I am in love with "Lost" again. I can't wait for tonight's two-hour season finale (8 p.m., Ch. 4).

I might even watch the 7 p.m. repeat of the most recent episode.

I won't for a second pretend that I understand what's happening. But "Lost" is once again one of the most fascinating, involving and flat-out fun-to-watch shows on TV.

This is the latest chapter in my ongoing love-hate relationship with the show that began almost four years ago with this review:

"Lost" might be one of the better TV series to come along in quite some time. Maybe. But maybe not ... To find out what "Lost" is, we're just going to have to tune in and watch. It might be great. Maybe."

I've been burned by shows before. So I'm reluctant to jump into a relationship with a TV show without showing some caution.

And then, quite honestly, I fell completely head-over-heels for "Lost." That first season was one big honeymoon. As the first season ended, I wrote:

My fears were largely unfounded. Producers J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof have crafted a show that's a deft mix of action, mystery, suspense and even time-shifting between the characters' present and past.

But I was worried:

Once you build up up that suspense, you've got to deliver. ... The longer you build that anticipation, the more important it is that the answers to the questions you raise are sufficiently surprising and yet make sense (within the show's rules of realities, at least).

And the show didn't deliver. Soon, I was sniping at it. Like when I defended "Desperate Housewives" from nay-sayers and suggested:

Let's send the vultures after shows that really deserve to be picked apart. Like "Lost."

By the middle of Season 2, I was getting annoyed.

There's plenty of plot but nothing much happens. This sounds like heresy, even to me, but shows like "Invasion" and even the cheesy "Surface" are more satisfying viewing experiences so far this season than "Lost." They, too, have huge, overarching mysteries ... and, in both cases, we know more now than we did back in September.

I haven't given up on the show yet. ... But if we end up Season 2 the way we ended Season 1 — staring down a hole with no answers in sight — I'll be more than a bit perturbed. And I get paid to watch TV.

By the middle of the third season, watching "Lost" had become like being stuck in a bad marriage:

I still watch "Lost" every week, and it's driving me crazy. This relationship is getting progressively worse. For more than a year, I've been mildly annoyed at "Lost," but of late I've begun making rude, derisive comments as the show airs. My patience is gone. I regret the time I'm spending with "Lost." But I'm afraid to end it and stop watching because, after investing so much time in the relationship (52 episodes!), it would be just my luck to end it at the moment when something actually happens and we begin to make sense of all the aggravation and confusion.

The problem, as far as I was concerned, was that the network and the producers were trying to drag a finite storyline out infinitely:

More and more, I'm thinking that the Powers That Be at ABC have mandated that the writers and producers of "Lost" drag this show out just as long as possible in order to keep riding the ratings gravy train — that it's being written with commerce, not storytelling, in mind.

But then came the good news. ABC announced that we would get three more, 16-episode seasons and then "Lost" would end. And the show began to turn around. With an end in sight, it got good again.

I love "Lost." Again. And I can't wait to see what happens next.

The pressure remains on the show's writers, however. In order to love "Lost," we have to assume that, eventually, everything is going to make sense. That there's going to be a Big Payoff that will be not only surprising but satisfying.

"Lost" has a chance to go out with a bang sometime in 2010. Or it could self-destruct and leave millions of viewers angry and unsatisfied.

For now, however, it's a second honeymoon.


E-mail: pierce@desnews.com