Let us begin our coverage of ABC’s “Lost” panel by giving all due props to Jonathan Storm, TV critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, who kicked things off with the following statement: “Hello, I’d like to ask each one of you to tell exactly what happens in the final season.”

Nice try, Mr. Storm.

Fortunately, Storm had a back-up question ready to ask of the panel – which consisted of Emilie de Ravin (Claire), Daniel Dae Kim (Jin), Josh Holloway (Sawyer), Evangeline Lilly (Kate), executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, Terry O’Quinn (Locke), Michael Emerson (Ben), and Jorge Garcia (Hurley) – once the laughter stopped: how are you feeling as this comes to an end?

“As we were walking out onto the stage and this montage was playing, I was whispering to my cast members, ‘I am going to cry like a baby when this show ends,'” said Lilly. “It’s become so nostalgic for us to look back over six years and have grown up together and grown up in front of all of you together. It’s been so intense that for it to come to an end is going to be life-changing.”

Garcia instantly agreed. “Certain places that we shoot, it’s, like, ‘Wow, I haven’t been here since season three,'” he said. “Right now, it’s very appreciative and precious.”

“There’s a lot of camaraderie on set now,” acknowledged Holloway. “It feels…a lot of magic, like the first season. It was an incredibly magical year, and the whole experience, of course, has been incredible, but this last year, everyone’s really getting that sense of camaraderie and nostalgia, and it’s just been fabulous.”

“You know, personally, I’m just feeling a tremendous amount of gratitude,” said Lindelof, “and the idea 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.’ This is sort of a once-in-a-lifetime or once-in-a-career experience, for a show that’s still performing, for the network to allow us to end it, is a tremendous gift. As Evangeline was saying, 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.'”

When asked how long the conclusion of “Lost” had been determined, Cuse acknowledged that there really wasn’t a definitive answer to that question. “We came up with the final image of the show a long time ago back when we were first plotting out the mythology in the first season, then we started adding elements to that as we went along…and, really, between the first and the second season is when we cooked the mythology,” he said. “We kind of knew what the end point was, but as you move towards the end point, you add elements. Obviously, the end is not yet written, and there are certain sort of mythological, architectural elements that are intact for that ending, but a lot of character stuff will get worked out as we go along. I mean, that’s part of the discovery process of writing. For instance, Michael Emerson wasn’t on the show at that point. It’s a fun process because we sort of have a concept of where we’re going to end the show, but there is still the process of actually executing it and there still is the process of discovery, particularly on a character level, that will come into play as we finish the show.”

“So if you guys have any ideas,” said Lindelof, “we’re open-minded.”

However the series ends, the producers assure us that ABC is in no way putting pressure on them to include a loophole which would allow for, say, a “Lost” spinoff of some sort. “The network has been fabulous, and we owe a great debt of gratitude to Steve McPherson again just for this whole notion of ending the show,” said Cuse. “We are definitively ending this story of these characters and the show that we wanted to tell in May, and there’s not going to be an implanted sequel. There’s not going to be a secret back-door pilot embedded in that. The story of ‘Lost’ that we’ve been telling for these six seasons is coming to a close this May.”

Everyone on the panel was asked to cite their favorite moment or arc from the show’s run, which I’ll offer up for you one by one:

Emilie de Ravin: “Honestly, I think my favorite moments have been moments when we’re all…the entire original cast…working together and just sort of hanging out, like the old days. It just has a sort of special feel to it and how we all learn so much about each other and got to know each other. It’s kind of nice getting back to that now, which I feel we are in a way, but then it’s over, and it’s kind of sad.”

Daniel Dae Kim: “I think, for me, that feeling was kind of represented in the finale of the first season. The launching of the raft was really a 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.”

Josh Holloway: “My God, that’s such a huge question, really, because I have so many. But I agree with Emilie: I like group scenes. They take two, three days to film because you have to cover everyone, but if you position yourself just right, you get to just cut up and have fun most of the time. And then, occasionally you have to do your little part, but I’ve become quite an artist at positioning myself where I’m mostly just having fun on set all day, and I could just, you know, insert my little bit in the middle of someone else’s close-up, which was great.”

(“He’s very dedicated to his craft,” said Kim, with a grin.)

