I remember thinking quite clearly, the night this episode aired, "I feel really lucky to be alive to witness this." It’s hyperbole, of course, since it’s just a television show, but it was also one of the most creative and emotional piece of popular culture I’d ever witnesses. And so it meant both nothing and EVERYTHING at the same time, and generally left me in awe of Lost (again) and privileged to have a forum in which I can discuss the show.
(Check out my original, brain-addled take here.)
4) In Short
"Yea, yours ain’t the only brain hurtin’ this ep, Des."
8) What Desmond Did During This Episode
Desmond is in the helicopter, checking out the picture of himself with Penny. Lapidus is checking out the cheat sheet drawn up by Faraday. Sayid’s concerned that Faraday’s bearing leads them directly into a thunderhead. As they head towards the storm, Des tells Sayid he hopes to find answers aboard the freighter. The storm ends up pushing the helicopter slightly off the 305 bearing Faraday requested, which leads to…
…Desmond in a military barracks. With no beard. Little hair. And a terrified look on his face. His Seargeant-Major accosts him for not getting to his mark on time. Desmond tells him of a dream involving a storm, and a helicopter, but he can’t remember the rest. As punishment, the Seargeant-Major punishes the unit by making them prep in double time: four minutes, not eight. Outside, the unit does pushups and situps in the rain, when…
…Des is back in the helicopter. Oh good, his flashback is over. Oh wait, he doesn’t recognize anyone in the helicopter. He’s in 2004, but not all of him. Don’t worry, it’ll all make sense. I hope.
Back on the beach, Jack is still freaking out about the helicopter not arriving. Charlotte’s not freaking out, which concerns Juliet. Faraday drops a little knowledge on them all: their perception of how long the helicopter has been gone isn’t exactly accurate. Hot damn, I love Faraday. He tells them so long as they followed the bearings, everything will be OK.
Desmond is literally held back by Sayid as Lapidus lands the chopper on the freighter, called the Kahana. A few crew members rush to the chopper, and are less than pleased to see survivors of Oceanic 815; Desmond’s pretty much unhappy about everything in the world. A rather burly man creeps both Sayid and the general viewing audience out when he says they’ll take Des down to sick bay and have the doctor look at him. As Des rails and rants, he…
…is suddenly back in the rain, but this time standing up while his unit does sit-ups. His leader is furious that Des is standing, and sends the unit running. Des isn’t winning any Solider of the Month awards, methinks. He later confesses to one of his fellow soldiers about his "dream" on the chopper, and the photograph of Penny. It’s the only thing he recognizes from this dream. Des immediately runs off to the nearest pay phone. While reaching down for some change he dropped, he…
…finds himself reaching down for nothing aboard the Kahana. Keamy introduces himself and his future grenade hacky sack buddy Omar as they lead Des to sick bay. They lock Des inside a room, where he finds he’s not alone: there’s Minkowski, tied down to a bed, and sweating profusely. "It’s happening to you, too…isn’t it?" he asks.
Up above on the Kahana, Sayid checks the situation out. He wants to know why they left at night and arrived on the boat on the middle of the day, a weird factoid Lapidus doesn’t directly answer. They end up making a trade: Lapidus’ phone for Sayid’s gun. Sayid calls Jack and relates Desmond’s problem, which upsets Faraday. He asks if Des has recently been exposed to high levels of radiation or electromagnetism, and confesses to Juliet that what Desmond has is NOT amnesia. (Also, why Jack doesn’t remember that Des spent three years inside a hatch with a cemented wall covering an electromagnetic anomaly, never mind was at the epicenter of the sky going purple, makes me angry.)
Back in the Kahana, Des is trying to talk to Minkowski, but Minkowski ain’t talking. He seems…elsewhere. Suddenly, he blinks, and tells Des he was just on a Ferris wheel. OK. Just then, the doctor comes in and preps an injection, which is shoves into Minkowki’s unwilling body. The doctor asks to inspect Desmond’s eyes with a pen light. As he shines the light in Des’ eyes…
…he’s back outside the phone booth, still bent over for the change. He calls Penny, who is less than thrilled to hear from him. Apparently dumping her and joining the army didn’t sit too well with her. He wants to see her during his two-day furlough, but she tells him she’s moved and he shouldn’t call again. He tries to plead with her…
…but ends up telling the doctor, not Penny, that he needs her. The doc’s a bit touched confused by the sentiment. Just then, Lapidus and Sayid bust in, with Faraday on the line. The doctor’s upset by the intrusion, and sounds the alarm. Faraday asks Desmond what year he thinks it is: Des tells him it’s 1996. THIS SHOW RULES. He tells Des that the next time he goes there, where he’s "supposed" to be, he needs to get on a train to Oxford. Why? So Des can visit Faraday there. In the past. And look, I’m totally making out with the screen because THIS IS TEH AWESOME.
