Lost – ‘The Constant’ – 4.5

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Sometime I envy those people who have the will power to wait the season out and catch it all on DVD. After episodes like last night’s, the wait between installments can seem endless. It must be nice to just sit down and catch them all one after another. Alas, I lack that restraint.

That said, there’s also something to be said for being left hanging. When a show is this drenched in mystery and atmosphere, taking a spell to sift through it all and come up with our own theories about what’s really going on is part of the fun.

Readers of my regular post know that I am prone to offer my wild interpretations of the various mysteries before us. And last night’s episode offered up a veritable cornucopia of evidence to support my crackpot theories of time travel and altered dimensions. It appears, I may not be too far off course. I’ll get into that below.

Last note. I’ve been keeping everyone up to speed on the ever changing schedule that ABC has sketched to fill out this season. Now it appears as if we have it set in stone. ABC will air the first eight episodes straight (we just finished # 5 so we have 3 more weeks left). They’ll then take a one month hiatus and will be back in mid-April to air the remaining 5 episodes.

All right. On with the show.

1.   ‘The Constant’ is all about time-travel. Picking up the thread established in last season’s Dezzie ep, ‘Flashes Before Your Eyes’, this episode further explains Desmond’s post-meltdown precognitive abilities. It appears that blinding purple light and massive doses of electromagnetic energy has rendered Desmond a time traveler. In Flashes Before Your Eyes, we saw Desmond returning to pivotal moments in his life – with the subtle difference in the introduction of Miss Hawking, the kindly old jewelry store owner who busted through Desmond’s 4th Wall and explained to him that even though he was reliving past moments, he was powerless to change them – meaning he was pre-destined to arrive on Fantasy Island.

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2.   So it was established that Desmond had taken a trip through time. Last night was devoted to explaining how and why it works. And with all the various theories of time travel that pop-culture has ladled out (Terminator ‘Bubbles’, flying Delorians), I think this was the most simple and elegant. It’s not the person (the physical entity) that travels. It’s the consciousness – the soul. What this does is eliminate those pesky time paradoxes that always occur when you posit dropping a person from one time to a past moment. What happens if you run into yourself and how do you not remember running into yourself and how does that not drive you insane? Writers Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof come up with a clever end-around. Your conscious mind vacations in your own body – shutting your past consciousness down while you take control of your own shell. Nice and neat. No doppelgangers running around making a mockery of things. Just your past self temporarily in possession of future thoughts. And if you think about it, that’s a neat explanation for psychic behavior. If your future consciousness temporarily relocates to your past brain pan, once it departs it may leave behind wispy remnants of future thought – or ‘flashes before your eyes’ – also explaining déjà vu.

3.   Of course, in this episode we also learn that Desmond is not the only time bandit. We’re introduced to George Minkowski (Fisher Stevens) who frankly departed a lot sooner that I thought. Of course, his appearance was crucial as it demonstrated the stakes for Desmond. Minkowski verbalized what Faraday had cryptically warned Frank – that if you strayed off course on your approach to or from Lostralia, weird things could happen. Minkowski says that he and another crewman made an ill-fated approach to the island and got their brains fried as a result. Without a Constant, Minkowski was pinballing back and forth through past and present selves and his brain was melting down – much like poor Eloise the rat. So, the stakes were clear for Desmond. He needed a Constant.

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4.   This led to his search for his true love Penelope which brought back her evil Dad, Charles Widemore. And that brings up another theory we’ve been tossing around on this site. Widemore has greater stakes in this island than has been revealed to date. If you notice, the item he was bidding on (and won) was a painting of The Black Rock and its accompanying ship’s log. As we know, the Black Rock is currently landlocked on the island. How the log made it to the mainland is unclear but its obvious why Widemore wants it. That document must contain clues to the whereabouts of the island. Also, of note, the auctioneer mentions that the ship was commissioned by Alto Hanso. From The Swan orientation tapes, we know the Dharma Initiative was kicked off by Alvar Hanso (my guess, a descendant of Alto).

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5.   We also learn that Penny has been calling the freighter even though Charlie warned that it is not her boat. When Penny makes an appearance later in the episode she says “I know about the island” which we know she knows because she had those guys in that Antarctica research station looking for the island, as revealed in the Season 2 Finale.

6.   So here’s my theory. It’s not her boat, it’s her Dad’s. Penny is hunting for Desmond. Charles Widemore is hunting for the island. I think Charles Widemore is a rival of the Hanso Foundation – that Dharma was charged with exploring and protecting the island (making Ben a ‘shades of grey’ good guy) and Widemore’s group is looking to find and exploit it (making him the true villain.)

