Just When I Thought I Was Out ... They Pull Me Back In

Can we please retire the phrase "jump the shark"? It started as a specific term for a specific moment in the life cycle of a television show - the point of no return, the moment when a show is lost to its downhill slide - and has gradually turned into a general term thrown out to describe any episode, or series of episodes, that isn't up to snuff. So this season of Lost, which has been generally mediocre and went through a stretch of truly terrible episodes, first sparked debates about whether the show had gone shark-jumping, and then - once things got a little better - about whether it was possible to "un-jump the shark", which is like debating whether you can return from the, um, point of no return.

This is all by way of saying that last night's episode of Lost was really good, as were several episodes before it, and if you've given up on the show you might consider giving it another chance. Basically, it's clear that the creators had an overall arc in mind for this season, but didn't have enough good material within the arc to fill out the full twenty-four episodes, and found themselves spinning their wheels for long stretches. (Andrew Dignan discussed this problem here, pointing out that the shorter seasons on HBO often make those shows feel tighter and less bloated.) This required pointless flashbacks and enormously frustrating sequences where characters deliberately avoided pursuing leads and asking questions that any normal human beings in their situation would jump all over. It was bad, bad, bad. But it wasn't irreversibly bad, and for the last few episodes it's been at least partially reversed, and the series is interesting again. I hope it stays that way, but if it starts going downhill again - which is perfectly likely - I hope that we can stop talking about whether Lost has jumped, un-jumped, re-jumped or de-jumped, and just talk about where it went wrong and whether it can get better again.