Sunday, May 03, 2009

"The Variable" Analysis

This is a tough one.


This week’s Faraday-centric outing not only crammed a lot of story into one hour… but it was complex, time-travel-y story that raised a lot more questions than answers it provided. So as I start this Blog Post, I’m really not sure how it’s going to end up. I certainly don’t have any “good answers” to those questions right now – but maybe through typing it all out, we’ll get somewhere. Keep your fingers crossed.

Words. In thinking about the episode, I keep coming back to two lines of dialogue that somewhat summarize all the heavy stuff to discuss from “The Variable”:


MILES: Hey! Hey! Hey! Are you out of your mind? What are you doing?

FARADAY: I'm just making sure that your father does what he's supposed to do.

MILES: And what's that?

FARADAY: You'll see.


MS. HAWKING: I don't know. For the first time in a long time, I don't know what's going to happen next.


Both lines seem to indicate one very important central theme of the episode - that characters know – or knew - precisely what events were going to happen. Given the time-jumping nature of this season, initially this seems to make perfect sense… until you start to think about it.


Let’s start with Daniel Faraday. Ever since he first arrived on the Island, Faraday seemed to know a lot more than he was letting on. Last season, he knew about the “funky time” on the Island, the potential need for “Constants”, the potential danger of the Tempest Station, and about the Orchid. In a deleted scene from last season, Miles says that the Journal contains “crazy equations and research on the Dharma Initiative”. This week, Daniel took it one step further by seemingly knowing exactly what was going to happen before it happened, stating Chang was “right on time” when he showed up at the Orchid.


But where would this information come from? Let’s revisit our “Daniel Faraday Perspective Timeline” from the episode preview, adding a few important notes:


1970ish - Daniel Faraday is born to Eloise Hawking and Charles Widmore (somewhere)

1994 – Faraday graduates from Oxford and receives a BLANK JOURNAL from his mother; Widmore begins funding Faraday's research

1996 - Faraday meets Desmond, who provides him with settings for his experiment

September 2004 - Faraday cries when seeing the Oceanic 815 wreckage

December 2004 - Faraday arrives on-Island from the Freighter with a JOURNAL FULL OF DHARMA / ISLAND INFORMATION

1954 - Faraday meets Eloise and the Others, helps them deal with the Jughead

1974 - Faraday leaves the Island

1974-1977 - Faraday spends three years off-Island, working with Dharma

1977 - Faraday returns to the Island, attempts to change the past by preventing the Incident, and is killed by his mother, Eloise Hawking


The first question is – how did Faraday acquire so much information about Dharma and the Island between 1994 (when he first received the Journal) and 2004 (when he first arrived on the Island).


My hopes before the episode was that 1977 Faraday would “mail” his journal to 1994-2004 Faraday, complete with all the information he learned during his time with Dharma and on-Island. But seeing that he now has the journal back on-Island… and might be dead, that scenario seems less likely (since I can’t imagine any other character thinking about doing such a thing).



Unfortunately, there’s a pretty slim list of people and places that Faraday could have gained this information on his own between 1994 and 2004. Knowledge about the Island could come from anyone who had ever been there – but to also have the knowledge about the Dharma stations would seem like it would need to come from someone inside the Dharma Initiative – most of whom died well before 1994 in the Purge.


Once again, I’ll bring up this Pierre Chang video from this past summer:



Pierre Chang filmed the video in 1977 – and was sending it “roughly 30 years in the future”, which would be 2007 – but could be 2004ish. There could be a chance that Faraday was the person who received this video – along with perhaps some other information that is edited out of that video or sent in another one. Chang seems to be one of the few people inside Dharma who actually knows what is going on – and one of the few people who could provide this information for Faraday to jot down in his journal.


This would also provide an explanation to Faraday’s comment to Miles that he’s “making sure his father does what he is supposed to do”. Keep in mind that it sounds like Miles is the person filming the video and the pieces of the puzzle start to fall together. “You’ll see” Faraday tells Miles. He certainly will – when he’s a part of the making of the video.


It’s unlikely that Chang would be able to tell Faraday EVERYTHING he needs to know about the Island via some video – but he could direct him to the location of some Dharma records about the Island: old video from surveillance cameras, the documentation of the Dharma Scientists – from there, Faraday could pull out relevant pieces of information to include in his journal.

It’s a stretch, and there are definitely holes in the theory (how did he learn his mother was an Other if his intel came from Dharma? How did he learn about Desmond and the button if his intel came from 1977?) – but I can’t think of any other way that Faraday could acquire the information he seems to have.


