Lost – ‘The Variable’ – 5.14

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A few weeks back, I confessed to my on again, off again relationship with Fringe – JJ Abrams other cool little sci-fi enterprise airing over on Fox. At the time I mentioned that I have been picking it up and dropping it several times over the season as everything about its pedigree hits me right where I tick, yet the execution leaves me cold.

Based on that true confession, one of our faithful readers, Carlos, implored me to give it another shot. That, coupled with the news that Old Spock is due to join the cast at the end of this season, compelled me to go for that 3rd time charm.

And guess what – I’m kinda’ digging it. At least, I’ve dug the last three episodes and am looking forward to next week’s preamble to the big finale airing on Tuesday May 12th. So Carlos, my hats off to you for prompting me to give this show another chance. I’ll be back next season for sure.

But enough about that – Let’s get Lost.

1.   Time flies even when you’re not having any fun. Once again we were dealt a two-week siesta and even though my head has been troubled with real-world concerns of late (don’t get too concerned – nothing health related – just the sort of job related calamity that finally visited me after targeting so many of my peers in the financial industry – I’m being cryptic because my name is all over this Blog and I really aim to separate business from pleasure.) Anyway, run on sentences be damned, these last two weeks flew by just as swiftly as it seems Daniel was able to trek across the Pacific from Ann Arbor, MI to tell Jack to get the hell off his rock.

2.   That was the final shot of Some Like it Hoth with Faraday emerging from the vessel in his spiffy new ebony DHARMA duds, reentering himself into the equation and setting up the Yin to the Yang or The Variable to The Constant, as it were.

3.   See, this episode acted as the flipside to the prior Daniel-Desmond outing, The Constant, where we first glommed onto the Lostverse notion of time travel – one that I’ve taken a shine to. It’s neat and clean in its premise that the individual may travel back and forth in time but they are always in their present regardless of the change in temporal scenery. Lost has toyed with this a bit and in this episode, Daniel came right out and admitted exactly what we have theorized – meaning chalk one up for The Ed Zone eggheads. More on Daniel’s revelations in a moment.

4.   The crux to this episode was the concept of destiny. We learned in Daniel’s opening flashback that he has both been promoted and denied opportunity as a result of his predetermined fate. And who is the co-architect of this Fate, none other than his creator, Eloise Hawking. In a stunning bit of casting, they found a woman who was a dead ringer for a mid-30’s Ellie. Anyway, in that early scene, Desmond is told to put down the “Chopsticks” and focus on String Theory. A transgression that seems to awaken an obsession in Daniel. If he can’t have time to focus on all of his interests, then he’ll make time.

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5.   While we’ve known the identity of Daniel’s Mom, the revelation that Daddy Warbucks Widemore was his Dad came as a bit of a surprise although I suppose it shouldn’t have. After all, we’ve now learned that Miles and Charlotte (2 of the 3 drafted to go to the island) were born on the island and in Miles case, was the spawn of key figures in the Lost mythos. It makes sense that Daniel is also a product of the island.

6.   Which got me to thinking. We know that at some point (my guess – after the upcoming Incident) that women are unable to give birth on the island. However, we know that wasn’t always the case as Miles, Daniel and Charlotte all appear to have lived their infant lives in Paradise. Of them, we know conclusively that Miles and Daniel are ‘special’ – exhibiting extraordinary intelligence or powers of perception. In the past, we’ve seen The Others take great interest in children – seeking to steal Aaron and Walt. Could their roots be tied to the island’s influence upon children? We know it heals but does it also awaken dormant abilities in people – at least, pre-Incident. And is this the crux to Charles Widemore’s obsession with regaining control of the island?

7.   On that point, there was an interesting detail that the camera lingered on for just a moment. When Charles Widemore came to visit an ailing Daniel, he brushed aside a copy of Wired magazine. Thanks to the magic of HD DVR, I froze the image and saw that it was “The Super Powers Issue – Invisibility, X Ray Vision and Time Travel – The Incredible Becomes Real”. Now, this could just be a little playful tip of the cap to Dan’s time travel obsession (who knows – maybe he was a guest writer for that issue) or it could be one of the creator’s famous foreshadowing. It helps that Widemore would make a mean Professor X.

