person?”
Lindelof: The only people you can rule out, based on what you saw in last year’s finale, are Kate and Jack.
Kimmel: And the baby, just based on the size.
Cuse: Yeah, it’s too big a coffin for a baby.