Faraday is looking for his journal. He tells Des to tell Past Faraday to "set the device to 2.342," oscillating at 11 hz, and that he knows about Eloise. Des writes the info on his hand, but Keamy busts in at that moment. As Des struggles to keep the phone away from Keamy…
…he finds himself in the phone booth again. Curiously, he’s sitting, not standing, marking the first time he’s not in the same position he previously was in the present. Previously was in the future, I mean. Yea, it’s confusing, and the writing on his hand are gone as well, so let’s go to Oxford with Des and sorts this out. When Des runs into Faraday, he’s rocking this insanely awesome head of hair, looking like the dorkiest leader of a Joshua Tree-era U2 cover band ever. Faraday’s skeptical of Des’ whole "I’ve been to the future" story, thinking colleagues are playing a trick on him. But the 2.342 and Eloise tidbits convince and excite Faraday, and the two go into his lab. It’s "the place where I do things Oxford frowns upon," he tells Des.
OK, here we go with the sexy: Faraday wonders why his future self doesn’t remember this meeting in the past. Don’t we all. When Des asks if this room is "changing the future," Faraday casually notes that’s impossible. As do we all. Faraday then throws on a protective coat to protect himself from radiation, which prompts Des to ask why he doesn’t wear anything on his head. As do we all.
We meet Eloise, a lab rat. Faraday puts her into a glass case, in order to "unstick her in time." He shines a light onto her that looks REALLY FAMILIAR to Lost fans. For a minute, Faraday does nothing, noting "she’s not back yet." When she does "return," Faraday sends the rat through the maze, and to his elation, Eloise runs through it flawlessly. Why is this so impressive? Because Faraday just finished building the maze that morning, and won’t teach it to her for an hour.
Des asks if Faraday just sent Eloise to the future. Faraday clarifies that only her consciousness went there, not her physical self. That type of thing is reserved for bunnies, polar bears, and donkey wheels. Des wants to know how this will help him; Faraday just assumes Future Him sent Desmond back to aide Present Him. Oh look, my head just went ‘splodey. That’s OK, because…
…on the Kahana, Keamy finally wrestles the phone away from Des. Lapidus tries to keep the peace, but gets sent to his room. And by "his room" I mean "to the captain." After the group leaves, Minkowski chirps up after hearing Des’ name. He reveals that since leaving shore, he handled all incoming and outgoing communication on the boat. And often, a blinking yellow light would appear on his console, marking a call he was under strict orders to never answer. The person making that call? Penelope Widmore. Des is shocked. So shocked, that…
…he wakes up, now sitting in a chair in Faraday’s office. Faraday tell him he’s been out for 75 minutes, and that the effect must be exponential. It’s also apparently exponentially deadly, as he spies as now extremely dead Eloise. Des freaks out, wondering if he’s going to suffer the same fate. Apparently, Eloise brain short-circuited due to the lack of a "constant," something familiar in both time frames the mind could latch onto. For Des to avoid her fate, he needs to find his constant. Don’t we all. Des calls up Penny, but find her number has been disconnected. He runs down the stairs, but collapses…
…only to find himself back on the Kahana, shocked to see his older self in the mirror. I think 25-year old Ryan would be shocked, too…to see how buff his future self is! Ahem. I digress. He begs Sayid to help him call Penny. Minkowski says that will be impossible: 2 days ago, someone sabotaged all the communications equipment on board. LISTEN ALL Y’ALL, IT’S A SABOTAGE. But he offers to take them to the radio room anyways.
They are shocked to find their locked door suddenly ajar. Minkowski notes they must have a friend onboard. As they make their way out, Des tends to Minkowski’s suddenly bloody nose. Uh oh, that can’t be good. Sayid says it’s clear…
…and we’re back on the stairs.
Des arrives at an auction house, where Charles Widmore is bidding on the only known journal to survive the crew of the Black Rock. According the auctioneer, no one outside the family of the first mate (a fellow by the name of Hanso) knows the contents of the journal. The auction number? 2342. Naturally. Widmore eventually wins with a bid of 380,000 pounds. Widmore’s oddly pleased to see Des, if the truth be told.
