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Lost Recap: Hugo, Boss

Last week's episode was fantastic β€” the best this season.

This week was a return to wobbly form. The Losties hiked, bickered, saw dead people, said obvious things in weirdly flatfooted ways, and/or blew up. A badass woman died precipitously; a saintly woman returned to fulfill her role as soul mate. A man who was famous and rich (and also sweet and generous) could not get a date.

I love Hugo, sure. And I love Jorge Garcia, too: He's so likable, and he adds appealing notes of melancholy and comic relief to every episode. But I did not love "Everybody Loves Hugo," despite its intriguing ending.

SPOILER WARNING: In case it's not obvious, I'm kind of a hater again this week.

"In a world of conflict and strife, there is but one thing everyone can agree on: We all love Hugo!" In this meta voice-over — it's true, what else unites Lost fans? — Pierre Chang honors Hugo Reyes, chicken magnate, as the museum's man of the year. It's a witty, touching montage, better than the episode that follows it.

After the benefit, Hugo's mom nags him about needing a lady. C'mon now: In the alternate universe, wouldn't chicks be throwing themselves at famous philanthropist Hugo, however fat and greasy-haired he got? Shannon's alive in this timeline, right?

Meanwhile, in Original Ray's Island-Flavored Timeline, Hugo tends Libby's grave. He wishes she'd talk to him like other dead people, but then Ilana interrupts with her wacky dynamite plans. In the first of several rounds of clunky exposition, they explain who Libby was: Hugo's lost love.

There are Whispers, and suddenly — Michael appears. He's there to stop Hugo from getting everyone killed.

LOST logo, spinning like a spokesman.

Hugo doesn't trust Dead Michael, given that he killed Libby and Ana Lucia. But Michael brushes that off, ranting heatedly about Hugo's power, his responsibility. Then Jack arrives and Hugo, shaken, pretends no one was there.

In the Timeline That We Now Know Resulted From When the Bomb Went Off, Hugo waits at the restaurant for his blind date. Instead, Libby approaches. "Hugo, do you believe that two people can be connected, like ... soul mates?" She's sad that he doesn't remember her — and then her doctor arrives to cart Libby off to the loony bin.

As Ilana and Richard conspire with dynamite, Hugo objects. The two bicker, with Ilana seriously agitated, then blown to bits mid-speech, in a less-funny homage to Arzt's death that also falls nicely in the grand tradition of the Unceremoniously Offed Bitchy Chicks of Lost. (We still miss you, Rousseau.)

"There's a difference between doing nothing and waiting," Smocke consoles an irritable Sawyer and Kate (and me). When Sayid arrives, everyone glares and shifts around and there are ominous sound effects, but then, this could describe many scenes. Sayid delivers Desmond to Smocke.

As they scavenge through Ilana's belongings (Hurley finds a bag: Jacob's ashes?), Richard rants about getting more dynamite so Ilana won't have died in vain. Jack sagely points out (in the episode's one truly funny line) that maybe she died to tell them to stay away from dynamite. There's chatter about Sun, too, without any input from her (granted, she conveniently speaks only Korean). Then Hugo turns abruptly pro-Richard, imploring, "Trust me, Jack" with eye contact, a technique that always works on Lost. (Has anyone ever done a "Trust Me" montage?).

Meanwhile, in the Timeline Without Golddiggers, Hugo's heartbroken and deep in fried chicken. "Tell me something, did you believe her when you said she knew you?" asks Desmond, advising Hugo to go with his gut.

Smocke releases Desmond. Do you know who I am? asks Smocke. Yes, says Desmond, you're John Locke. They depart for a walk-and-talk.

As Team Jacob hikes to the Black Rock, Ben waxes philosophical about Ilana's death. But when they arrive, Hugo barrels out, screaming, "Run! Run! Run!" — he's blown the dynamite up, for their own protection.

Richard fumes. And Hugo explains to Miles that Michael deputized him to perform this totally confusing act of quasi-strategy, since dead people are more reliable than live people. (Except for all those times Smokey masqueraded as the dead, but okay.)

Meanwhile, in the flash sideways, Hugo bribes his way into the mental hospital. Libby, looking more like a hot yoga mom than a lunatic, explains that when she spotted Hugo in a commercial, memories flooded back. Also, she thinks he was in the hospital, too.

