Lost: The Constant

The only true constant in the world of Lost is that the episodes have always been riveting and tonight was no different.

Here are the talking points:

  • Numbers
  • I’ve missed you, numbers. I’m glad you’re back.

    From Faraday’s 2.342 @ 11hZ to Penny’s address (423 Cheyne Walk, from Find815, natch) I loved all the original number-y goodness.

    New numbers to consider:

    Penny’s London phone number: 7946 0893
    The Black Rock’s sail date: March 3, 1845
    Desmond’s constant: December 24, 2004

    All good stuff. Hopefully smarter folks than I will start piecing together some of the physics involved and let us all in on the secret.

    Which brings me to …

  • Daniel Faraday’s genius
  • Besides still having the signature skinny tie and the whole Vincent Vega vibe (nice hair!) 1996 Daniel Faraday is one smart cat.

    He describes to Desmond that what he (Des) and Eloise are experiencing is less themselves time-travelling than their consciousness phasing. I think. ;-)

    I don’t know how that works out, but it may explain why Daniel cried when he heard about the wreckage of Flight 815 or why he felt compelled to work on the boat/island mission.

    I’m also curious about this whole idea of a paradox.

    Daniel mentions that it would be “so uninspired” when he doesn’t believe Desmond.

    The producers said they want to avoid the paradox issue when dealing with time-travel (see Entertainment Weekly article from last week’s post).

    I’m no scholar on all things concerning Science Fiction time travel, but I do (vaguely) understand the paradox and Lost’s paradigm of consciousness projecting across spacetime gets around some of the nastiness about “meeting” your former self or being your own grandpa.

    But it’s still thorny and my head still hurts.

    Suffice it to say that this may be one of only a handful of episodes that didn’t actually feature a flashback or flashforward, at least not in normal Lost terminology. What we “saw” was happening simultaneously for Desmond up until the point when he “solved for x” in his equation, substituting Penny as his constant.

    I apologize for the force algebraic metaphor. I think I’m close. Keep me honest.

    I’m also more than a little unclear about changing the future. If Faraday (1996) was correct in telling Desmond that you can’t change the future then the message “If anything goes wrong, Desmond Hume will be my constant” must have ALWAYS been in Faraday’s notebook.

    Perhaps his own strong exposure to radiation had him jumping/dreaming/time-travelling since the day he first successfully experimented on Eloise, but he forgot about any “meeting” with Desmond, chalking it up to a dream or something.

    Desmond’s exposure to the Swan Hatch Blast certainly started his premonitions, could Faraday’s experience be that much different?

    I may be reaching.

  • Ben’s Man on the boat
  • Is the radio saboteur and the person who freed Sayid, Desmond and Minkowski the same person?
    Why weren’t the Freighties allowed to accept incoming calls (like Penelope’s)?
    Why did Minkowski say “can’t get back” before dying? Was this due to his lack of constant? Other than Faraday having Desmond as a constant what other individuals – Other, Lostaway, Frieghtie – are having or could/will have this kind of experience?
    Why would merely coming closer to the island affect someone in this way? Did the explosion of the Swan hatch have a larger implication?
    What made Penelope begin her search for Desmond in 2001?
    Why was Hanso selling the log of the Black Rock? Why did Widmore buy it? What does it say?
    Why is retracing the exact route so important and what do we make of the storm/thunderheads?

This one was really, truly dense. It may take another few viewings of this episode to truly unpack all the details and implications.

Anyone catch a detail I missed? Was Keamy’s tattoo important/symbolic?

Please comment, I’m dying to chat. Maybe we should do some live Twittering or a podcast in the future. Let me know.

G’night!

Bonus late-night link: Last week’s Powell’s blog post. Worth the investment if you yearn for Eggtown knowledge.

26 thoughts on “Lost: The Constant

  1. Maigh says:

    I don’t have answers but do have one more link: Penny’s dad is buying the log book for the ship. It’s that ship that the lost-aways visited and raided for the dynamite they used to blast The Others when they planned their night raid on the camp. Soooo Penny’s dad buying a logbook from the first mate of a boat that is/was/wrecked on the island…?

    That’s not well written but it’s early, I’m off today and I’ve barely had a sip of coffee. After last nights episode, I”m surprised I slept. Hell, my first thought when I woke up was of Des.