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8.   In an episode that brilliantly tied back to several key scenes in Daniel’s past, we caught up with him at the exact moment we were first introduced to him – that compelling shot of the discovery of Flight 815 resting at the bottom of the Indian Ocean – pushing Daniel to inexplicable sadness. The scene was elaborated on with the aforementioned Widemore visit and in that scene we learned that Daniel is suffering from frequent memory loss. As Widemore confessed his most recent sins he acknowledged that it didn’t matter what he’d said as Daniel will have forgotten it all tomorrow. My take on this is that Daniel, having doomed his girlfriend Theresa to a perpetual time loop, had continued to experiment on himself to find the key to stop the record from skipping. And this constant experimentation was having an extremely detrimental effect on his mental capacity. And then Charles offered the hook. The island would correct him.

9.   And that appears to be Daniel’s life. While he continues to find a flaw in the maxim “Whatever Happened, Happened” he’s continually searching for the ‘Do Over. The episode underscored that by bringing the viewer back to the first scene of this season – with Daniel descending to the depths of the Swan station (in 1977) to confront Dr. Chang and warn him to evacuate the island. The reason, the Incident referenced in an earlier orientation video, which Daniel confirms was caused by Dharma drilling, according to plan. This release of electromagnetic energy will lead to a series of events that eventually crash Flight 815 and subsequently place the surviving passengers in a recurring time loop. But Daniel cottons to the notion that humans possess the ability to inject variables into equations commonly seen as Constant truths. That possessed with the knowledge of what has formerly happened, a human blessed with free will can make a choice to alter whatever happened.

10.   And that leads to Hitchcock’s famous statement. You don’t show a gun in a movie unless you intend for it to go off. Same goes for H-Bombs.

11.   Daniel’s big plan is to detonate that bomb – thus negating the effects of the electromagnetic energy and I assume, ultimately destroying the island.

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12.   Which brings the question to mind – did Ellie and Charles conspire to send their son to the island, knowing he would ultimately end up in a time loop to 1977 that would lead him to invade The Others camp and get shot by his Mom. In other words, what happened at the end of this episode, already happened. And if so, how? In other words, how is Daniel still drawing breath at any point previously seen knowing what we know of how this all works? Or does Ellie know that it didn’t happen before but is destined to happen? And if that’s the case, why? Does Daniel’s death and the delivery of his notebook into Jack’s hands, somehow press Jack into action, along his own course of destiny (call it the cosmic baton toss), with each one of them pawns in some master plan on behalf of the island? And if that is the case, who has foretold this? Jacob? A lot to chew on and for once, my brain hurts with this time travel stuff. What do you guys think?

13.   Random thoughts. I liked Sawyer’s nicknames for Daniel. HG Wells was a good one but Twitchy seems to roll off the tongue better.

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14.   Seeing as how I have been depriving myself of chocolate bars over the last few months, that scene with Daniel confronting a young Charlotte was uncomfortable even beyond the creepy framing of it. We know Daniel is a good guy but there was an eerie vibe to it. But, damn did I want that DHARMA chocolate bar. (Incidentally, I’m writing this a few moments before I eat my lunch so that may explain things).

15.   Those new DHARMA duds are cool. Suddenly Radzinsky and his flunkies look like they should be constructing the Death Star and not the Swan. Now all those Empire non-sequitors from the last episode are beginning to coalesce into something fairly intriguing.

16.   I’m not convinced that Desmond is out of the woods yet. Word on the street is that 2 deaths are coming before Season End. Daniel appears to be one. And I’m not liking Desmond’s odds. In fact, it seemed as if Ellie was concerned that things weren’t going according to plan when she came to visit him – although she did tell Desmond that the island is not done with him yet.

See you next week for Episode 5.15 – ‘Follow the Leader’.

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Comments now closed (9)

  • I can’t get past that Daniel may have died…Jessi and I had spent much of the day anticipating a DANIEL episode-then discussed the various moods of Daniel through the episode-only to be left in stunned silence…I will think about it tomorrow…

  • wow. what an episode. And the brain does hurt. This did a lot more with screwing around with time-lines and all of the old movies way….My take is more along the lines of “Or does Ellie know that it didn’t happen before but is destined to happen?” Daniel dying noe screws with all of his previous theories and actually angerred me. What does help; however, is Eloise’s statement: “…for the first time, I don’t know what will happen next.” Yes, I think she knew what she was sending him back to. Everyhting that has happened may or may not be “changeable” but I think she knew placing him there she would kill him, not necessarily that she has already killed him. Think more Quantum Leap, taking the time string and balling it up so that the strings overlap and intertwine, not Doc Brown on the chalkboard two line theory. Know what I mean??

