Before delving too deeply into the implications of tonight’s episode, "The Constant," let us first take a moment to marvel at the euphoric catharsis that was the conversation between Penelope and Desmond near the end of this mind-blowing episode. That, gentle readers, is why I love Lost. The show has its mythology, and that’s great. It’s got its mysteries, and that’s great. It had to good sense to quickly kill off Nikki and Paolo, and that’s particularly great. But in the end, without strong relationships between its characters, Lost would simply be another genre show, one of many. The impact and emotion of that phone call shows why Lost stands so far and above just about anything else currently on air.
There’s more to be said on matters of the heart, but for the time being, let us turn to time itself. As Boy George once pontificated, "Time is precious, I know." And that man knew from once he spoke. Our favorite brutha Desmond found himself unstuck in time, just like Billy Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel Slaughterhouse-Five. (In case you didn’t get the connection, the show went and called Desmond’s army buddy Billy for good measure.) This episode shed a lot of light on the actions in "Flashes Before Your Eyes," in that Desmond himself doesn’t physically time-travel: only his consciousness does.
We learned this thanks to the 1996 version of Daniel Faraday, residing at Oxford with experiments inspired by his namesake and a haircut inspired by a Joshua Tree-era Bono. Desmond visited him after 2004 Faraday instructed Des to visit him in Oxford, equipped with numbers and names to convince 1996 Faraday of Desmond’s situation. And if that sentence was hard to read, you can only imagine how hard it was for me to type. (Least this sheds light on why Desmond ended up in military prison as seen at the end of Season 2: dude went AWOL to find Faraday. Awesome.)
Turns out, as widely suspected, that when the Swan went kablooey, Desmond’s mind was bombarded with enough electromagnetism to cause his consciousness to move back and forth in time. And Des is far from the only one. Turns out the barely seen Minkowski decided to go for a joyride from the freighter along with another crew-member and got caught a case of cottage cheese brain for his troubles. And Faraday himself: well, we know now the reason for Charlotte’s memory test last week. Kudos to all of you who saw it for what it was while I went to the top of Boston’s highest peak (elevation: 14 feet) and shouted, "It’s ESP! ESP!" until a cop in Southie threatened to make me gone, baby, gone.
And Faraday. What can you say about him? Is it too early to call "Rookie of the Year" quite yet? Because he’s got my vote. His own brain is addled thanks to years of experiments more than likely spurned on by his encounter with Desmond. And what a masterstroke of the show avoid the inherent "How did Faraday not remember meeting Desmond before seeing him on the Island?" by using the constant exposure to radiation throughout the years as a way to explain his memory loss. Absolutely fantastic.
And let’s look for a moment, if we can, at the numbers involved in Faraday’s successful experiment with Eloise: 2.342, running at 11 hertz. We’ve got two of The Numbers right there, with 23 and 42, and the "11" derives from subtracting two other Numbers from each other (15 and 4). Yes, the show tends to drop the Numbers in scenes as Easter eggs, meant to do nothing more than make fans or, say, people who write Lost recaps, to stand up and say, "Egads, perchance I espy one of the Numbers! Gertrude, more pie, if you please!" So I understand why you might be rolling my eyes at my attempt to derive some significance here.
But in this case, I think the fact that these numbers worked in sending Eloise’s mind into the future not only suggests why Faraday is crying upon seeing the wreckage of Oceanic 815, but is the very reason Abaddon (or Abaddon’s boss) chose him to travel to the Island. In the first case, his radiation-addled mind can’t make a direct connection to the crash, but his subconscious still can. And in the second case, word of his research could have reached Abaddon’s ears, and the commonality of numbers could have piqued his interest.
(In any event, the main takeaway lesson here? If you’re going to repeatedly attempt to send a field mouse into the future, wear a helmet. Just good common sense for all you kids out there.)
Speaking of Abaddon’s boss, hi, Charles Widmore! Nice to see ya, paying a hefty sum in 1996 for the only extant journal from the long-lost Black Rock. And no, in case you’re wondering if you’ve missed something, the Widmore-Abaddon connection is purely theoretical at this point, although it’s far from a horrible guess. This little auction scene went a long way in shoring up my theory that the freighter is in fact working under the guise of the Widmore Corporation, built by Paik Heavy Industries (owned by Sun’s father), in cooperation with the remnants of the Hanso Foundation. (For more on this, be sure to follow this link and read my initial formulation, made before Season 4 started.)
Widmore’s buying of the journal signals a deep interest in the Black Rock: more importantly, any clues as to its navigational records. What we see in this auction, exhibited by the exorbitant price paid for the journal, is a man keen on finding the Island. He would have undoubtedly preferred to locate it on his own, but easily has the means with which to purchase the journal at auction. (I do wonder if anyone else in that auction house will have ramifications in the world of Lost.) Having obtained that journal, Widmore could finally achieve what until then had been the impossible: locating the Island. The Freighter itself is the result of the work jump started the day in which Widmore purchased that journal.
Now that we’re back to the Freighter, let’s talk about that calendar, shall we?
