LOST. 9 tonight and 9 p.m. tomorrow, Channel 6.

THERE ARE two kinds of "Lost" viewers: People who've never missed an episode, and people who at some point got over it.

Oh, and then there's me.

I'm just lost. But still searching for answers.

In the middle of what's come to feel like an entire lost season, ABC tomorrow night will premiere the first new "Lost" episode we've seen in a very long time.

It's a wait we were intended to endure even before Writers Guild of America members walked off the job in early November, thanks to an exit strategy hatched by producers that promised three more 16-episode seasons.

It's all very HBO: You wait a while between seasons, but you don't have to endure reruns.

(And if you're lucky, it won't all come to an end in the middle of a Journey song.)

I can't tell you what's going to happen to that particular plan because I don't really know, other than that there are just eight episodes ready to go right now, and the strike is still on.

This is where having a flash-forward function, the way the "Lost" writers do, might come in handy.

But in fact, there are things I do know about the new season of "Lost," most of them contained on a list that accompanied a screener of the first two episodes.

Those would be things ABC and "Lost" producers don't want me to mention.

That's fine. I hate spoilers, too.

And I'll bet it would spoil it if I told you that Walt returns to the island, dressed as a polar bear, and chases all the Others into the ocean.

Kidding. Really. That's not till next season. Or maybe the season after that.

What the people who (we hope) hold all the answers do want me to mention, of course, is that tonight, there'll be some sort of enhanced rerun of last season's finale with clues that may or may not help you understand what happened there.

They also wouldn't mind my saying that tomorrow's season premiere, "The Beginning of the End," is preceded by an hourlong clip show that might or might not help, too.

I'm going to venture a bit further than that and say that while I don't pretend to understand exactly what's going on in either of the season's first two episodes, I did find them, scene by scene, to be some of the most compelling television I've watched in 2008.

If you want to take that as a slap against "Cashmere Mafia," so be it.

But if you were jazzed last spring by the discovery that some people did eventually make it off the island, then you'll probably be relieved to learn that tomorrow's premiere isn't some big "never mind."

There are some new faces coming aboard in the next couple of weeks, bringing flashbacks - and maybe even flash-forwards - of their own, but unlike last season, the newbies don't appear to be hijacking the show.

Hurley (Jorge Garcia), for instance, takes us on a wild ride tonight.

Even if his character didn't appear to be central to both "Lost's" mystery and its eventual solution, I'd have to love Hurley, without whom it's possible to imagine "Lost" as a show about pretty people hooking up in paradise, occasionally stopping to battle an unspecified monster.

When Hurley speaks, it pays to listen, though his curse, like Cassandra's, might be never to be believed.

As for "Lost," I still don't know where it's headed, but it feels, finally, as if we could be getting somewhere. *

Send e-mail to graye@phillynews.com.