LOST Discussion Friday: The Constant
On tonight's episode, The Constant, we finally get to meet the untrustworthy freighter people. We also get a large dose of physics, and some time travel that is extremely confusing to update. I'm trying, but honestly, I'm not sure I can do it justice.
The Constant kicks off with the crew in the helicopter, who we didn't get to see at all last week. Lapidus is trying to follow the coordinates given to him by Faraday, although it gets more difficult by the second. They fly right into what looks to be a black storm cloud, and before we know it Desmond is flashing back to his time in the military.
He "wakes up" in his bunk dreaming of being on the helicopter and tells another soldier that he's never had a dream as vivid as this one. He believes the helicopter trip was a bad dream, so obviously he's time tripping again. When he flashes back to the copter, he has no idea who anyone is, how he got there, or how they know his name. He looks beyond scared.
Back on the beach, everyone is waiting for word from the chopper. Jack and Juliet are convinced that Charlotte knows more than she's letting on. Daniel explains that Jack's perception of the amount of time the helicopter has been gone may not match up with how long it's actually been gone. There's more time wackiness going on. Faraday warns that if that if the chopper flew off course there may be some "side effects." Charlotte is furious with Daniel for giving even the slightest hint that something is amiss vis a vis time. Daniel feels that "they" should know what might be going on.
Through the storm clouds flies the helicopter, and comes out the other side on a gorgeous blue sky. They can finally see the freighter and Lapidus lands it on the freighter. As they depart the copter, poor Desmond still has no clue what's going on and is completely disoriented and frightened. The freighter folks are immediately worried and angry that Lapidus brought some people from the island to the ship. As they stand on the ships deck, Desmond flashes back to boot camp and explains to one of the troops how he "left" during their morning exercise routine. His time jumps are getting more confusing than ever, but the crew recognizes what's going on and brings him down to sick bay. Desmond finds that he has a roommate, the ever mysterious Minkowski. Now we understand why he isn't answering the phones: he's tied up on the bed because he's time traveling as well.
Sayid wants to know what's wrong with Desmond, and he also wants to know how they managed to take off at dusk and land on the boat in the afternoon. So do I, for that matter. Sayid agrees to trade his gun for the strange ship to shore phone with Lapidus, who swears he's trying to help them. I think Lapidus might be very different than the rest of the freighter creeps. Sayid calls Jack back on the island, and Jack puts him on speaker. Sayid explains Desmond's strange behavior issue, and Faraday immediately asks if Desmond was exposed to a high amount of electromagnetism or radiation. Something like a giant hatch explosion, perhaps? Although both Jack and Juliet say "nope" we all know the truth, right? He says that some people can get a little bit "confused" when traveling to and from the island.
A doctor comes in to sick bay to give Minkowski a shot, which appears to be Haldol. Minkowski screams about how all of them are going to get sick the closer they get to the island. Could this be the same "sickness" that Danielle always talked about back in the day? While Minkoswki is passed out, the doctor wants to examine Desmond's eyes and check him over. Desmond is reluctant but eventually agrees. As the doctor shines the flashlight into his eyes, Desmond flashes back to boot camp again, and this time he sneaks into a phone booth to give Penny a call. He explains his confusion to her and says that he needs to see her, but she doesn't care since he broke up with her and ran off to the army. She's pretty mean to him, tells him that she's moved house, and says Goodbye. Poor Desmond.
Back on the island, Faraday asks to speak to Desmond. Sayid and Lapidus burst into the sick bay so Faraday can talk with Desmond on the phone. Faraday asks Desmond what year he thinks it is, and Desmond says it's 1996. He tells Desmond that when his next flash back to 1996 happens, he must to get on a train south and go to the Oxford University Physics Department to find him. Yep, past Desmond has to go track down '90s Faraday! I have no idea what's going on, but I kind of love it.
On the phone, Faraday gives Desmond a code that he can tell the 1996 version of Faraday so he'll believe that he's a time traveler. Desmond must tell 1966 Faraday (who wears a terrible wig) some coordinates, and sort of a password that he knows about "Eloise".
Faraday also mentions that, when traveling to the island, some people become "off" by a couple of hours and others by a number of years. Once back in the past, Desmond goes to find a shaggy haired Faraday at Oxford. He tells him that he's been to the future and slips him the code words, forcing a skeptical Faraday to believe his story. Faraday rushes Desmond into his office so he can figure out what's going on.
Back in Faraday's office, he starts doing a test that includes exposing a rat to prolonged radiation. The rat turns out to be Eloise. He also doesn't put any safety material on his head while doing this, so it's possible all that radiation caused him to forget those playing cards last week. After radiating the rat using the code given to him by Desmond, the rat runs through a maze perfectly. He wasn't going to teach the rat the maze for an hour, but somehow it already knew exactly what to do. It appears that Eloise had also had some sort of future flash.