7.   Of course, in order to prevent Desmond from suffering a similar fate as Minkowski and Eloise, he had to locate his Constant, Penny. I was most impressed that during an episode so heavy on the heady sci-fi stuff, that we got a genuinely touching romantic moment between Penny and Desmond as he reached out across time and space to connect with her on Christmas Eve 2004 – as promised. With mere moments to spare, the two echoed their proclamations of love. Through it all, this show follows that constant of Desmond’s real-world desire to be reunited with his fair Penelope – to complete his Odyssey. It was a nice moment in a series brimming with them.

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8.   Add Daniel to the time warp trio. The closing moments show Daniel referring to his journal – where he found the passage – “If anything goes wrong, Desmond Hume will be MY constant.” This nicely ties everything together. Obviously Dan would experiment on himself leaving him with the need for a Constant. He knows he runs into Desmond at Oxford and in his trips he appears to be heading to the future – meaning he knows he’s been to the island before. This ties two prior scenes together. The sequence where Charlotte was quizzing Dan about which cards he remembers and the first time we met the characters, when he was crying at the site of Oceanic Flight 815 yet couldn’t explain why. Like Minkowski, he had knowledge in his head that his present self couldn’t fully process.

9.   So what does all this mean and how does it tie to the Dharma Initiative – who we theorized are experimenting with either teleportation or time travel or both (the Tunisian polar bear). What if Dharma glimpsed the future and are now working overtime to insure that certain events either occur or don’t occur. This harkens back to Ben’s proclamation that “We’re the Good Guys”. Maybe he’s right. Maybe he’s charged with preventing some future calamity as a result of knowledge gleaned in their travels.

What do y’all think?

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[tv 5.0]

Comments now closed (24)

  • Ed, I knew you would have something for me to look at during lunch! Thanks for putting it out there. I too thought this was a very interesting way to present us with time travel. The Terminator movies always bothered me in the way the future and the past intersected. John Connor sends his father back in time so save his mother and concieve him? I just didn’t totally buy into it. This way they don’t physically move, just their consciences move. This does explain Desmonds earlier travel and also Daniel as a person. As he is referred to as a basketcase and the doctor on the boat also made a comment that he could not help himself.

    As for the auction and the blackrock manifest. I thought they had said that it was discovered 25 years after the crash by Hanso, but I can’t remember if they said when. I think that there have always been undertones of Charles Widemore being a nefarious character. You wonder if he has expereinced some type of time travel himself and that is why dislikes Desmond. He knows that Desmond somehow ruins something for him in the future. As for Penny I am not sure she was calling directly to boat but to that whole region looking to contact the island. We saw once the jamming device was deactivaed by Charlie that her signal came through. I think the boat was picking it up as well that is why they had Minkowski not to answer as her father is trying to prevent her from finding Desmond.

    I hope Desmond is around to the end as I have always enjoyed his character from the time he was introduced.

  • I haven’t had much time to really think about everything in your post…I just have one question for now. Has it really only been 100 or so days? I was thinking that the time on the island wasn’t the same as in the ‘real world’ but now with Desmond calling Penny on 12/24/04, does that theory go out the window?

  • @Stacy – I think the island time and the real world time are on the same time line but in traveling to the island that’s where you can get lost in time. Like the thunderheads that those guys went through. So the 100 days makes sense for all involved – meaning Locke is probably killing another chicken for Christmas Dinner even as we speak.

  • hi! I’m a first time poster, and I was told about your site through Mrs. Marsha Humphries whom I work with. Please forgive me ahead of time if I repeat some of the theories already talked about, I haven’t gotten to read through all the posts yet.

    So all of your point are fantastic. I didn’t even connect the boat to Penny’s Dad, or the whole Hanso/Dharma thing! So thank you! I agree with the comments about how well the episode dealt with time travel. I can wrap my head around the whole, conscienceness moving through time better than actual bodies.

    Now to get to the island they must be on a set course, but I wonder does that apply to coming in from under water as well? During the Juliette episode in season 2, you see she arrives by submarine. And I don’t remember, but during the Ben episode last season how do his father and Ben arrive? By boat? By submarine? Or by plane? And how do all these Dharma workers get to the island without their brain’s being fried like Desmonds???

    Another point, I’m not sure what season, but I think it was season 2, Michael and Walt leave the island on a boat. If they don’t leave on the correct bearings do they ever get off the island? And earlier this season, when Ben says he’s got someone on “their” boat… could it be Michael???????

