Thanks to Dee for the heads up.
Back in season one of ABC's Wednesday castaway drama ``Lost,'' James Sawyer, played by Josh Holloway with a stubbly dimple and a wink, was a charming Southern rogue, an avaricious con man with a store of goodies up for barter, a quick wit and an inexplicable fondness for U.K. writer Richard Adams' heroic fantasy ``Watership Down.''
He was also a constant irritant to the show's most apparently noble character, Dr. Jack Shepard (Matthew Fox), the self-appointed leader of present-day plane-crash survivors stranded on a very freaky island. Sawyer both cramped Jack's style and moved in on his girl, castaway Kate (Evangeline Lilly).
To one degree or another, that has been Sawyer's story.
But as ``Lost'' approaches its 100th episode on April 29 -- marked on the sets in Hawaii with a party and an island-shaped confection from Baltimore's Charm City Cakes -- Sawyer's fortunes have changed.
Like Hazel, a small rabbit in Adams' novel who only wanted to survive and wound up a king by his own hand, er, paw, Sawyer in season five has become a leader of men (yeah, it's under the less-than-heroic alias of Jim LaFleur, but even so ...).
And no one is more surprised by that than Holloway.
``I was a bit reluctant when hearing it,'' he says. ``I knew they would figure out a way to make it cool, but I never thought of Sawyer in that kind of a position, or James or whatever his damn name is these days.
``I didn't want him to become this softy who lost his edge and all that sort of thing. That won't be near as fun. But it has been fun. It's the evolution of a character, and I'm really honored that they've actually made him so interesting and complex instead of just a simple redneck.''
Also, during Sawyer's current sojourn way back to the 1970s as part of the enigmatic Dharma Initiative on the mysterious island, he has set aside his feelings for Kate and taken up with a fellow time-travel refugee, physician Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell), another of Jack's ex-squeezes.
As to why Sawyer seems to pick up all of Jack's throwaways, Holloway says, ``Hey, man, I ain't so picky. There's not that many women on the island. Come on, women or boars -- what would you pick?
``He's always been kind of wham-bam, crazy-sex guy, and to explore an actual relationship where it's not that, it's actually a mature, loving relationship, is something that's totally new to him.''
Among those crafting this new direction is producer Elizabeth Sarnoff (``Deadwood,'' ``Crossing Jordan''), who says, ``Sawyer's great because he's come so far. This season, we're getting to do something unexpected with him. He's emerging as a leader.
``He's a good leader, unlike every other leader we've had. He's awesome. The relationship with Juliet is something that we weren't 100 percent sure how the audience was going to take it.''
Of course, what has made all this possible is a season's worth of mind-bending time travel, with castaways like Sawyer and Dharma apostates like Juliet flipping back and forth in time as the island undergoes spatial and temporal displacement that nearly defies the laws of science.
But in the 100th episode, ``The Variable,'' physicist and fellow island time traveler Daniel Faraday, played by Jeremy Davies, might finally spill all that he knows -- and it wouldn't come a moment too soon for the writing team.
``Time travel has given us migraines all year,'' Sarnoff says. ``No one is more delighted to see it end than us. But it's given us an opportunity to tell all these great island stories that we could not have told, that would have had to be handled with exposition or in ways that were not as interesting as actually seeing the Dharma Initiative in action.''
As for what Sawyer's up to in ``The Variable,'' Holloway says, ``I do remember what I was doing. Um, ah, I was frustrated -- I can tell you that much. Things are heating up and unraveling.
``That episode, I'm definitely running around a little frustrated, but it was good. I can't really tell you anything else.''
Sarnoff says, ``It's special for this season in the sense that it is going to encapsulate everything we've been saying all along, having to deal with time travel in general. It's going to be a great launch place for the end of the season.''
That episode, ``The Incident,'' is currently set to air May 13. It sets the stage for season six, which culminates in the planned series finale in May 2010.
``The end of the season is huge,'' Sarnoff says. ``It's the beginning of the end. We do this minicamp every year where we talk about the new season, dig deep. I find myself amazed every day, because I'm on a show that's planning its ending.
``That's a very rare experience.''
Thanks to Dee for the heads up.