Back on the freighter, the surly crew members lock Sayid in with Desmond and take the phone away. When Sayid calls Desmond by his name, Minkowski reveals his identity. He obviously knows Desmond's name and also tells the Losties that the freighter would occasionally get calls that they were forbidden to answer -- calls from Penelope Widmore.
Back in the Oxford office, Desmond has just returned from a 75 minute blackout to the future. However, to Desmond it only felt like five minutes. When he tells that to Daniel, Daniel starts writing a bunch of physics calculations on his chalkboard. While Desmond was "gone" Eloise has died from some kind of brain 'explosion' or overload, making Desmond worry that the same thing might happen to him. Faraday explains that the time jumps for the rat were taxing because she had no "Constant" -- no ties between both time streams. Desmond needs to find an Constant that exists in both the past and the future. He immediately knows that Penny is his tie to both realities.
In sickbay, Minkowski explains to Sayid and Desmond that the telecommunications equipment on the freighter has gone out, which he planned to fix before going mental. The door to sick bay has also popped open, presumably thanks to "a friend" that Desmond and Sayid have on the boat. Minkowski says he'll take Sayid and Desmond to the communications room where he used to work, and they take him up on the offer. They slip out the open door and go up one deck to the communications room, which has been vandalized with clipped wires everywhere. On the wall is a 2004 calendar that Desmond spots. He realizes that he's been traveling back and forth in time 8 years apart.
Back in the past, we find ourselves at a very pricey antique auction. The item up for bid is a painting of the Black Rock 3-masted clipper, and the auctioneer tells the story of it's shipwreck somewhere in Malaysia. Well, well all know where the Black Rock really is, don't we? The next item is the Black Rock diary, which is the only known surviving object from the shipwreck and is of great interest to collectors of marine antiquities.
Not surprisingly, Charles Widmore is participating in the private auction to buy the Black Rock diary. He is bidding against quite a few people, but in the end he procures the book for a handsome price. Desmond enters the private auction and tells him that he needs to have a word with Widmore. They go into the bathroom and Widmore takes a leak while Desmond tells him that he absolutely must get in touch with Penny. Widmore has some interesting hygiene issues and leaves the sink on sight before he writes down Penny's new address in London.
(An aside, one of my best friends in England, Margo, lives about 4 doors down on Cheyne Walk in Chelsea SW1. It is one VERY spiffy and exclusive neighborhood right by the Albert Bridge.)
On the freighter, Minkowski warns that another time jumper on the boat ended up dead due to the extreme mental stress. I guess having an anchor is pretty damn important for time travelers. Unfortunately the anchor-free Minkowski also keels over dead in the communications room, and Desmond knows that it's only a matter of time before the same thing happens to him unless he can contact Penny.
Desmond wakes up in the bathroom where he was talking to Mr. Widmore. The water is pouring out of the sink. Desmond knows that he has to go to see Penny in order to get her all important telephone number, and so goes to her apartment on Cheyne Walk. She explains that she's trying to make a clean break from him. She eventually lets him in where he bags and begs for the phone number. He tells her that he's going to need to give her a call in eight years, December 24, 2004. She thinks he's kind of nuts, but she relents and gives him her phone number anyway. Desmond commits it to memory and vows not to call her until eight years have passed.
Back on the freighter, our technology and communications wizard has fixed up a phone that Desmond can use to call Penny. Of course, the phone has a short battery life, but that doesn't stop Desmond. He still remembers Penny's phone number and dial the big orange phone. It rings and rings and finally Penny picks up, and both of them are shocked and elated to be talking to each other again. She says that she knows about the island and has been searching for him for the past three years. Their love story is one of the best things about this show, at least in my opinion. Penny says that she won't give up searching for him just as the battery in the phone goes dead. By this time, I'm sobbing. I love a good love story. And when Penny tells Desmond that she knows where the island is, my heart lept.
In the final scene of the episode which was quite short and definitely not a shocker, Daniel Faraday is flipping through his journal on the beach. He stops on a page that reads, "If anything goes wrong, Desmond Hume will be my Constant."
Is he a time traveler too? I have no idea, but I do know that this was one mind blowing hour of television.
"The Constant" was the most physics saturated episode yet, and not just for the ideas it will stimulate. Scattered across the various pages of Daniel's journal, not to mention his chalk boards at Oxford, were dozens of references to actual concepts. The question is, are there any answers there or is the equivalent of clever set dressing.
This episode left me with a lot of questions:
With the reintroduction of Penny and her despicable father with the terrible fake English accent, do you think Charles is responsible for the freighter and it's research?
It's apparent that time travel is a serious problem for anyone that leaves the Island, even when leaving by the correct bearings. But do only some people suffer from the type of time travel sickness that Minkowski and Desmond both had?
Is Desmond cured now that he has contacted his Constant?
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