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October 7, 2015

Lost: The Constant

by Erin Martell, posted Feb 29th 2008 6:45AM

Fisher Stevens

(S04E05) I love Desmond-centric episodes. I never fully understand them, but I love them. Confusing as they are, I believe that they are the key to understanding the island and its unique properties. This was the one of the few Lost episodes this season that didn't flash forward to the future of the Oceanic Six. We didn't get a shocking twist at the end, but we got a lot of new information to consider. It's a relief to know that this season's storytelling won't follow a strict formula. There are so many mysteries, relationships, and settings to explore now; variety is most welcome.

The Freighter

Daniel's coordinates guided Frank, Sayid, and Desmond right into a thunderstorm. Lightning crashed near the chopper, and suddenly Desmond had no idea who Sayid was or where they were going. He still had Penny's photo, though, and appeared to remember her. The sky was eerily clear as the chopper reached the freighter.

We got a closer look at some more of the freighter's passengers, one of whom shares Sayid's love of tank tops. At first, Keamy and Omar were upset that Frank brought some of the 815 survivors, but Desmond's behavior caught their attention. They hustled Desmond down to the ship's sick bay, where another patient was exhibiting the same symptoms. Remember when Regina said that Minkowski was "unavailable?" It turns out that he was bound to one of the beds in the sick bay. He took a long look at Desmond and asked if "it" was happening to him, too.

Sayid asked Frank why the chopper took off at dusk and somehow landed in mid-day; Frank had no decent answer. Frank was able to trade his satellite phone for Sayid's gun, though. As Sayid brought Jack up to speed, Desmond tried to get information out of a nearly catatonic George Minkowski. The ship's doctor entered, and George started shouting about how "it" will happen to all of them if they get close to the island again. After injecting George with something (a sedative?), the doctor focused on Desmond. He was very curious about what happened to Desmond during his flashes. This guy had a creepy Matthew Abaddon vibe to him, and I started to get nervous for Desmond.

Sayid stormed in just in time, and let Desmond speak to Daniel Faraday. Daniel told Desmond to find him at Oxford the next time he flashed to 1996. He gave Desmond a few details to pass on to his past self, which reminded me of the flux capacitor scene in Back to the Future. Once George Minkowski heard Desmond's name, he was interested in passing on some information as well. During his time as the ship's communications officer, George noted several incoming--and unanswered--calls from Penny Widmore.

After his 1996 meeting with Faraday, Desmond was determined to contact his constant, Penny. Unfortunately, someone (Ben's inside man) had sabotaged the communications equipment two days ago. Desmond saw that Minkowski had a nosebleed as they made their way up to the Radio Room. Sayid went to work fixing the equipment while George told Desmond about the source of his condition. He and another crew member, Brandon, took the ship's tender close to the island. They turned around once Brandon started behaving erratically, and the trip ultimately killed him. George started having a seizure and died after uttering the words "I can't get back."

After returning from his final trip to 1996, Desmond remembered Penny's phone number. He used the patched-up phone to call Penny, just as he promised. The couple had a beautiful, moving moment together. Penny told him that she knew about the island and had been searching for him for the last three years. The power source went dead, but Desmond and Penny were able to say that they loved one another. This contact cured Desmond (at least for the moment), who finally remembered Sayid.

Desmond's Flashes

Desmond's time-traveling flashes transported him back to his post-breakup military days. As he moved from past to present, we learned that Penny moved out of their flat and wasn't in contact with Desmond. He wanted to use his two days of leave to find Penny, but Daniel's instructions led him to Oxford instead. Back in 1996, Daniel Faraday was every bit the eccentric physicist that he is today. After Desmond proved that he was legit, Faraday led him to his secret lab.

The "Eloise" that future-Daniel mentioned was a white rat. Using Desmond's numbers, Daniel exposed Eloise to some sort of radioactive device. Desmond was concerned that Faraday wore a protective vest, but didn't cover his head. Once Eloise got zapped, she quickly made her way through a maze that Daniel had built. This thrilled Daniel, because he wasn't going to teach Eloise to run the maze until one hour later. Much like Desmond, Eloise was unstuck in time.