  • I don’t have a ton of thoughts on this one since it blew my mind a little, but there goes nothing…

    First, I think the journal entry was “If anything goes wrong, Desmond Hume is MY constant.” But, then, maybe like my hearing, my eyes are going. I think you are dead on with Daniel though. I think he’s time jumping too due to the radiation from the experiments and it does help explain the card thing and what he wrote in his journal. I should have “boned up on Dick.”

    Okay, loved the concept of the conscience (or soul) doing the time jumping. I think it is a lot cleaner than physical time travel, so that’s good, but it seemed like Past Desmond remembered pretty much everything Future Desmond experienced during the jumps. Couldn’t that still lead to paradoxes? Suppose Past Desmond then avoided going to islands? Still not totally clean if he remembers things.

    As for the Black Rock journal, I didn’t know Hanso first names, so my assumption was the Hanso responsible for Dharma was the one that recovered it and I sorta glossed over the timeframe since I thought maybe I didn’t correctly hear that it was recovered so soon after the ship went missing. Anyway, in that line of thinking, I believed it was found on the island when Dharma was setting up shop and the backstory was simply a lie. But now, what if Hanso physically time traveled back in time with the journal so that it was recovered so soon after the ship was lost? I’m sure it will be more like what Ed has there…

    I nearly cried during Desmond and Penny’s Christmas Eve call. It was that touching and seemingly real. What can I say? I’m a crier in my old age.

    I think time is moving faster on the island. This makes more sense to me due to the test rocket taking seemingly so long to get there and also with the Losties waiting a full day for the call from Sayid, but Sayid not feeling it was that long. Also, his comment about not realizing Christmas was so close seemed to be another clue, but then, wouldn’t he know exactly how many days they have been “lost” and done the correct math? Am I off?

    I did read thru the EW article you pimped in the last post. Notice how I brought Michael back into the fold before that issue dropped? That was my own thing… anyway, it is telling the featured his picture. Based on the preview text for the next episode, I think it will be Michael or Walt that compels Juliet to act against Daniel and Charlotte. It would actually make more sense for Giant Walt to appear to her than Michael, but we’ll see. Of course if it is Mike and not Walt, that blows my “Michael is Ben’s guy on the boat” theory, that new commenter Sara holds as well. Also, it could be Jacob, or maybe Richard (if not filming Cane at the time and who C&C referenced in EW).

    Finally, I’m with Chris in hoping Desmond’s head doesn’t pop anytime soon. He’s definitely been one of my favorite characters ever since he first appeared.

    I guess I had more thoughts than I thought…

  • @Sara – I think Ben and his Dad came via submarine as well. I remember in the Juliet episode, she was ‘drugged’ at her interview. That guy Richard even told her he slipped something in her drink as the ride to the island can be ‘bumpy’. The next time she came to, she was on the island. So maybe that’s the deal with the sub – you can’t be conscious when you’re heading in. He’s a ‘native’ to the island so maybe he’s not affected. I thought that Ben and his Dad came on the sub but I can’t remember. Man, why’d I go and delete those eps???

    On the episode when Michael and Walt left, I remember Ben told Michael to “follow these coordinates exactly and you’ll leave the island.” So I think he had the correct bearings. I think if you don’t follow them exactly you either can’t leave or you have a hard time doing so – which is why Desmond couldn’t leave the island when he was on that sailboat a couple of years back.

    BTW Welcome aboard!!!

  • Oh – and Faraday said you had to be exposed to high levels of radiation or electromagnetic energy in order to be really impacted by the island effects. We know Faraday was and Desmond was in the hatch explosion. I assume Locke could also be affected if he tried to leave, too.

  • @Sean – I think you are right with the journal entry. In fact, I know you are right as I have the pic to prove it and have posted it on the post above.

    I’m not sure we actually saw Past Desmond remembering things future Desmond did. Think of their brains swapping places. When we saw past Desmond talking about the island, that’s because at that time the future brain was in the past Desmond’s body (and vice versa). Then when he flipped back, they were in their rightful places – so I don’t think we ever saw evidence of past Desmond operating with his past brain. If that makes sense. Arghhhh, it makes your head spin sometimes. I bet The Golden Girls was never this complicated.

    As for Sayid and Christmas, I just don’t think they are keeping actual track of the days since they crashed (what with The Others trying to kill them and all).

    @Sean/Sara – I think Michael is the saboteur on the boat. We know he’s in the cast this season and we know Ben has a spy. It sort of fits.