But if this is the case, and Faraday did have a journal of “everything that happened on the Island”, that might explain why he would suddenly return to the Island after he saw the faxed picture of the Oceanic Six back in 1977. After having his mother tell him all his life about “destiny” and some variation of “whatever happened, happened”, he suddenly sees our Survivors in 1977 – something that perhaps wasn’t included in any of his notes and information about the Island. This might have given him the idea that it IS possible to change the past, and sets him on the mission to return to the Island and prevent Charlotte from dying… and our Survivors crashing on the Island in the first place by preventing the Incident (which really sets EVERYTHING in motion).


Unfortunately, it looks like mom was right all along.


Eloise Hawking. Let’s look at a timeline from Eloise Hawking’s Perspective:


1954 – Eloise meets her son but doesn’t know it, helps her deal with the Jughead

1977 – Eloise kills her son but doesn’t know it until it’s too late

1980ish – Eloise tells Faraday that he doesn’t have time for distractions like music

1994 – Eloise tells Faraday that he doesn’t have time for distractions like women

1996 – Eloise tells Desmond that he will end up on-Island pushing the button

2004 – Eloise convinces Faraday to go to the Island to “make her proud”

2008 – Eloise helps Ben and the Oceanic Six get back to the Island

2008 – Eloise apologizes to Penny and tells her that for the first time, she doesn’t know what is going to happen


Two major takeaways here:

  1. Eloise Hawking knew that she was going to eventually kill her son, but didn’t do anything to prevent it. In fact, she seemed to do the exact opposite - ensuring that Daniel stayed on the path that would result in his eventual death.
  2. Eloise Hawking knew all the events up until 2008, but that was the end of the line for her information.


Why 2008?


The logical explanation would be that Hawking received all her information from one of our Survivors in 1977 – who would know what happened all the way up until they went back to the Island in early 2008, but no farther (since they didn’t live it yet). This means that in the scenes to follow Faraday’s death (maybe) in 1977, either Kate, Jack, Hurley, or Sayid are going to sit down and tell her everything they know.


I must say, I’m a lot happier with this explanation for how Eloise knows so much than I am with how Faraday knew so much.


But the question is – when did Eloise suddenly become such a believer in “whatever happened, happened” that she would knowingly send her son to his death, as a necessary sacrifice for the Island? One would think that once our Survivors proved that Daniel was her son, her initial reaction would be to try and prevent it – and I think she did, at least for a while. I think the scene we saw of a tearful Ms. Hawking telling her young son that he needs to focus on science and math instead of music represented when she realized what needed to be done.


But where did this information come from? Who determined that it was necessary for Ms. Hawking to become the “gatekeeper” for the space-time continuum to ensure that everyone does everything that they are supposed to do? Why would this be necessary if you can’t change the universe anyways?


I can’t believe I’m going to say this – but it seems like the logical end to this line of questioning is that you can change the past.


Ugh. I can’t believe I went there.


But if you think about it, what if something happened – like Jack changing the past – and this caused some “Incident” to happen where they universe went wacky with course correction, resulting in all sorts of weird stuff happening (like our 1977 Survivors “skipping” back to 2008) – and upon witnessing it, the Others realized that in order to save the world, they would have to make sure that everything happened as it originally did – and there would be no other necessary “course corrections”. This would explain why Ms. Hawking would spend her life setting her son on the path to death (a necessary sacrifice), convince Desmond to end up on the Island, and generally convince everyone that “whatever happened, happened”, while still working so hard at ensuring things happen to prove that’s true.


I’m really not happy about this conclusion, but right now it’s the theory that makes the most sense. 

I still refuse to believe that when our 1977 Survivors change the past, it’s going to result in them magically skipping to 2004 with Oceanic 815 landing in Los Angeles as planned. Rather, I think there’s going to be a good dose of irony here as Jack’s actions to prevent the Incident are actually going to be the ones that lead to the Incident – and even though they might skip back to 2008, it’s going to be the same ol’ 2008 that Locke and the Ajira 316ers are living in. Nothing will change, people will not come back from the dead, and it’s not going to be all sunshine and puppies. This will give Jack his “reason” for needing to go back to 1977 (leaving Hurley as the only one whose purpose we don’t know – but smart money is on it dealing with the Numbers, right?).

Wait, maybe it's not that you can actually change the past - but if you get CLOSE to doing it, it causes one of these bad news universe course corrections which will be "The Incident" and send our Survivors back to 2008. I like that option better.


