CUSE: The book "Incident at Owl Creek" we put in as a shout to people who are theorizing that this whole show was taking place in someone's mind in the last moments of their life. Sometimes a plane is just a plane, but most times we think these things through, they have meaning and they are part of our mythology of the show.
TAPPER: There was a lot of theorizing that the show takes place in purgatory. You guys just came out and said that's not the case, this is not purgatory. Why did you feel the need to do that?
LINDELOF: I blame [M.] Night Shyamalan primarily, but the sort of greatest genre twist of all time is always -- and you see this reoccurring in popular fiction for the last 125 years -- is that the lead character is dead and doesn't know he's dead. So that consciousness was really rolling, and then "The Sixth Sense" came along and it surprised people again. But then every time there was a movie that had a twist ending, the audience started anticipating that.
In the third episode Jack and Kate are sitting on the beach, and he turns to her and he says, "We're all dead. It doesn't matter what happened before. We all get a change to start over." And that started feeding this frenzy of, "Oh, wait a minute. They're all dead. He meant it literally. They're all in purgatory." So we felt like we had to get out in front it and say that's not going on because in a way that sort of takes the stakes out of the show. So if Boone dies or Shannon dies are they just deader than the rest of everybody else.
ABRAMS: They're a little more dead.
LINDELOF: The stakes of life and death don't exist if everybody is already dead.
CUSE: We actually dispelled two theories, the purgatory theory and "This whole show is taking place in a snow globe" theory. And we did it.
TAPPER: From the last episode of "St. Elsewhere."
CUSE: It was to eliminate the audience's fear that it was going to be a cheat, that they would invest all this time and energy and that there wouldn't be a real ending. There would be one of these short of shaggy dog endings.
ABRAMS: But we're not debunking the theory that Suzanne Pleshette will arrive in the last episode.
TAPPER: Two other mythology shows that were successful and then failed in a way, shows I was a fan of, were "Twin Peaks" and "The X-Files. " Both of them started out really strong, were compelling. They were mysteries, and they both ultimately -- "Twin Peaks" faster than "X-Files."
LINDELOF: Much faster.
TAPPER: Much faster -- failed. "X-Files" creator Chris Carter has said in print as a warning to you guys, "There are pitfalls. If you fall into one of those pitfalls, you will fall." What lessons do you take from those shows?
CUSE: Certainly "Twin Peaks" was a cautionary tale in terms of basically frustrating an audience by never giving any answers and/or by also focusing on one central mystery and putting so much emphasis on that mystery that once that mystery is solved -- in that case "Who killed Laura Palmer?" -- then everyone's interest in the show goes away.