  2. Maigh, we’re on the same page. I mentioned Papa Widmore in my third bullet. I’m also curious why he would buy that log 5 years before sending Desmond to the island, albeit circumstancially, (along w/ Libby’s boat).

    Jenn and I were almost in tears though. One of Lost’s most romantic moments.

  3. I’m curious how the log got off the boat and back to civilization… you know?

    As for proximity to the island, I think it’s probably enveloped in an electromagnetic field or something, and crossing that field affects how you get dosed or when you emerge, for example. So crossing back in the same trajectory puts you out where you came in (i.e. where and when the boat is). Otherwise, who knows.

    Are we to understand that it is only 2004 on the freighter? ’cause that’s bullshit. Those satellite phones were not around in 2004.

    When Desmond mentions the Island to Faraday, Faraday reacts. Just as Desmond’s consciousness zips back to the future, Faraday says something about the Island… but did he say “Why would I go to AN Island” or did he say, “Why would I go to THE Island?”

    Did Faraday already know about the Island?

    Did Mr. Widmore buy the ledger so he could find the Island? Or so he could cover it up?

    I propose that the Freighter works for Mr. Widmore, whom Ben has been working against for some time (having been sent to the Island during its time under the Hanso Foundation). Penny, therefore, has access to information that would make it possible for her to call the Freighter, and Mr. Widmore knows enough to tell the crew, “Don’t answer calls from [my daughter].” And, maybe, at the end of that sentence, he puts the word, “yet.”

  4. I think you’re spot-on, Will.

    I’m also in the camp that the boat is Widmore’s, that it isn’t 2004 on the boat (though it *is* XMas when Des calls Pen) and that the electromagnetism is somehow messing with travel to/from the island.

    No idea about your great question concerning the ship’s log. How *did* it get off the island.

    I’m also aroused by the talk of perceptions of time and reality. Can Daniel and Charlotte perceive “real” time as it’s happening off the island even though they’re on the island?

    And I’ll have to go back and check on Daniel’s exact responses to Desmond. I’m curious to see what he thought of their encounter not only in 1996 but also when they met at the helicopter on the island.

  5. Glenn says:

    Another # link – the auction lot# was 2342 for the item Charles Widmore won – the same #’s that Des had to relay to Faraday 2.342.

  6. Cindy says:

    That was one mind-blowing episode!
    All I have to contribute (at this point, after one viewing) is some thoughts about the “exact route” being followed to get off the island. I don’t have an answer but it seems to be a spec that has to be followed to avoid those side effects.
    I did admire that Frank was so vigilant in following Daniel’s map/directions even though he doesn’t understand Daniel at all. I think there’s a lot more in their relationship going on.
    Remember that Desmond tried to get off the island in his sailboat but ended up back where he started? Did that cause “side effects” and what were they?
    And remember when Ben let Micheal and Walt go – his instructions were to stay on a bearing (can’t remember the detail) and they would be safe. Did Micheal veer off and Walt’s appearances are now a “side effect”? So many, many questions, I love it.

    I can’t help but wonder now what will happen to Locke if he does leave the island. Does he have a constant to save him? Desmond and Locke are the only ones left being so close to the hatch explosion causing a massive dose of elector-magnetism that Daniel wondered about.

  7. Glenn says:

    Cindy – the bearing was 325 degrees – and that’s the same bearing that Daniel Faraday told Frank the helicopter pilot to stay on in the latest episode to get to the boat – and he told him not to waver from it.

  8. You know, it occurs to me that if Desmond was supposed to call in 2004, and it is actually 2007 outside the Island (which doesn’t explain the phones), then Penny has been searching for Desmond for three years… because he didn’t call in 2004 like he said he would. Hmm.

  9. Will, I’m not so sure about it being 2007 in Penny-land. I take her 3-year search to mean she’s been looking for Desmond since he was lost at sea racing for her father.

    Remember she came to see him at the stadium where Jack twisted his ankle?

    Still, I’m intrigued by the notion that it’s not quite 2004 either.

  10. Drew says:

    Great stuff, always a pleasure reading this on Fridays. Most of what I had has been covered, but the question I kept staring at on my notepad at work today:

    Who is Ben’s constant?