According to the calendar in the communications room, it’s December 24, 2004. That doesn’t surprise Sayid in the slightest, except for him remarking that he didn’t realize it was so close to Christmas. The fact that the background of the calendar featured a tropical setting made me think, "OK, this is just a calendar to show what time the people on the Island think it is." I thought it either might be a cheat sheet or a way to screw with the heads of anybody from the Island who got off.
But that’s not quite right, is it? It seems clear the majority of the people on the freighter are COMPLETELY FREAKING OUT that Oceanic 815ers have landed on the Freighter. So, having a calendar in a room not intended for outside observers seems a bit weird. More to the point, Desmond calls Penelope on the exact day as he promised: Christmas Eve, 2004. We know this to be true because there she was, all decked out in holiday gear, in front of a Christmas Tree, and saying nothing like, "Why are you calling me in the year 2012, Desmond?" Then again, she might have said that: my sobs were drowning out the dialogue somewhat.
Then there’s the problem of Faraday’s rocket and Lapidus’ helicopter. Faraday’s rocket, if you remember, arrived roughly 31 minutes later (31 being, of course, 15+16…OK, OK, I’ll stop bringing up the Numbers) than it should have. From Island perspective, the helicopter than should have taken 20 minutes to land took more than a day. From helicopter perspective, the trip DID take roughly that long, but they left at sunset and arrived seemingly mid-day. I quickly looked at the diagram listed in Faraday’s journal for advice and/or answers, but at some point blood started to come out of MY nose, and decided to leave the heavy physics to those more equipped to explain to inference of all these events.
Then again, all of these discrepancies could be what freaks Faraday out so much. Remember: as a scientist, he would be looking to design and conduct experiments in which he could consistently achieve the same results. And yet, his life’s work yielded nothing but differing results, driving him batty (both literally and figuratively). Perhaps such inconsistencies mark the danger not only of traveling to and from the Island, but perhaps also with the Orchid Station itself, a station that looks to make its grand appearance in the show next week.
The Orchid Station, for those of who that haven’t heard of it, is a new station introduced by the producers of Lost at Comi-Con last year, and seems to involve not only the mental, but physical act of time travel. This physical act, however, it not without peril, and not without surprise.
In the orientation video, the scientist formerly known as Marvin Candle shows up, holding a white rabbit with the number 15 written on its side. (Much like Ben’s White Rabbit #8, suggesting Ben’s well acquainted with the Orchid.) Halfway through the Orchid orientation video, a second White Rabbit #15 appears, and the whole scene breaks down into the type of chaos normally reserved for opening night of a Hannah Montana tour. See for yourself.
In this video, Candle (or Edgar Halowax, as he calls himself) refers to something called the Casimir effect. I won’t purport to understand 10% of that link, but the bit about wormholes and faster than light travel sure caught my eye. What about the Orchid’s research is so unstable? Was it created based on theoretical applications of the Island’s unique properties? Is Ben using the Orchid for his worldly travels? So many questions, and in Faraday, we potentially have a source for answers. And I like answers. I’m a fan of them, you could say.
But as stated at the beginning, none of this Casimir effect mumbo jumbo would mean a thing if we didn’t give a damn about Desmond and Penelope, and I give as much of a damn as Rhett Butler doesn’t. I was frankly shocked to see them make any type of "real world" connection this early in the show (I had that pegged as a Season 6 activity), but in that they still have a long way to go before truly meeting again, I marveled at this conversation as a way for these two to steel themselves up for the last, and most difficult, part of their journey back towards each other. I’ve said it before, and having this episode, I feel it more strongly than ever: these two are the romantic heart of the show. Sorry, but for having had such little screen time together, it’s nothing short of a miracle on behalf of both the actors and writers to construct a relationship that anchors the actions of everyone else in the Lost universe. And it puts the squabbles over time travel, wormholes, and electromagnetic anomalies into their proper context.
Five things that I noticed, couldn’t jam into the recap, but wanted to note:
- The doctor on board the freighter? Named Ray. Could this be the "RG" listed on Naomi’s bracelet?
- Notice all those security cameras on board the freighter? Remind anyone of similar cameras already seen on the show, say, in New Otherton?
- Did they really hire Fischer Stevens for essentially two voice-overs and a few scenes in this episode? That’s it? Is this karmic payback for going ahead and doing the sequel to Short Circuit without the involvement of the legendary Steve Gutenberg? (There better be a flashback involving Minkowksi, and soon.)
- The friend on the boat that opened the door? Probably the one that also destroyed all the equipment. And probably Ben’s man on the boat. (After all, we know Ben’s a fan of jamming communication to the outside world.) I think we all know this person’s identity at this point, correct?
- Desmond is Faraday’s constant? Damn. I was all out of Kleenex after the phone call. Unfair, Lost. Unfair.
OK, now that I’ve had my lengthy say: now it’s your turn! What did you make of Desmond’s travels through time? What exactly is the Freighters’ main objective? And what would you use as your constant should you find yourself exposed to an electromagnetic anomaly? And be sure to check out more news, theories, and insight over at Zap2It’s Guide to Lost.
Ryan also posts every 108 minutes over at Boob Tube Dude.