Daniel Faraday. The only major discussion point left is the fate of Daniel Faraday. Is he really dead? The storyline with Daniel and Eloise would lose a lot of “emotional punch” if he somehow survived – but it would also soften Eloise’s character a bit, since it would mean she only sent her son on a path to ALMOST DIE, not all the way die. Based on her reaction to Charles Widmore at the end of the episode and Faraday’s speech to Jack about “this is our present, any one of us can die”, I think his death sticks – which leaves only Miles and Frank as the surviving members of the Freighter. Why couldn’t Alpert carry him to the Temple to save him a la Young Ben? Is he too heavy? Did they already use their one “bring a guy back from the dead” card for the year? Or is it that Young Ben was just really sick – not actually dead – and the Island only heals people – doesn’t bring them back from the dead?


That last one seems like the most logical, so I’ll roll with that for now.


Wrap Up. Hmmm – that was a surprisingly short analysis for such a complicated episode – I guess because it really centered around two major themes, and there aren’t any easy answers for either of them. A few minor wrap up items and I’ll get you guys on your way:

  • It’s strange that Eloise Hawking is the same person who gave the “then God help us all” speech to Ben about needing to get EVERYONE back to the Island (which we were reminded of in the “previously on Lost” that started this week’s episode), when it’s clear she would know perfectly well who ended up back on the Island and who didn’t since she ran into them in 1977.
  • Most poignant line of the episode? Either Ms. Hawking telling Young Daniel “if only you could” when he says he can “make time” – or Faraday telling Young Charlotte that “I didn’t think I could change things – but maybe I can” – or Faraday asking his mother if going to the Island will make her proud of him. Poor Daniel Faraday. Right up there with Locke in terms of “guys who have been screwed over their whole life”.


  • Initially the inclusion of Penny and Desmond in this episode seemed a little out of place… unless it’s setting the stage for their return to the Island. Desmond told her “I’ll never leave you again”, which means that not only will Desmond be returning to the Island – but Penny will too.
  • I’m a little worried about Sawyer and Juliet. They’ve both had their “happy ending” living together in Dharma for three years (the Joss Whedon kiss of death), and their lines about “time to go” and “you still got my back”, coupled with the camera lingering a little longer on their sad acceptance that their happy lives were over makes me worry about their chances of making it back to 2008 alive. And that thought worries me more than any other character currently on the DeathWatch 2009 List.



Okay – that’s all for this episode. I’m not entirely in love with this analysis, so if you’ve got any better ideas, please let me know so I can pass them off as my own and continue to look smart in front of my peers and strangers on the Internet. Thanks!


Megan said...

A friend of mine pointed out that Juliet has been wearing a red shirt for a couple of episodes, red being something that apparently others had worked into their wardrobe right before thry died... does anyone else remember this? Is Juliet about to bite the dust? Say it ain't so!

mrs-tuttle said...

I'm a little worried. Simply, I'm not as sure as you are that the writters won't try to pull the "it never happened" card. I can see it a litte too clearly--A sad goodbye scene on the island, a few nervous breakdowns and then...Kate stepping off the plane... Jack, three people behind her never recognizing her... Locke being carried to his wheelchair... then maybe a small glint of recognition and a fade out. I don't know about you but I'm worried.

VictorC said...

Can't wait for Wednesday.

Geez said...

I've always felt that this season would be about course correction, i.e. that the wheel had to turn the island back in time in order for 'something' to be corrected (don't ask me what though).

Wouldn't have Daniel got all the DI knowlege from Charles Widmore (as did Keamy (Orchid) Naomi (dead people on the island))?

Eloise doesnt seem to me to have acquired knowlege more of a feeling or perception from being in tune with the island?

As to her 'god help us all' what about her if you don't push the button 'every one of us is dead' line to Desmond in S2? What's all this about? Ensuring the Swan gets plugged up to not let Jughead explode and therefore change the whole fabric of time and space???? (sorry getting Dr Who-ish there).

As to Juliet I figure she's got to stay in the past and age enough to be that lady in the painting in Ben's house.

Salvar said...

@mrs-tuttle: I would be worried about that if this were the last season. But they... well...
Actually, that ending is far too lame to end the series. But if they ended this season that way, then they might be able to turn it around into something awesome in one more season--and finally explain all the other mysterious stuff along the way.

Blaze said...

Do you think that Juliet could shoot herself (in the Ajira-boat-time-flash-chase?) or shoot her beau Sawyer?!?!?

jack said...

