Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lost - "The Constant"

Episode Title: “The Constant”

Brian's Deeper Meaning Guess: Buckle up, loyal viewers – this is going to get really complicated really fast.

This week’s Desmond-centric outing is curiously titled “the constant”, which should immediately give you nightmares of high school math and physics. For those who were sleeping through those classes in their youth, here’s a brief refresher (don’t worry, I didn’t actually remember most of this stuff either – that’s why God created Wikipedia, so that we can simply copy and paste large quantities of information into our Blogs to come across as being far smarter than we actually are):

Constants are real numbers or numerical values which are significantly interesting in some way. The term "constant" is used both for mathematical constants and for physical constants, but with quite different meanings. A mathematical constant is a quantity, usually a real number or a complex number, that arises naturally in mathematics and does not change. Unlike some physical constants, mathematical constants are defined independently of any physical measurement. A physical constant is a physical quantity that is generally believed to be both universal in nature and constant in time. It can be contrasted with a mathematical constant, which is a fixed numerical value but does not directly involve any physical measurement.


Basically, things like Pi, the speed of light, the Golden Ratio, gravity, etc. – things that don’t change no matter how you use them in some type of equation, and probably things you had to memorize back in school.

Initially, I thought this might be some reference to the “funky” properties of the Island (be it time or space). I became especially intrigued when I stumbled across this article from John D. Barrow in 2002:

"[An] important lesson we learn from the way that pure numbers like α define the world is what it really means for worlds to be different. The pure number we call the fine structure constant and denote by α is a combination of the electron charge, e, the speed of light, c, and Planck's constant, h. At first we might be tempted to think that a world in which the speed of light was slower would be a different world. But this would be a mistake. If c, h, and e were all changed so that the values they have in metric (or any other) units were different when we looked them up in our tables of physical constants, but the value of α remained the same, this new world would be observationally indistinguishable from our world. The only thing that counts in the definition of worlds are the values of the dimensionless constants of Nature. If all masses were doubled in value you cannot tell because all the pure numbers defined by the ratios of any pair of masses are unchanged."

I won’t pretend to understand all that, but the portions underlined above sure sound an awful lot like the nerd-science way of explaining that there could be funky time and space on the Island. “The Constant” could simply refer to some factor in the equation that explains all this (representing the Bubble). Heck, maybe it’s the equation that Daniel Faraday is writing on the chalkboard in the preview for the episode:


So is it as simple as that? Unfortunately not. When I first saw this episode title, and found that it was a Desmond-centric outing, I was immediately reminded of his Season Three trip-tastic episode “Flashes Before Your Eyes”, where he maybe went back in time, perhaps had a hallucinogenic out of body experience, or might have accidentally altered the future (let the record show that in my analysis of that episode, I came down on the side of “it was all a dream”).

But for the sake of argument, if you think about it, Desmond was the only one who had knowledge about the “past”, the “present”, and the “future” during that episode. He was reliving life events where he already had prior knowledge of what would happen, attempted to change fate, and ended up back on the Island where he started. With all the variables of space and time around him in the episode, he was the one constant – the one who was seemingly unaffected by the jump in time and space, retaining the same life experiences that he had prior to turning the Swan Hatch Failsafe Key, even though he was interacting with events that happened before he even knew what a Swan Hatch was.

I think Desmond is “The Constant”.

Whatever funky time or space is happening on the Island, Desmond somehow became immune to it through the Hatch Implosion – perhaps his proximity to the magnetic blast put his body on the same “wavelength” as the funky properties of the Island, which somehow gave him the ability to see the future and relive the past.

If this is the case, when Desmond, Sayid, and Frank break the Bubble in their journey to the Freighter, there may be some unintended side effects for Sayid and Frank, but not Desmond. Maybe they’ll instantly age two years, maybe they’ll forget the past, maybe they’ll all warp to somewhere courtesy of a “funky time” wormhole, leaving Desmond alone in the ocean.