  • “Kate we have to go back”

    A shot in the dark, but what if they don’t physically have to go back to the island, they just have to do this crazy time travel consciousness thing that is going on. But would it work because they would be each others constant?

    Also how about this constant thing, does the constant give them the ability to go back and forth at will?

    THIS IS INSANE!

  • @Sara – I think I’m gonna’ have to watch Donnie Darko again. That ought to confuse me enough that all types of time travel will make sense to me.

    That said, I think your interpretation of “We Have to Go Back” might be on to something!!!

  • I think they do come in via sub, but only from the Looking Glass station… because they teleport into there. I’m holding onto that one.

    I think the idea of the constant is to anchor their minds back in the correct times… if I understood Daniel correctly. You see Future Present Desmond (I should have said Present Desmond before as he’s the island version) get back to normal after the phone call with Penny. It stopped his time jumping. I don’t think it allows them to jump at will, but I guess we’ll see.

    I like the idea that when they time jump, they swap consciousness/souls, but then, why does the other version pass out/go catatonic? I think it just jumps out and eventually comes back. And, Past Desmond does remember things from his time jumps, but maybe it is short term. Yeah… my head is starting to spin… but, during the whole episode, Present Desmond was nowhere to be found except at the end. His conscious was gone while Past Desmond was jumping around. Now… Past Desmond didn’t pick up knowledge from Present Desmond at all since his conscious didn’t have access to Present’s memories, however, he did remember his own memories in Present’s body.

    I’m starting to rethink my Michael as saboteur thinking… if the freighter picked him up in the small boat, then why would they trust him or allow him to roam free and sabotage the equipment? He could have gotten to Fiji and then become a crew member, but how would he have known to do that? As for the bearing, it was the same. I remember Ben telling him 310 degrees and that was what Lapidus was following in the helicopter. That’s the safe corridor out and I think if you wander outside it, you are exposed to radiation or electromagnetic energy, which was what caused Fisher Stevens to start jumping and his tender boat cruising buddy to die (I think he just plain died instead of started jumping and then died). But, yes, it would seem likely that Locke would experience the same kind of thing Desmond has if he leaves thru the corridor, but then, maybe he will sooner too, like Desmond did last year.

  • @Sean – I like your Looking Glass theory. The title of that episode “Through the Looking Glass” just holds so much potential. It’s the subtitle to Alice in Wonderland and as we know, Alice went Through the Looking Glass to Bizarro World – similar to our own Fantasy Island here.

    Anyway, all this conjecture has led me to come up with an idea for a future post/series. Once we hit the hiatus between the first eight and the back five, I was thinking of running a series where we lay out all the mysteries, what we know so far, what remains unexplained and what our theories are. You know – the numbers. Jacob’s ‘Love’ Shack. This time travel stuff. The 4 Toed statue. Everything. Maybe do 5 a day or something like that. It could serve as an unofficial compendium and we update it as the answers come in.

    What do you think?

  • 5 a day? You must have a lot of theories!

    I like the idea though. I’m down.

    I was just looking thru my Media Center guide and noticed that the next episode is titled “The Other Woman” so I have a new thought on who goes to Juliet. I think it is that woman they called “The Sheriff.” The one that tried Juliet while Ben was out of commission.

  • “5 a Day!!!” Not theories – mysteries. What I want to do is feature a topic – for example:

    1. The Numbers
    2. The 4 Toed Statue
    3. The Swan
    4. The Looking Glass
    5. The Smoke Monster
    6. Jacob
    Etc…

    Basically make a master list of all the varied elements and then discuss what we know, what we don’t and fill in the blanks with our theories. 5 a day might be a tall order (maybe 3) and I’ll probably run it every other day or maybe once a week. Just something to fill in the hiatus.

  • It will be spring by then and baseball will fill the airwaves!

    And isn’t anyone worried that Doc Brown’s Space/Time Continuem Theory is being debunked!!

  • I love listing all the theories that are unanswered! At least then someone will have made a collective list to keep track of.

    suggestion: perhaps post 3 a week, on Thursdays when lost would have been on??

  • Any chance that Walt is the one on the boat? Matt and I have been rewatching season 1 and we have been reminded that Walt didn’t really want to get off the island…remember how he set the first raft on fire? Could he be working with Ben?

    If this has been brought up before, I apologize. I can’t keep track.

  • Hi all. I like idea of having the all mysteries listed out. I think they introduce some and you just kind of forget about them because they don’t get mentioned for so long. Like the “Smoke Monster” for instance, it hadn’t been seen or mentioned since it killed Mr. Eko (who I miss by the way) until Locke just threw it out there at Ben a couple of episodes back.