    Which of course presupposes that Ben has some way of moving back and forth at will to the future and to the island…which then got me thinking even further out that maybe that’s how Miles is so sure that Ben can get his hands on large sums of money, and wouldn’t the ability to send your conscious self back and forth along a time-line be extremely valuable for a global conglomerate/business like Widmore has? Even a glimpse of the future could be worth billions to someone like that.

  11. HunterMaxin says:

    Big episode to be sure, but I’m not convinced that the “travels” of Desmond, Minkowski, and (possibly) Faraday (remember “misrembering” those playing cards) explains the notion of time as it is experienced (knowingly or not) by the bulk of everyone else.

    I am more inclined – right now – to feel that this is a side effect (As mentioned) of something else, but not the actual phenomenon.

    I agree that while I WANT it to not be 2004 (at least somewhen) that it doesn’d add up that the boat and Penny do not (maybe respectively) currently and/or only reside in 2004. Which is definitely not to say there are not other whens at play here.

    More importantly, I suspect that this side effect may be Danielle’s long forgotten “sickness” that claimed her crew 16 years ago. If the boat – as we are to believe – crashed on the ilsland and only accidentally followed close (enough) to the proper heading (but not exactly enough) and if (I am surmising) it was carrying any kind of magnetic or radioactive equipment of any kind, all but Danielle (or maybe including Danielle but she had a constant by accident) were affected.

    To me, the sickness is one of the great heretofore ignored storylines of S1.

    Few, if any, are greater proponents of the (limited and scientific) application of time travel (in a specifc form) than I…but I am still taking our supposed reveleations with caution. We need more evidence, but its definitely an exciting thought.

    My point here is that I would assume (given this premise) that Ben would not need a constant unless he “screwed up” in any travel to or from the island. He seems to smart for that. But even if he did, having such control over the mechanisms of the island and communication to and from it, he’d have more than few options at the ready at any given time.

    Personally, I’m a little concerned – while intrigued – by this development as it, to me, seems to open more than a few dicey questions regarding paradox.

    We shall see.

    Anyone check out yet if Faraday said “an ilsland” or “THE island” yet?

  12. HunterMaxin says:

    I would also suggest, that, while not a traditional flashback…

    the fact (And final reveal) that Faraday had “really” experienced Desmond in his own timeline (as evidenced by his journal entry re: Hume) suggests it was an actual flashback.

    Even if neither Desmond or Faraday could “remember” the events.

    There is an explanation here. IF one uses the linear Back to The Future premise of experiencing time (where in despite jumping around in the timeline at large, the jumper still experiences this journey in a straight line of time from their own perspective)…neither had experienced the 1996 events yet…until they had. But the journal – as a non-thinking entity – would travel as thing linear-ly. Faraday may simply have not been aware to check out that page, so to speak.

    I’m not really sure how I feel about that, to be honest.

    I think a more probably explanation is that Faraday is somehow broken in time, by his own doing, already. He’s not going to do that to Eloise without doing it to himself at some point. And he clearly thought about the Constant as a possibility before he experimented on Eloise as well.

    I just think he’s been there and back and there and back again. HE constantly needs to re-assure his understanding of reality, and Charlotte seems to be aware of that as well.

  13. For the record I reviewed the episode again and Faraday’s response to Desmond’s mention of the island is “An Island? Why would I go to an island?”.

    To Drew: I was thinking along the same lines RE: Ben. He seems the most likely to be experiencing this “side effect” but I want to know who else is.

    To Hunter: I’ll agree with you that the “side effect” begs a greater question regarding the “primary effect” but I’m not so certain the end-game isn’t still time-related.

    Take the original “Others” who may or may not be either the original crew of the Black Rock OR their descendants. In either case, they never seem to age. Regardless of any “side effect” time travel that Richard Alpert might be doing, he sure doesn’t look any different whatsoever.

    I think that the *purpose* of Dharma was ultimately about controlled experimentation regarding spacetime and that Ben represents someone who wishes to preserve order/prevent paradox and Widmore is one who would use it for his own gain.

    The “side effect” then is just the danger of travelling without an understanding of what is at stake and how fragile the whole thing is.

    Or I’m making it all up.

    Suffice it say I think the commenters here make excellent points and I’m honored to have you as a participatory readership.

    We’re all better Lost fans for the sharing.

    *Group Hug*

  14. HunterMaxin says:

    Oh I agree…we are inescapeably (and cooly) in the realm of some kind of time…issue.