Of course, there’s also the much, much, much simpler explanation for the episode title. If you look up the dictionary definition of the word “constant”, you receive the following three possibilities:

1. Marked by firm steadfast resolution or
2. Invariable, uniform
3. Continually occurring or recurring

Looking at the first and second definitions, one could get all sappy and say that “the Constant” in this episode is something like Desmond’s love for Penny and desire to return to her no matter what the cost. A little late for Valentine’s Day, but still a sweet thought (and much simpler than all this mathematical mumbo-jumbo).

The third option on the other hand, opens up an even more intriguing possibility – that Desmond is stuck in some sort of time loop, continually living the events that led him to the Island, his attempts to escape the Island, and the fate he encounters each time… death. Listen closely to the end of the episode preview, featuring Desmond saying “Tell me, am I going to die?” as he throws Faraday into a blackboard:

This would tie in nicely to the themes of fate (and attempting to change it) that Desmond found during “Flashes Before Your Eyes”.

Heck, maybe it’s a combination of all of the above – that’s the great thing about Lost and their episode titles after all, creating complex, multi-layered titles that probably less than 5% of the viewing audience ever even knows, let alone analyzes. We are the few, the proud, the obsessive.

ABC Description: Sayid and Desmond hit a bit of turbulence on the way to the freighter, which causes Desmond to experience some unexpected side effects. Guest starring are Jeremy Davies as Daniel Faraday, Rebecca Mader as Charlotte, Jeff Fahey as Frank Lapidus, Alan Dale as Charles Widmore, Sonya Walger as Penelope "Penny" Widmore, Graham McTavish as sergeant, Darren Keefe as Billy, Edward Conery as auctioneer, Marc Vann as doctor, Fisher Stevens as George Minkowski, Kevin Durand as Keamy and Anthony Azizi as Omar.

Episode Breakdown: The episode breakdown seems to confirm at least part of the deeper meaning guess above… ironically in a sort of backward sort of way. It seems that Desmond is the one who experiences the side effects of breaking the Bubble – not Sayid and Frank as I would have expected if Desmond really did have some type of wavelength-meld with the Island during the Hatch Implosion. But maybe it’s a situation where since everyone else is affected, Desmond is the one that looks like he’s crazy – when in reality it’s everyone else who actually is, and Desmond is totally normal.

The fact that “turbulence” is referenced makes sense given the episode preview also seemed to feature the helicopter flying directly into a storm. It seems as though there are these storm clouds encircling the Island, since it would seem to match up with Naomi’s story that when she was flying her helicopter, “the clouds suddenly parted and (she) saw land”. If there is only one way in and out of the Island and its Bubble, I’m guessing it’s where this parting of the clouds is.


Since I’m guessing this episode is going to feature the same type of puzzling “what the hell is going on?” flashes that we saw during “Flashes Before Your Eyes”, I’m not sure if we classify it as a flashback, a flashforward, or something else altogether – but depending on which it ends up being, the guest star list could get very interesting.

Widmores. It looks like both Charles and Penny Widmore show up this week. Since Penny seemed to confirm that she was not on “Not Penny’s Boat” (it’s not just a clever name), smart money is on her and daddy appearing in the flashes of the episode. However, let’s keep in mind that for weeks we’ve been saying that one of the most likely candidates to finance this potentially anti-Dharma expedition of the Freightors would be Charles Widmore, which would explain why Naomi had a picture of Desmond, the previously hinted at Widmore-Hanso relationship / friction, and provide enough wealth and power to make faking a plane crash at the bottom of the ocean possible…


If Charles Widmore ends up being on the Freighter, I think we can start assuming he’s the mastermind behind the antagonists, perhaps even being “The Economist” referenced two weeks back… but that’s a big if.

Freighter. If you’ve noticed, I’ve been writing this preview under the assumption that although the helicopter hits turbulence, it actually makes it to the Freighter, and doesn’t crash into the ocean, killing Sayid, Desmond, and Frank. While it’s easy to figure this out since we’ve seen Sayid in the flashforwardy future, there are a number of additional clues that back it up in the description and preview.