    Thanks for the “thanks” on FRINGE- love it! I still say a great percentage of the greatness of the show is the comedy and relationship they all share but primarily with father and son. Peter’s translations for Walter and Walter’s delivery. And the episode this week opened with some Bauhaus “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” followed by some She Wants Revenge’s Tear You Apart!!! Here are some great quotes:
    “Ha ha! Finally, son; you’re opening your mind to new possibilities. But no, there are no vampires, sadly. But it’ll be something exciting, I’m sure.”

    “Benzyl alcohol. A colorless liquid used as a bacteriostatic in solution for injection, topically as a local anesthetic. Personally, I like to use it as a mouthwash.”

    “Do you really think it’s a good idea to let him have free rein in Walter’s Believe It or Not Emporium?”

    “A handheld thermal radiometer. It tells me if you’re hot.” “So…” “So you’re definitely hot. But…I’m looking for someone with syphilis.”
    So from Hoth, H-bombs, Hitchcock, time travel, Quantum Leap to Peter Murphy then syphilis. Where else can this happen!?!! 🙂

  • @Carlos – So I got to thinking about the whole Eloise sending Daniel to the island to get killed and I think you are right on the money. Her later line about not knowing what was going to happen next (for the first time) tips us off that she is privy to future information. So – she did indeed send Daniel there knowing she was going to eventually kill him. In fact, one wonders how long she has known this. That journal she gave him was inscripted with “Remember – I will always love you” and if you go further back, when she came in and saw Daniel playing piano, she was crying – almost as if she knew, even back then, what his and her destiny was. Could she have known back then that one day she was destined to kill him?

    So – it’s clear she’s known these things.

    I think the big mystery is – why? To what end is Daniel’s death required? Or, was he destined to blow the bomb and she was destined to stop him and the true variable in all of this is that Jack is going to try and pick up Daniel’s work. And is that meant to happen or does Jack deviate from the path. Arghh the mind boggles. Love this show and it’s brain melting powers.

    As for Fringe – great lines. Hopefully this show will stick around as I’ll need a new obsession when Lost departs next year.

  • Ed, not much to add here…like you not surprised that Widemore was Daniels father. Interesting theory on why Ellie would visit Desmond at the Hospital. I think as you wrote the the Island is not done with him yet. I think Elle did know that by sending him back in time that she was killing him. She exhibited this by slapping Charles when he said his relationship with her daugther was one of things he had to sacrifice… and she felt it was not as much as a sacrifice as she had made with Daniel. You wonder how much she and Charles do know of the future… Did Charles try to push Desmond away from Penny because he knew he would be linked to the island and therefore him?
    Where I am confused is why Daniel said he needs to push Dr. Chang to continue on his path? He seems to only make a half hearted attempt to convince him he is fromt the future and the incident is about to happen. Instead he seems to want to bypass it and use the bomb to counter affect what comes out of the drilling incident.

  • Wizard just had an article on their top 25 sci-fi television shows and this was the write-up for LOST, #6 overall, that I thought everyone would like to read, well said I think: “Fans should reconcile one important margin note: It was never about the island. Granted, a giant slice of dirt in the middle of the ocean that can disappear, summon smoke monsters and seemingly grant immortality makes for fascinating TV. But we’re invested because the show invests most of its time in building, brick by emotional brick, the stories of the men and women who contend with its mysteries and challenges, most of them haunted by demons long before they ever took step on Oceanic Flight 815. “Lost” is that rarest of TV success stories: The anthology, with a revolving door of personalities and narratives, all of it affixed to the fulcrum of their sedimentary prison. No one is safe, and no one quite knows what the rules are.” -Jake Rossen, Wizard Magazine #212. Rounding out the top five after Lost, 5- Battlestar Galactica (2004); 4- Buffy…(1997); 3- Star Trek: TNG; 2- The Twilight Zone (1959)(one of my favs) and Doctor Who (BBC 1963-89, 2005 – Present) at #1

  • I have to be honest that even I found myself very confused with the time travel stuff by the end of this one. Thinking back on Ellie’s line to Widemore about having to send him back to the island did make it seem like, in hindsight, she knew she was sending him to his death. Now, why, I don’t know. Only thing I came up with was that his death would be the impetus to get some people evacuated or at least set the wheels in motion for change. Based on the fire now under Jack’s ass, I think it worked.

    As far as Widemore being his daddy, I figured that was possible given he was sponsoring his research and there was an Ellie/Charles connection which became particularly highlighted by Richard when snapping about not answering to them when he took in Ben.

    All that said, hopefully his actions did also save Charlotte, although you can definitely see how she saw that man as creepy and weird.