    Obviously too early to tell how, given that this is, after all, Lost.

  15. My wife made an interesting observation- what if the connection between everyone on the island is that they’re each other’s constants? They’ve all been involved in each other’s flashbacks even if in the background. And perhaps that’s why the Oceanic 6 feel a need to go back? They’ve figured out that without their constants, those left on the island are doomed.

  16. Cindy says:

    Thanks, Glenn, for confirming that the bearing is the same for getting off the island.

    I really need to brush up on my physics and time/space and quantum physics studies…my head hurts from trying to sort all this out :)
    Anyway, couple more thoughts….I believe that the Freighties and Penny are in 2004, the “present” as far as the Lost timeline goes. The whole arguement over the sat. phone isn’t selling me that its a different year. Anyway, I found it interesting that the show made a point of anchoring the day as December 24, 2004. In two days, the big tsunami in the Indian Ocean occurs. We’ll see if they incorporate that event or not.

    Drew, maybe Richard is Ben’s constant, if he needs one? Richard was in Ben’s past as a boy and he’s still in his life. Then again, Daniel originally said a constant has to be an item of personal significance – Desmond asks if it can be a person. I think we’re due for some Richard screentime. I’m even more exited after this last episode to learn some of the secrets Richard’s life contains.

    And I am so with you Hunter about getting an answer to that “sickness” business and the inoculations!!

  17. See? I was reading too soon! I couldn’t help it.

    As for this: “Regardless of any “side effect” time travel that Richard Alpert might be doing, he sure doesn’t look any different whatsoever.” I said the same thing on the way to NC Friday. I fear I was driving the SO crazy with long silences followed by “OH YEAH, AND…what about the babies? They can’t be born b/c they’re years early” gibberish.

    I’m so thankful for all of you and your big ole brains.

  18. HunterMaxin says:

    Re: the tsunami

    I find it hard to believe they would put the plane wreckage in the EXACT location of the earthquake that causes the tsunami AND remind us of the date on the show and not incorporate it.

    They’re too deliberate.

    Makes you wonder (a) if the plane was “put” there because they knew…and this would “sink” the wreckage forever so it could never ever ever be salvaged (burying the “truth” forever)…or if (b) they intend to have a serious natural disaster affect the island, boat, etc very soon…of if (c) perhaps in bad taste, the island somehow causes this huge disaster.

    I hope not the latter.

  19. Re: the plane (on the bottom of the ocean with the wrong pilot) what if Des and Syid (and whoever else) going back to 2004 has changed the past/future? What if they somehow neutralize the islands’ magneto-ness and the plane crashes “normally”, resting on the bottom of the ocean? Maybe Des goes back and enters the code on that fateful day…?

  20. Maigh, I don’t think we’re dealing with *that* kind of time travel. I don’t think these people have the power to change the past or future, but they can fulfill their destinies and take on the roles prescribed for them.

  21. Dang it. That gem of brilliance was brought to you by boredom in the GYN waiting room.

    How about this (which is along the same lines and will be shot down I’m sure) do ya think maybe the pilot of the chopper who should have been 851’s pilot was the one in the seat? You know, on account of that guy had no ring?

    Or is the bigger theory the one they clearly *want* us to believe: that the wreck is staged.

    Sometimes I feel like the kid on the short bus, but I still lourvezzzzzzzz eeett.

  22. Anne Fitzgerald says:

    Here’s what Exec. Producer Damon Lindelof tells EW about the ep:

    WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO DESMOND?
    In ”The Constant,” Desmond became ”unstuck in time” after flying through a thundercloud crackling with strange electricity. He experienced something like time travel, though not bodily time travel; instead, his consciousness shuttled between two different time periods, Island present 2004 and Desmond’s past 1996. But here’s the tricky twist: Desmond’s Island-present mind wasn’t the one doing the time traveling. When Desmond got hit with Island magic, his consciousness got knocked off-line and was replaced by his 1996 self. It was this older Desmond consciousness that toggled between present and past throughout the episode. Once Desmond ’96 completed the errand of getting Penny’s phone number so he could call her on Christmas Eve 2004, Desmond’s present-day mind came back online, but rebooted with the new memories created by his time-travel adventure. I know: tricky stuff. But I had the chance to run all this by Damon Lindelof — and he says this interpretation is correct.

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