First, this scene of Sayid seems to feature an unhelicopterish railing, the kind that would make sense on some type of ship.


Second, in the preview clip there is a scene of two men breaking down a door. At first viewing, I thought it might be Others coming back to rescue Ben from his Locke-down, but if you look closely you’ll see that the door is different than the one in the basement of the Barracks (featuring a printed sign on the back and a light switch next to the door).


A quick Google Image search of the guest stars of the episode reveals that the two men breaking down the door are none other than the “Keamy” and “Omar” characters listed – which makes me think they are Freightors, and the scene takes place somewhere on the ship. But why would they be breaking down the door? Perhaps the ever-clever Sayid worked his way to some communications room and barricaded himself in?

Lastly, it looks like we will finally get the long-awaited debut of the mysterious Minkowski!

Minkowski. First things first – Minkowski is NOT Michael. It was a popular theory early in the season, but it turns out the character is actually played by that one jerk guy from the movie “Hackers”, Fisher Stevens:


I guess I’m making assumptions about the size of the ship and the amount of crew onboard, but it seems likely that “Ben’s man on the boat” has to be Keamy, Omar, Minkowski, or Regina (a character suspiciously absent from the episode description), unless only Minkowski and Regina are just really big fans of answering the satellite phone when it rings. Minkowski still seems the most likely candidate, with his recent inability to answer the phone being tied to being discovered as a mole on the Freighter… which might mean Sayid and Desmond are walking into a trap set by the now uber-suspicious Freightors.

Also curiously absent from the episode description? Miles. I’m guessing that after last week’s Team Island focus, this week will focus on Team Helicopter and Team Rescue (since Charlotte is listed). Isn’t it refreshing to have three fantastic storylines going on at once, compared to last season’s sometimes painful split stories in the early episodes? Lost is hitting on all cylinders, and I’m beyond excited for this episode.

…and with that, I think that’s all for this week. Be prepared for a Brian Episode Review featuring words like “brain-in-a-blender”, “mind-explosion”, “Desmond-tastic”, or “jigga-what” on Thursday night, because I have a feeling this is going to be an episode we’ll need to discuss.

Until then, happy Lost-ing!



Collin said...

Good write-up, bro. It'll definitely be an interesting episode this week; can't wait!

Unknown said...

What are the "enhanced" episodes? I don't actually have the patience to watch one over again to see if something's different, but I'm wondering all the same.

Rebecca said...

Great preview Brian - I'm looking forward to being confused after this epi also.

Salvar - The "enhanced" episodes are repeat of the previous episode but with bits of information at the bottom of the screen. Most of the information is background information you already know if you've been watching but sometimes they put little "easter eggs" like the name of the helicopter being Huey - not sure if it's important but they tell you. I usually watch the enhanced episodes online Friday because I'm in central time and my kids are still up at 7:00.

Anonymous said...

Good job B on analyzing that mumbo jumbo...i should hire you 2 sit in my mechanical engineering class 2 translate wat my professor says 2 me so i can take notes that make sense...watchu think of the idea of Charles Widmore hiring the freightors 2 get 2 the island and at the same time get rid of desmond, thus givin them a picture of him and penny so the freightors know who he is....

Anonymous said...

Brian mentioned Desmond's flashback last season was probably a dream....I thought the exec producers revealed or, strongly implied, in a pod-cast that it was time travel indeed.

Anonymous said...

Watching the preview again led me to remember a question I had the first time I saw it... is seeing Desmond's eye up close (like the eye at Jacob's cabin) significant? (Like anything in this show is NOT significant.) Are they implying the eye in the cabin is Desmond's? Or that he has the same ability as those who can "see" the cabin?

Secondly, are you SURE that's Desmond in the preview grabbing Faraday and tossing him against the blackboard? It doesn't look like him to me - that was one of the first things I noticed when I first saw the preview.