There was one major problem with jumping through time in this way. Daniel explained that each time Desmond's consciousness jumped it would be tougher for him to get back to his current time. When Desmond awoke from another catatonic state, he saw that Eloise had died, possibly from a brain aneurysm. The only way that Desmond could stop these side effects was to find an anchor, a "constant" that existed in both periods of time. He had to contact Penny. Desmond tried calling her, but the line was disconnected.

Since he couldn't reach Penny directly, Desmond contact Charles Widmore, Penny's father. Widmore was at an auction house, bidding on a highly sought-after item. Several scary-looking people were bidding on the journal of the Black Rock's first mate. Widmore made the winning bid, and celebrated by verbally abusing Desmond. He handed over Penny's new address after calling Desmond a coward.

At Penny's doorstep, Desmond pleaded for Penny's new phone number. He told her that he made a mistake, but that he knew things between them could not change. All he wanted was her phone number, which he promised not to use until December 24, 2004. She reluctantly gave him the number before throwing him out of her house.

Team Jack

Back on the island, Jack worried about the fate of the chopper, and Juliet noticed Charlotte's lack of concern. Daniel tried to reassure them that their friends were safe, but gave a disturbing reason why they hadn't heard from them. Because of the time differential, the chopper had actually been gone an entire day; their perception of time was distorted by the island. If Frank stuck to the coordinates, the chopper would return to the freighter without any problems. If he deviated from the route, there would be side effects.

After hearing back from Sayid and learning of Desmond's condition, Daniel admitted that exposure to high levels of radiation or electromagnetism could bring about this kind of "confusion." Desmond spent a great deal of time in the hatch, and was there when it imploded back in Season Two. That's a definite "yes" on the electromagnetism.

At the end of the episode, Daniel flipped through his journal and found a significant entry. He had written himself a note, which read "If anything goes wrong, Desmond Hume will be my constant." Did Daniel expect to have the same flashes that Desmond and Minkowski experienced? Was he already ill during the time of his flashback (remember, he had a "caretaker")? Plus, he didn't remember meeting Desmond in 1996. Perhaps coming to the island and meeting Desmond is the only way for Daniel to avoid Minkowski's fate.

Final remarks/questions:

This episode made me love Desmond and Penny's story even more. There's much more at stake with Desmond and Penny's relationship than with the romantic tension between Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Juliet. My heart won't break if none of those characters end up together. If Desmond and Penny don't reunite, I will be devastated. Also, I'm a bit disappointed that Fisher Stevens won't have a bigger part on the show in the future. I've always liked him, and I was looking forward to getting know his character. Oh well--he could always appear in someone's flashback!

We didn't catch up with Team Locke or with Miles, but I'm fine with that. In terms of the story, the freighter is a lot like the hatch. The ship must be explored in order for things to move forward. The hatch brought us Desmond, clues about DHARMA, and the answer to what caused the 815 crash. I'm confident that the freighter is another significant piece of the puzzle. At the very least, it will lead us to the identity of Ben's inside man.

  • Who is in command of the freighter? Neither Keamy, Omar, nor the doctor seemed to be in charge. Wouldn't the arrival of 815 survivors be of interest to the other freighter passengers? Is there a mission leader, or was Naomi the top dog?
  • Are Desmond's flashes over permanently? Will they recur if he tries to go back to the island? Does he need to stay in touch with Penny to stay alive? I have trouble believing that everything is cured by a simple phone call.
  • Daniel's experiment with Eloise reminded me of the playing card test in last week's episode. Was he testing himself in a similar way? Can he go back and forth in time? He told Jack that exposure to radiation could cause the "flashes," and he was exposing himself to radiation on a regular basis (his head, at least) in the past. The doctor on the freighter said that Daniel "couldn't even help himself." Are Faraday and Desmond in the same boat?
  • The auctioneer mentioned that the diary seller's name was Tobard Hanso. According to Lostpedia, Magnus Hanso was supposedly the captain of the Black Rock and is buried on the island (his name appears on the hatch's blast door map). His great-grandson is Alvar Hanso.
  • What did Widmore want with the Black Rock diary? Is he working with/against DHARMA or the Hanso Foundation?
  • "A time paradox--so uninspired." Were the writers poking fun at overly critical fans with this line?