Evangeline Lilly: “I think, for me, the most memorable moment on the show happened in the first season, and it was the episode where Claire gave birth and Boone died. And 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 on the show. And I don’t often cry watching my own show, because I’ve read the script and we’ve filmed everything and we know the story inside and out. But I watched that episode and I cried, and I just remember thinking, ‘This is something that I’m proud to be a part of.'”

Damon Lindelof: “You know, I think that some of the most memorable moments are…there’s a bridge that basically connects where the writers work on the Disney lot to where the ABC executive offices are. We start writing the show in the summertime, so usually in around June or July, Carlton and I have to walk across this bridge and meet with Steve (McPherson) and a group of ABC executives to basically present to them what we’re going to be doing the following season on ‘Lost.’ And, you know, there’s a progression of bridge walks starting with, ‘Okay, we’re finally going to tell them what’s in the hatch.’ And last year, Carlton and I…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 receive…I know it sounds like it’s blatant ass-kissing to say, but, again, when you look at the hundred and four hours of ‘Lost’ that you’ve already seen, the things that we’ve been able to do on the show is pretty incredible, so…I think about that stuff.”

Carlton Cuse: “To sort of to echo what Daniel said, the raft launch in the first season was such a great example of the kind of collaborative way in which this show is made and that’s, I think, the thing that really distinguishes and makes it special. It wasn’t enough that we just wrote that raft launch. It was also what all the actors brought to bear. It was Jack Bender who actually came up with the idea of the dog swimming out and then turning back. And then I remember sort of most vividly being on the scoring stage, and the orchestra that plays the music for the show was playing Michael Giacchino’s cue for that and they sight-read and they hadn’t played it. And 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 and it was just…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.”

Terry O’Quinn: “For me, it’s just that collaboration. There’s no special moment, because there were so many. What Emilie talked about, sitting under the banyan trees and listening to Naveen Andrews play the guitar and everybody singing songs…? It’s pretty sweet, and I won’t forget that. But more than anything, just coming to work with these people and working your way through a scene and collaborating on a scene and working as actors and developing a scene…it’s always different. You look at the call sheet in the morning and you see Jorge or Michael or Josh or Dan, anybody, and you get excited about that day. It’s been pretty sweet.”

Michael Emerson: “I have lots of found memories of breathless confrontations in small rooms. Jacob’s cabin and the hatch and Widmore’s bedroom, those kind of scenes always so dark and scary. I love those. But the working moment that captures the whole of it best for me is when Ben and Sawyer are standing on the cliff. We were working at Makapuhoo and looking out over the sea and trading quotes from Steinbeck and I had a rabbit in a backpack. It was so absurd and beautiful, majestic scenery, and I thought we should just put down the cameras now and just stand here and look at this.”

Jorge Garcia: “For me, running away from an exploding plane wing is something that’s always going to be emblazed in my head. But the random scenes that pop into my head, like when the comet hits Mr. Cluck’s and I’m laying there and they’re throwing raw chicken parts at me…? I’m not going to forget that, either.”

Unsurprisingly, everyone kept comfortably mum about anything and everything they may know about the upcoming episodes, which led Cuse and Lindelof to finally give up some concrete information during the last few minutes of the panel. The first piece emerged as a bit of payback for an unfortunate moment from an earlier press tour: Harold Perrineau (Michael) will be back on the show for its final season. “We wanted to make sure we made that announcement here,” said Cuse, in a reference to a battle between the TCA tour and Comic-Con over which event would be the first to reveal the information about Perrineau’s previous return to “Lost.” The second tidbit was clearly just Lindelof being nice, since he offered the revelation that Cynthia Watros (Libby) would be coming back by acknowledging that he was doing so because “we’ve given you absolutely nothing in 45 minutes.”

Actually, that wasn’t entirely true: they might not have given us anything concrete up to that point, but they certainly managed to make us giddy with anticipation.

When asked about the first episode of this final season, Garcia said, “The premiere is definitely like, ‘What? Wait, let me read that part again. What?‘ There’s some headscratchers.” Holloway described it as “big,” saying that “it felt like a finale, that scale,” while de Ravin said, “I think I had to read it about three times before it actually made sense,” quickly adding the caveat that “it totally does, but just getting my mind wrapped back into it…”

“Get ready to scratch your heads, America!” said Lindelof, grinning.