It has been mentioned by cast members (ie; Matthew Fox) in recent interviews that we're up for an epic cliffhanger of sorts this season that will likely upset many viewers given the long wait till next season.

C&L in many podcasts and interviews eluded that the writting would never take a direction of changing the present due to changes in the past resulting from actions taken by time-travelers.

singhy said...

Having rewatched the scene between Widmore and Faraday, and bearing in mind Widmore knows he is sending is son to certain death, a thought occurs. What if Widmore supplied Faraday with his journal before he leaves on the freighter? After all, Widmore was presumably around on the island when Faraday was shot.

Alternatively perhaps Widmore just gave Faraday the information verbally, either way, perhaps that's a credible explanation?

P.S. Nice also to get 100% confirmation that Widmore staged the fake 815 wreckage!

The Giant Foot said...

One thing I liked about this episode was the fact that Eloise was the bad parent, not Widmore. Granted, Widmore's not the greatest guy in the world, but I'm glad Lost finally opted for a messed up mom than another damaging father.

Bob said...

Any chance the Lost writers just turn the tables a bit on Miles gift to have him hearing Daniel from beyond and passing information to Chang so the video was really us hearing Daniel talking to Miles after death? Also, what if Daniel filled out his own journal in a Desmond style brain skipping incident in the times when he can't think straight around 2004.Maybe the Daniel that knocked on the hatch door was the skipping Daniel from 2004 finding his constant, Desmond.

Prachi said...

What if the journal that Eloise gives Faraday at graduation is the journal from 1977 after she has shot him? Faraday has the journal with him when he is shot, and upon being told she just shot her son, Eloise would likely search for proof. She proceeds to find the note from her "future" self to her son, and decides to hold on to it and gives it to him as a gift at his graduation.

Dave Harty said...

I think that Daniel, without a doubt, is trying to change the past. Whether it is for the good of the island or for Charlotte, he is trying. I also believe that he thinks he can do it.

His knowledge of where Chang would be at a precise time (taken from his book) makes me think that he has been there before and that he has been traveling in time intenionally.

Does anyone believe that one of the skipping survivors or O6 might bring his journal back to the future and somehow give it to him (or Widmore or Hawking) before he gets on the freightor?

Eric said...

I keep toying with the idea that the reason Eloise pushed Daniel so hard to study science was from the hope that he would figure out how to change the past ... she knew that if he didn't figure this out, then she would kill him. Then her saying that for the first time she doesn't know what is going to happen means she has some hope that having sent people back to the past, Daniel will realize that he can change things and manage to keep himself alive. My guess is that things can't be changed, and I hope the writers agree ...

jack said...

Eric - Eloise always knew Daniel's destiny. She indicated to Charles Whidmore about her scacrifice after slapping him.

Rocket Science Mom said...

I am just so sad after this episode. Ellie returns from killing Daniel, to find Daniel playing the piano. (I am presuming that the end of the episode happened right before the beginning in Ellie's time.) So, when she descends the staircase to the piano room, she has just learned her son's fate.

As a Mom, I don't think I could have *not* said something to prevent Daniel's fate. Island or no island.

I just wish people didn't die on this show, much as I love it. I just wish it could all end with happy rainbows and sunshine.:)

dj (David Jones) said...

I still don't understand why the island couldn't just heal Faraday. I mean, it took Ben and healed him when he was barely alive, sure.

But I don't buy Brian's argument about not being able to bring someone back from the dead. (See: John Locke)

So why don't the Others heal him? Especially since Ellie is basically second in command, right?

Either way, there is definitely a higher purpose, and I totally agree that nothing will change. No sunshine, no puppies, just a major death along the lines of Charlie to wrap up the year. Still though, I'll miss the show until next spring.

Dave said...

Wanted to bring up an important point:
When Eloise gives Daniel the journal, we don't see that it is blank, it only shows the first page. My theory is that young Eloise takes the journal off of dead Daniel, saves it for years until Dan graduates, gives him the completed journal, which inspires his time travel research. Of course, the problem with this theory is that it's cyclical (when did he actually write the stuff in it?), and it creates a bit of a never ending loop (he had the journal before going to island, wrote in it on island, traveled back in time, mom got it, gave it to him, he brought it to island, wrote in it more...). But I like it.

Seenu said...

While all signs point in that direction, I'm not entirely convinced that Juliet is on a deathlist just yet.

In "The Other Woman", there's the therapy scene with Juliet and Goodwin's wife where Juliet is told that she looks "just like her", referring to someone from Ben's past.