Luckily, she can get out on a day pass, since she's there voluntarily. She seems perfectly sane (and has apparently lost her original-timeline backstory as a rich widow who lends boats to Desmond). Frankly, I prefer my flash-sideways catalysts edgier and balder, like last episode's punk Charlie, rather than yet another beatific ladyfriend à la Helen, however appealing the actress. How many angels does one house need?

Smocke and Desmond walk-and-chat, interrupted by a sighting of Feral Smirking Island Boy, who rattles Smocke per usual.

Team Jacob debates: Richard's pro-grenade, Hugo wants to try diplomacy. He claims he's getting instructions from Jacob, when really, this is just a plan Hugo concocted himself, and there's no reason for him to lie, is there? Especially given that there was a whole episode about how Hugo is basically incapable of lying? And because he actually does see dead people — which Richard knows very well, since Hugo is the one who showed him his dead wife two episodes ago? I hit pause and make a refill pot of coffee.

Ask Jacob what the island is! demands Richard. "I don't have to prove anything to you, Richard," Hugo bluffs. And for the 45th time, the Losties split like an amoeba. Team Kill Hitler: Richard, Miles, and Ben. Team Appeasement: Jack and Sun/Frank (a.k.a. Frun, the only soul mates I care about, even if they don't know it yet).

Hugo worries about breaking the ice with the Smoke Monster (ask about his mom?). Jack figures Smokey will do the talking, another bit of meta-snark. Then Hurley admits he lied about seeing Jacob, which Jack knew, but he played along, since he's learned his therapeutic lesson, which he states in bullet points: stop trying to fix things.

"You asked me to trust you, so I trust you."

Then Hugo sees Michael again, for the most anticlimactic reveal ever: The "whispers" are ghosts who can't move on. Michael tells Hurley where Locke is. He also apologizes for murdering Libby, although he's apparently fine about Ana Lucia.

At the beach with her soul mate, Libby anxiously enjoys the date they never had. She worries she sounds insane. But Hurley's even more insecure. "I want to be with you because I like you," she reassures him, and when they kiss, he flashes to their life on the island. From a car, Desmond smirks, Jacobesque.

On the island, Smocke brings Desmond to a super-deep well. The people who dug it weren't looking for water, they were looking for answers! Did they find them? No. And Smocke offers his analysis: Widmore's looking for power, he's not interested in answers, which is an intriguing perspective. Then Smocke asks Desmond why he isn't afraid, and Desmond says handsomely that there's no point in being afraid. There's wild sexual tension, and Locke pushes Desmond down the well, complete with flaming torch.

When Smocke returns, Hugo, unaware of his recent crime of attempted Desmondcide, offers a Mutually Assured Destruction pact. Smocke offers up his knife. It would be more helpful if he gave up some wells too.

Anyway, now the whole gang is together (except Jin), as a result of Hugo's encounter with Deus Ex Michaela. Smocke must be delighted: He did just have to wait.

In the Timeline That Is Not Reality, Desmond is creepily stalking Locke, that innocent schoolteacher in a wheelchair, when Ben comes up and quite sensibly asks why he's ogling schoolkids. Desmond gives him a BS story about his imaginary son Charlie, then he hits the gas, runs down Locke with the car, and drives away. Whoa.

What We Know Now:
• The whispers are ghosts of dead people.
• Hugo is trying on the leadership pants Jack is trying to shuck.
• Desmond's down a well, but I doubt he's dead. Could it be a wormhole to the other world? Was Smocke trying to kill him, or did he have some other motive?

The Wha? Factor:
• Did Desmond hit Locke as revenge? Is he Samara from The Ring? Or is he merely trying to knock some flashside-ways sense into him, à la Charlie?
• Didn't Michael get closure when that freighter bomb blew up? I thought Christian (or Jacob or whoever) released him from his suffering. With my cold hater's heart, I was untouched by this week's soul-mate story, but it did bum me out that Michael was still so tormented.
• Is the whole show really going to be a shakedown into straight couples, each driven by a man insecure about his leadership potential, but inspired by a supportive savior chick? If the final episode is a group wedding, with Vincent as ringbearer, I'm gonna jump down a well myself.

Photo: Mario Perez/ABC