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Bob D'amico, ABC
ABC's "Lost" stars Jeff Fahey, left, as Frank Lapidus, Zuleikha Robinson as Ilana, Nestor Carbonell as Richard Alpert, Michael Emerson as Ben, Naveen Andrews as Sayid, Yunjin Kim as Sun, Terry O'Quinn as Locke, Matthew Fox as Jack, Evangeline Lilly as Kate, Josh Holloway as Sawyer, Emilie de Ravin as Claire, Daniel Dae Kim as Jin, Jorge Garcia as Hurley and Ken Leung as Miles.

PASADENA, Calif. — The producers of "Lost" aren't under any illusions. They know they're going to get slammed by some of the show's fans when the series airs its final episode on Sunday.

"We're going to get killed," said executive producer Damon Lindelof. "Not by everyone. At least we hope not.

"But there's no way we can meet everyone's expectations."

No, there's not.

What began as a pop-culture phenomenon in September 2004 ends its 120-hour run with a two-hour finale that will answer a lot of questions. Or so we're promised.

But not all our questions. Because Lindelof, executive producer Carlton Cuse and their team want to leave some room for debate.

And, perhaps, some wiggle room in case everything doesn't entirely fit together. Cuse admitted they "cooked the mythology" of the show between the end of the first and the start of the second season, and have been adjusting ever since.

For the actors, Season 6 has been both exciting and a bit melancholy. Appearing before TV critics while filming the final episodes, Evangeline Lilly (Kate) said she was moved by a montage of scenes from the first five seasons.

"I was whispering to my cast members, 'I am going to cry like a baby when this show ends,' " she said. "It's become so nostalgic for us to look back over six years. ... It's been so intense that for it to come to an end is going to be life-changing."

"Everyone's really getting that sense of camaraderie and nostalgia and it's just been fabulous," said Josh Holloway (Sawyer).

"Personally, I'm just feeling a tremendous amount of gratitude ... that we're getting to end something while anybody still cares and while we still kind of love each other, as opposed to everybody saying, 'It's about time,' " Lindelof said. "This is sort of a once-in-a-lifetime or once-in-a-career experience for a show.

"As I was walking onto the stage, I was sort of experiencing a sense of 'I can't believe they're going to actually let us get away with this.' "

Get away with exactly what we won't know until the finale airs. But, certainly, "Lost" has tested the boundaries of what viewers will accept, tested their patience, tested their credulity.

"I don't think any of us could have possibly foreseen the journey that it's been," understated ABC Entertainment President Stephen McPherson.

What began as a seemingly straightforward story of the survivors of a plane crash on an uncharted island has taken viewers places they never expected. Through hatches, through time, to alternate realities.

From the birth of baby Aaron to the deaths of most of the original characters — eight of the 14 original main characters are dead.

Or, at least, we think they're dead. (Stay tuned ...)

For Lindelof, his most memorable "Lost" moments came when crossing the foot bridge that connects the show's production offices to the offices of the network executives to tell them what to expect from upcoming seasons.

"There's a progression of bridge walks starting with, 'OK, we're finally going to tell them what's in the hatch,' " he said. "And last year, I remember turning to each other and going, 'Is there any other way to say "time travel" without saying "time travel"? Can we say "moving through time" or "the juxtaposition of story"?'

"But every time we'd get over there and have that meeting, the sort of reception that we got and the faith that we received (and) the things that we've been able to do on the show is pretty incredible."

It is fairly remarkable that what sounded like a modern-day "Gilligan's Island" turned into an epic battle between good and evil. Between Jacob and his brother, the Smoke Monster.

And we've seen some pretty crazy stuff over the six seasons.

"For me, running away from an exploding plane wing is something that's always going to be emblazoned in my head," said Jorge Garcia (Hurley). "But it's ... the random scenes that pop into my head. Like when the comet hits Mr. Cluck's (restaurant) and I'm laying there and they're throwing raw chicken parts at me. I'm not going to forget that either."

What may be most memorable about "Lost," however, are the characters. We've seen them in the present, the past, the future, in alternate realities — and in multiple life-and-death situations.

Daniel Dae Kim (Jin) recalled the first-season finale, when several of the characters launched an ill-fated raft as a "really special time for me because I thought that we'd all taken this incredible journey as characters and as people on the island. And the kind of coming together to kind of see you off that first season was pretty memorable."

Cuse remembered that same scene from a different perspective — as it was being scored and the orchestra was sight-reading Michael Giacchino's composition.

"After they played it the first time, it was so moving and beautiful that they all just started spontaneously applauding, tapping their bows across their instruments, and everybody was crying," he said. "And it was this moment where you realize that the show is so much larger than any one individual, and collaboration on this show is really, truly probably the most special thing that will happen for all of us."

Lilly recalled the first-season episode when Claire (Emilie de Ravin) gave birth and Boone (Ian Somerhalder) died.

"I'll never forget watching that episode because, to me, it just sort of culminated everything that we were talking about on the show and everything that the show represented in these two very simple, very natural and very sort of heroic moments," she said.

"I don't often cry watching my own show .... but I watched that episode and I cried. And I remember thinking this is something that I'm proud to be a part of."

And the producers/writers have given considerable thought to what the legacy of "Lost" will be.

"It will probably be two things," Lindelof said. "In the week after the finale airs, people will be talking about, I think, just the finale. It's almost impossible to have any perspective on the (119) hours that preceded the finale."

But, eventually, he believes — he hopes — viewers will talk about the entirety of the show.

"All that we can hope for is that the legacy that really matters — the one about the series — is that people really feel like the experience of watching 'Lost' was incredibly rewarding and that they're really happy that they dedicated all that time and energy to the show."

The producers have braced themselves for criticism, however. And that's a good thing, because the folks gathering at one local "Lost" viewing party are planning to boo the finale no matter what happens.

In good fun, of course. Well, at least mostly in good fun.

Lindelof and Cuse are hoping fans focus on the big pictures and don't fixate on minor issues.

"We also really embrace this notion that there's a fundamental sort of sense of mystery that we all have in our lives, and certainly that is a huge part of the lives of these characters," Cuse said. "And to sort of demystify that by trying to literally explain everything ... would be a mistake in our view.

"So I think there would be, hopefully, a kind of healthy cocktail of answers, mystery, good character resolutions and some surprises."

And some viewers will find that cocktail more to their liking than others.

"We know people are going to be talking about it the next day, and some of them are going to be mad," Lindelof said. "But we're just doing the best job we can to fulfill our vision of the show."

If you watch ...

What: The finale of "Lost"

When: Sunday, 8-10 p.m.

Channel: ABC/Ch. 4If you watch ...

What: The finale of "Lost"

When: Sunday, 8-10 p.m.

Channel: ABC, Ch. 4

e-mail: pierce@desnews.com