I'm willing to bet good money that the person from Ben's past is infact Juliet herself from 1977 or thereabouts. Since we haven't seen 1977-Ben having a crush on Juliet yet, it seems like there's still some character development yet to be done for both 1977-Ben and Juliet...

...but of course, I may be wrong. With LOST, I usually am :-)

V+ said...

Did anyone notice the conspicuous moment when the nurse said to penny soemthing like "leave your kid with the nurse she'll take care of him" and Penny went in to see Desmond? Does that not scream "KIDNAPPING IMMINENT?"

jack said...

Rocket Science Mom -- I think you're spot on! I would bet we'll get an Eloise flashback of sorts and it will pick up, on the timeline, her getting a revelation of Daniel's fate just before she sadly walks to him playing piano.

d said...

Has anybody seen the movie Primer? I wonder if the journal and his knowledge about what is happening to the minute is related to something that has almost all of it spelled out for him.

borg said...

Primer is an excellent movie. I had to watch a couple of times to understand it, but it was well worth it. It provides the best, most plausible, and most scientifically believable time travel scenario.

I wonder if the reason Daniel is not healed by the island is because he was trying to change the course of events, which is not in the island's interest. It seems that the people who were spared death, or were brought back from the dead had a purpose which benefited the island. In Daniel's case, his death benefited the island.

J-Bos! said...

I dont think the journal Ellie gave Faraday is a completed one or one that Ellie took off Faraday after shooting him (although that's the scenario I was guessing before this episode). The journal he gets is brand-spanking new and the one he has when he dies is well used and worn.

Steve said...

I'm dissapointed in myself. I almost feel like We are coming up with better story lines than the show itself.

I'll give two examples. When faraday made Desmond his constant... that seemed like a great foreshadowing of an event.. maybe this would explain desmond getting back on the island.. etc... but alas.. there was no such constant for faraday, unless you count his banging on the hatch during the time jump.

Second, the whole Ben forgetting how he got to the others. It seemed PERFECT for him to remember sayid, and say NOTHING about knowing im at the interogation. Knowing bens style, not saying anything, but knowing "ok, there's that guy who shot me".. and letting him torture me KNOWING that these actions would eventually lead to Sayid returning to the past to tell him as a child that he was right about being a born killer? Wow.. I mean, that's really powerful stuff.

But we didn't get any of these cool plots, and they even dropped the one that was right in their lap... and now they're exploring changing the past? I agree with Brian, I think by Faraday being shot, it shows that he ALWAYS came back to the island to try to change the future and failed, so jacks efforts to follow through on saving 815 from crashing can never happen as Jack would no longer have come on the island to come to the past to stop the event.

I'm guessing he has more to do with the failsafe being put in place.. and explaining what that is, but this may be my disapointment as well. Imagine Jugead as being an underground HBOMB explosion.

And lets not forget that if the hbomb IS in the temple, what kind of effect could that radiation leak have on the island? Maybe that's why jacob or the island is hurting? From radiation?

I'll stop now before I disapoint myself.

Eric said...

I think some of the confusion over being able to change the past can be eliminated if we consider the abstract concept of an "internally consistent timeline." The end result of this is basically the Slaughterhouse-5 theory of time travel, whatever happened, happened and it is the only way it could have happened.

Given the information that everyone had, they made the decision they did. The only way to change a decision would be to change the information they have and you can't do that without changing the past. It's like a big 3D jigsaw puzzle where each piece has to be put in at the same time or they won't fit together.

It's a hard concept to explain in words. Consider time as another dimension, and the dimension that we are experiencing events through. Everything already exists.

Thinking about this makes my own head hurt.

I did like the comment the person had about Eloise going back to talk to little Daniel about playing the piano right after she had killed him. That makes a lot of sense to me. I think she will get her knowledge of the future from talking to Daniel in the minutes before he dies and from reading his journal.

jack said...

Clearly, Farady's journal was shown to be very weathered. The one Eloise gave him is crisp, new and presumably blank with no entries other than the brief note she wrote him on the cover page.

The Reign of Ellen said...

This may be a dumb question, but... where exactly are Rose and Bernard?

Bea said...

We don't know much about what Daniel was up to during his "research" years between 1994 and 2004, but I have always assumed that he was studying time travel, and that his memory loss indicates that to some extent he succeeded. He may not have gone to the island, but he has shifted himself around in time, which would give him plenty of opportunities to run into people who could give him needed information about the island and even the exact timetable Dr. Chang followed on particular days. A lot of this information is buried in his subconscious, but it seems that when he returned to the island last week he had remembered/figured out enough to know what he has to do.