Just wonderin'...

Anonymous said...

@ katie: it IS Desmond, another sneak peek made that clear!

Good preview, as always, Brian! I can´t wait to see this ep, and it will be a Friday morning here in Germany...I´m counting the hours!

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering if Penny was talking to somebody via webcam on the boat, (maybe her dad, not realizing he was on a boat) and Charlie picked up her signal.

Anonymous said...

One the new Verizon phones, ABC has been putting up a clip of the forthcoming episode each Wednesday. Sort of like the Mobisodes, but they're actual clips from the show. Today's clip is called "Boat Sneak." I wanted to relay what's in the clip, but I thought I'd better check whether that would be considered too spoilery. It's released by ABC, so does it fall into the same category as the standard episode previews? Brian, let me know and I'll briefly summarize what the clip shows about Desmond.

Anonymous said...

holy crap,
I just saw the clip jennifer was talking about. Tomorrow's show is going to be amazing.

Brian said...

jennifer - Hmmm, I'm not sure if that would be a spoiler or not - are we talking about whole scenes from the episode? I'd prefer not to know about that.

What does everyone else think?

roundfour said...


i don't even watch or listen to abc commercials on the tv or the radio during the week. for one, abc manipulates our minds as to what to expect and it definitely gives away too much info in regards to actual scenes.

Anonymous said...

Hope: In the interview with Cuse and Lindelof that Brian referenced a couple of posts ago, they seem to have answered your question, about how Penny came to make that call.

From the article:
"LINDELOF: Here's how we always thought of that: What we always imagined was that Penny has an auto dialer in the bedroom of her house and in various places that is constantly sending some sort of transmission to the coordinates that were revealed at the end of season 2. So when Charlie turned off the dampening field, her auto caller indicated that her call could go through."

Locke better not be frying up a couple of constants for breakfast at the start of this episode.

Anonymous said...

Constants for breakfast... LOL

Maybe Desmond is Aaron's father?

Drudo said...

Brian, any plans to write up anything about the Lost game that was just released? Has anyone played it yet?

This is a little off-topic, but I can't get to the forum from work anymore. Sorry.

Tim said...

Just a thought...you made me think about how travelling on and off the island causes issues. Not sure if you have covered (just started reading your blog), but wouldn't that explain why the others preferred method of transport was submarine?

Anonymous said...

Jennifer, could you just give a link to it so we could all choose whether or not to watch? (I know it was on your phone, but maybe there's a link online?)

Otherwise, maybe you could post it but put SPOILER ALERT?

Anonymous said...

I'd probably better not post what was in the "Boat Sneak" clip I saw. Usually, the clip ABC puts up on Verizon doesn't reveal much, but just provides an intriguing little 45-second teaser to whet your appetite for the new episode. This one, however, *does* seem to reveal some things that I would say are material bits of information. Personally, I can't stand spoilers and I wouldn't want to be the cause of one here on the blog. So... if you do want to see it, ask around among your friends to find out who has one of the Verizon "Voyager" phones.

TheycallmeVic said...

I don't know if these are the ones from the Verizon thing or not, but you can find 3 clips here:

And another one here:

I shouldn't have to warn you that they're spoilers. I won't even watch them myself, but since some people are asking, there you go.

Anonymous said...

i dont know if anyone mentioned this, but couldn't miles be ben's guy on the boat? the entire 3.2 million dollars thing seemed wierd to me, maybe like miles was trying to tell ben something. and ben said that he had a guy on the boat before he knew miles was on the island. i dunno, thinkin about it, miles seems like a legit person to be the man on the boat...

Anonymous said...

hey Great One....Miles legit? it was established that he's a thief when he took the kids $ in the flashback.

Anonymous said...

by legit, i meant a person that could and should be considered a canidate to be bens man on the boat

Anonymous said...

This episode of the HotConflict radio show discusses the concepts that have developed over the seasons of LOST.