Next week--Juliet mixes it up with Daniel and Charlotte. In the meantime, check out additional Lost coverage at AOL.

Are Desmond's "side effects" gone for good?
Sure--as long as he doesn't return to the island.229 (14.5%)
Yes--no matter what.259 (16.4%)
It's only temporary--he needs to stay in touch with his "constant."481 (30.4%)
No, he's not out of the woods yet.595 (37.7%)
Other (elaborate in comments).16 (1.0%)

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remember the finale in Season 2 - the two guys (portugese or something) One guy looked like jack. Does anyone remember if the 2nd guy looked like George Minkowski???? Am i nuts?

March 07 2008 at 2:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have a question for anyone still reading this thread:

When Desmond finally did make contact w/ Penny from the boat, the scene switched back and forth between Desmond on the boat talking to Penny, and Desmond on Cheyenne Walk (is that the name of Pennys' street?) walking away from Penny's house. At some point, both Desmonds get a look of completion/satisfaction/relief on his face.

Did the 1996 Desmond KNOW/FEEL at that moment that it was going to be ok?

AND, now that the constant is established, does this mean that Desmond can now keep going back & forth without risk of "short circuiting"?

March 07 2008 at 2:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

when desmond went back to 1996 didn't he change the future by talking to penny?

March 07 2008 at 1:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dan mcaleer

These were made prior to the constant, however i think for the first 3 season this video is really a job well done. Start from the top url


March 05 2008 at 8:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

oh my god, has anyone ever thought that maybe MICHAEL could be BEN'S MAN on the boat?!?!!?!
yes. everyone has. everyone who watches lost. everyone on the internet has.
and yet the past couple of episodes have had at least 5 people on various sites asking this question as if they are the first genius who thought of it.
sorry...just frustrating to keep reading it.
please just read around before you suggest obvious theories.

March 04 2008 at 4:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jeremy Davies actually played Charles Manson a couple of years ago in the the made-for-tv Heltor-Skeltor movie. awesome.

March 04 2008 at 4:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

um, yeah. no. that was crap. none of that will happen because the show would then be crap.

March 04 2008 at 4:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Did anyone else look on the ABC website before the season started? No one has commented on the diary of the Australia guy who was planning to propose to his long-term girlfriend who just happened to be the flight hostess on Flight 815. He was obsessed with finding out anything about the crash and was given an anonymous tip via his e-mail to hook up with the people on this freighter. He was sending his e-diary from a freighter and my guess is he is Ben's inside man and that Australian who is now an 'other' on the island is the fiancee he is looking for. Any opinions?

March 03 2008 at 9:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought the writers explained the time travel so well, that finally someone that normally finds it confusing understood it with no problem what so ever. Wow some of you need to start paying attention when you watch the episodes, it's not the writers fault at all that people are confused. Some of you just aren't listening to the dialogue and following the story. Faraday explained the concept, gave an example with the rat and Desmond lived out the whole concept and found his constant in the end. Sure Penny had seen him between 1996 and 2004 she saw him just before he left to sail around the world, that doesn't mean he couldn't tell her back in 1996 to make sure to answer the phone in 2004. The interim years don't play into this part of the story at all. It didn't matter if they had contact with each other before Christmas eve, the only thing that mattered was she answer the phoneon that day. Lucky for him she did.

March 03 2008 at 7:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ben Clark

I'm a little late to the comment thread (was out of town since Thursday, so I just watched it).

This episode so totally ripped off the last episode of Star Trek: TNG ("All Good Things..."). Same sort of time-warp/time-jump thing going on, with a similar paradox at play. More than just a tip of the hat, I think.

March 02 2008 at 11:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Ben Clark's comment

god, u guys r so into lost!!
im new here soooo...
you try to get thing out of every little thing!
i didnt realize people were so into lost
and u guys talk like professors...

March 03 2008 at 9:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If this entire series ends up being a "holodeck-gone-wrong" episode for ST:TNG -I'm going to put a sledge hammer through my TV! (j/k)

Thank heavens we did get some forwarding moving momentum on the storyline. I love the Desmond storyline.

March 04 2008 at 3:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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