    Also, I wonder what’s going on with the “Others”. Wouldn’t they get anxious when Ben and the rest of kidnapping party never came back from the beach and radio tower respectively? If they were going to kidnap the pregnant women and bring them back they would have had to have been prepared for that, especially since they were camping out and not in their houses. I must admit that is the one frustrating thing about the show is how they long periods in between some of these things. That and the fact that a lot of characters don’t talk about their experiences enough. It just seems that if the survivors knew what each one had experienced individually (Locke and Rose being healed) they might better understand what is going on.

    Juliette arrived by sub. I remember her coming to and climbing out of the sub onto the dock. Seems as though Ben and his dad also arrived on the dock, so I would assume they also came by sub with the others workers.

    Not sure who the spy is on the boat but whoever it is seems to be helping them out. How else would the door magically open after it had been locked allowing them to get up to the communications room.

    Last thing. I watched the re-run episode from last week this Thursday and one line that stood out was when Miles was negotiating with Ben and was told how do you know I have access to that type of Money. He responded with something along the lines of don’t treat me like you I am one of these people. I know who you are and what you can do. That “what you can do” really stood out to me. Also what was strange was his desire for cash. I think $3.2 would be pretty bulky. How would he get that $ off the island, onto the freighter and then off the freighter? Who knows! I personally don’t think Miles is getting off the island.

  • @Stacy – More likely Ben – simply because of the age with Walt. Although I think Walt’s psychic abilities are coming into play (as in the visitation Locke had when he was in that body pit). Later in the first season, Walt came across The Hatch (before it was opened). When Michael told Walt they could stay on the island if Walt really wanted, Walt replied, very ominously, “No – we have to go.” So I think he foresaw some bad events coming.

    @Chris – Agreed on them not sharing everything although some of that is for dramatic effect – plus who knows what they tell each other when we’re not looking. As for the delay in resolving some things, we’ve got to remember, they’ve only been on the island for 100 days or so. Some of these eps span a day or two at the most so I think that’s the reason. We may have been watching for a few years but they’ve been there just a fraction. Good to know Jack will get to see the Sox 2nd World Series win for his own eyes when time finally catches up.

    All right. So that cinches it. We have a plan for the hiatus. All you frequent contributors make sure to add your two cents in when I start running the series. Again, I’ll begin when the hiatus kicks in later in March.

    And Chris – Get yourself a Gravatar. May I suggest a Pink Gorilla and you can start calling yourself Gunga.

    Better yet – If you want to send me your e-mail address of choice, I’ll set ya’ up myself. That goes for anyone else.

  • As for my Gravatar. It’s the TriForce symbol from The Legend of Zelda. My Favorite Video Game Series of All Time. Yes, I am 35, Married with Two Kids. Yes I am a big f’n nerd!!!

    I’ll never grow up.

  • Ed, as for Jack seeing the Sox win in 2007 you assume that he does not try to pitch himself off a bridge again. It’s hard to say how far into the future the flash-forwards go. Hopefully he can forgive himself and move on with his life. Although if he a Pat fan he may go back to that bridge on Feb. 3rd 2008!

    I did see the link to pick a gravatar and have not had a chance to check it out. I think of it as a personal item so I would prefer to handle the choice myself, so I don’t get stuck with a pink “Gunga”. Speaking of … do you realize that was 10 years ago this July? Yes, 40 is indeed the new 30! Although I hope not to have a guy in a gorilla costume show up at my desk as he did 10 years and ago on the hottest day of the year a few after a bypass surgery or what ever it was. I thought he was going to keel over.

    One other thing Sean/Ed, when I go enter my comments the comments box seems to be shifted to the left so I cannot see the first few characters I type. This happened at home and at work so I don’t think it a computer issue. I am getting around it by typing it up on word and then cutting and pasting. This way I can spell check too. It funny though, once my comment is out there I can read it, and everyone else’s comments as well. But I can see a green line that seems to indicate where the margin should be and there are characters to the left of that line. Again, not sure if it is site issue or a user issue.

  • @Chris: What browser are you using? I have tested on IE7 (XP and Vista), Firefox (2 and 3 beta) and Safari (Vista) and don’t have any issues. If you are using IE6, then I’ll have to test that at home, but then I’ll also ask why you (at home) and your company haven’t upgraded to a better, more secure browser… 😉

    In any case, it is important that you tell me what browser and especially what version so that I can try to replicate it. Thanks!

    (This just turned into real software development… ick!)