In the bathroom, Des asks Widmore for his daughter’s phone number. Widmore rubs salt in the wound over Des’ missed opportunity with Penny. He ends up giving Des her address so she can tell him herself how much she hates him, but somehow forgets to turn off the water in the sink after washing his hands. Hey, why did he…
…Minkowski consoles Desmond, stating the episodes start coming more frequently as the effect lingers. Minkowski explains this started happening when, while bored out of their minds, he took out a tender to see the Island for himself with a man named Brandon. Where’s Brandon now? In a body bag. Alrighty then. Minkowski then pauses, and collapses once in the radio room. Sayid is confused by everything going on, but agrees to fix everything now and ask questions later. As Desmond sees a calendar confirming the date (Dec. 24, 2004), Sayid sees blood dripping from Des’ nose. Ruh row. Just then, Minkowski wakes up, starts shaking, says, "I can’t get back," then dies. Double ruh, triple row…
…as Des wakes up on the floor of the bathroom, potentially saved by the water dripping onto his face. He picks up Penny’s address off the floor and rushes to her flat. She’s shocked, and not in the good way, to see him. He tries to get her phone number, and explains his entire tale to her. God bless these two actors for the next ten minutes of my life. It says something that these two took the words on a page, words that would seem potentially ridiculous if played an inch wrong, and make it completely emotionally wrenching. After she gives him the number, she kicks him out while he screams to not change it…
…which would be helpful, as we’re back on the boat, with the phone fixed and the number attached to Des’ brain. He makes the call, and…look, I can’t write rationally about this phone call. I’ve seen it ten times and I’m reduced to a babbling mess every time. Long and short, 1996 Desmond yields to 2004 Desmond. The phone call worked. "It was enough," he tells Sayid. More than enough, Lost. More than enough.
On the beach, Faraday thumbs through his journal. He finds the page he’s looking for. On it are not equations, but a message: "If anything goes wrong, Desmond Hume will be my constant." Faraday’s relieved to find this note.
15) What Ryan Did During This Episode
16) The Moment
C’mon…like you need to ask.
23) The Mythology
Let’s leave aside time-traveling consciousnesses for the time being. It’s all wicked exciting and all, but I spent a few weeks here on the blog before Season 4 trying to ascertain the relationship of time between the Island and real world and got so confused that I myself started bleeding from my nose. Luckily, I found my Constant: Sam Adams Octoberfest. And by Sam Adams Octoberfest, I mean "my wife." So she says.
Anyways, this is the first episode in which we receive definitive proof that Charles Widmore is somehow tied up in the mythology of the Island. We’ve seen huge hints that suggest it, but in buying Tovard’s journal, Lost fully ensconces him within the world of the Island. Just exactly what his relationship to both the Island and Ben are is still a mystery, one of the five biggest yet to solve on the show, but what we see in this auction room lends insight into other events on the show.
Back in "The Economist" rehash, I mused about the previous tenant inside of Ben’s bungalow. Personally, I’d be tickled if it were Charles. Everything in "The Shape of Things to Come" speaks of a strained relationship in which the freaky-eyed upstart overthrew the reigning kingpin. And everything from Henry Gale’s balloon to Desmond’s around-the-world race suggest that Widmore’s been aiming to find the Island through various means ever since Ben voted him off the Island.
This auction is in many ways one of the most important steps in the long process to reclaim what he feels is rightfully his. Knowing how the Island could move, he needed to learn as many places the Island had been, in order to discover a pattern that could make his attempts to locate it as quickly as possible. Without spoiling any scenes from Season 5, let’s just say there’s a good chance someone’s been extrapolating both the time and place the Island might appear.
What I’m especially curious about is how Desmond was selected to be inserted into this master plan. Was he simply a convenient scapegoat, enabling Widmore to find the Island while also keeping his daughter away from this coward? Or did the mathematics used to find the Island also somehow include a human component in the equation, thereby making Desmond’s psychological makeup integral to the solution of the problem? It’s a philosophical as well as mathematical conundrum, no doubt.
42) In Retrospect
Think Faraday’s purple light research raised a few eyebrows from those who once saw an entire sky turn purple, eventually landing him the research job of a lifetime? Methinks it did.
108) In Summary
I mean, really, what can you say? It’s "The Constant," people. It’s both the most intellectually dense and emotionally gut-wrenching episode that Darlton ever produced. You could make the case that "Through the Looking Glass" has a more seismic effect on the world of the show, but no episode means more to me nor succinctly shows every element I hold so near and dear to my heart when discussing this show. A lot. To strangers. Who seem to avoid eye contact. Can’t imagine why.
Next up: Ben throws a hissy fit, Harper throws eye daggers, and Juliet throws her hands up, wondering where her super cool flashbacks went.
Leave your thoughts about this episode below!
Ryan also posts every 108 minutes over at Boob Tube Dude, then peruses Zap2It’s Guide to Lost Facebook group. He also encourages you to join the all-new Zap2It’s Guide to Lost Twitter feed. Pretty soon he’ll have as many platforms as Charles Widmore has Hanso relics.