Brian's One Word Review: Art.
Truth be told, I'm having trouble putting into words how I feel immediately following that episode, but I know it was like a work of art. It was puzzling yet revealing, action packed yet quietly beautiful, and almost had me tearing up at the end. Easily the best episode thus far this season, it might just be one of the best episodes of Lost of all time. I loved this episode.
So where to begin with the stream-of-thought writing?
Penny. It's all slowly beginning to make sense - everything from Season Two's snowy finale to Penny appearing on the monitor in the Looking Glass at the close of Season Three. Factoring in last season's "Flashes Before Your Eyes", which should now be viewed as an extended "mind trip" like this episode, as a result of the exposure to high levels of electromagnetism - Desmond visited both Penny and Donovan prior to crashing on the Island, and provided them with enough information to find him. Clearly there are some holes to the story yet to be filled, but it seems that Penny began searching for him (knowing he was on an Island in the the Pacific), attempting to contact anyone who would listen for three years once he disappeared (which was the signal the Freighter kept picking up - and why when Charlie turned off the Looking Glass, she suddenly appeared)... and finally succeeded on Christmas Eve thanks to Sayid being like MacGyver. She was Desmond's constant - saving his life and preventing him from a mental breakdown. It was pretty much the most romantic episode of Lost ever.
Faraday. Likewise, through Desmond's mind trip, he gave Faraday the constant that he was looking for in order to regain his memory. Suddenly, everything about Faraday is starting to make sense as well. Last week's card memory game was a sign that he truly did lose his short term memory thanks to the electromagnetic exposure from his experiments back in the day - but the only question is, has he visited the Island before? This might explain why he knows so much about how this all works, and why he was crying when he saw the downed Oceanic Flight 815 earlier this season.
If you want to take it a step further, maybe he's not so innocent after all. Perhaps he wasn't looking out for Desmond's best interests by telling him to visit him in 1996 - but for his own. By sending Desmond to visit him, it created an anchor for him - something he would know in 1996 and something he would know in 2004... which is going to lead to Daniel Faraday becoming a much more intelligent (and dangerous) character on the show.
Time. So where does this lead us regarding funky time? Well, as Sayid mentioned - they left at dusk, and arrived on the Freighter in the middle of the day - which would coincide with the present time on the Island. Since Jack and Sayid, and Penny and Desmond were able to communicate together - the date and time must be consistent on the Island, on the Freighter, and in the Real World... but time is LOST traveling to and from the Island, when you pass through the Bubble.
Let the record show that the bearing Frank followed was 305... the bearing that Ben gave Michael was 325... did Ben intentionally send Michael in the wrong direction? Or is there some degree of standard deviation in the path through the Bubble?
Black Rock. With everything else going on, the fact that Charles Widmore just bought the Black Rock journal almost seems secondary... but it seems like yet another clue that he is either behind the Freightors, or picking up where Hanso left off with the Dharma Initiative and the Island. Who wants to bet that the reason the Freightors were told not to answer the calls they were getting from Penny was because Charles knew exactly why she was calling and what they might find? I'm thinking we're going to have Penny on Team Rescue and Widmore on either Team Island or Team Freightor - father vs. daughter!
Desmond. After the heartfelt telephone reunion with Penny, I was almost certain someone was going to bust into the room and kill Desmond. It's the Joss Whedon fan in me - when a character finds true happiness on TV, they die shortly thereafter. Keep Desmond at the top of your death watch list... even though this episode reminded us that he is currently the most important character on this show. However, we now have a reasonable explanation for his "Flashes" last season (mini mind trips), an explanation of what happened when the Swan Hatch imploded (lots of electromagnetism), and at least some closure to the Desmond / Penny storyline (he and Penny got to share their love via telephone). I'm afraid.
I'm sure there is so much more to talk about, but I need to digest for a bit. Full analysis sometime, if you guys don't cover it all in the Comments section for me!