Wednesday, November 25, 2009

4.05 The Constant

Follow along! The episode guide for “The Constant” is in Finding Lost — Season 4, pp. 60-69.

Oh this episode is glorious. GLORIOUS. One of the best hours of television ever. I cannot say enough about my love for this episode… THIS is the one that really changed everything for Lost. Before this, time travel was just a distant myth: now it was a reality. Before this, Desmond just seemed like a side character who was very nice to look at, but now he took on extreme importance in the overall scheme of things. From Daniel Faraday’s crazy Oxford experiments to his journal to Widmore buying the Black Rock ledger, this episode had hints of so much that was to come in the next two seasons.

Fun things I noticed:
• Argh, I totally missed this one in my numbers round-up in my book, but just as the soldiers are doing crunches and the sergeant asks Desmond if he has anything to share, the other guy counting the crunches counts, “fifteen… sixteen” and then Desmond flashes away. Interestingly, when they flash back, the guy is on 21, so he was gone for about 5 seconds even though a lot of time lapses in 2004.
• It’s so crazy that Daniel has this page in his journal:

Crazy because I’ve had that EXACT note in my journal since season 2!!! ;)

Things that have new meaning:
• The first sighting of Daniel’s journal. That book will lead to Desmond’s salvation in this episode, and Daniel’s demise in this episode’s sister, “The Variable.”
• It’s interesting that when Des tells Dan that he knows about Eloise, Daniel immediately assumes the rat, and not his mother. Haha!
• When Dan is talking about the importance of a constant, he points to the board and says it’s covered in variables, but he flips his hand as if to say they’re unimportant. And yet in “The Variable” he’s completely changed his mind and realizes that the variables are what allows people to follow their own choices and not succumb to destiny.
• Widmore says, “It’s not me who hates you” and the insinuation is it’s Penny, but there’s also the sense that it’s someone bigger… like Jacob or the man in black.
• Keamy has the giant angel tattoo on his arm, and I remember talking about that in S4, like he’s some sort of avenging angel, but putting this episode into the Paradise Lost context (which I would argue will be the overarching text of Season 6 we will compare it to; I’ve already begun reviewing the poem) Keamy could be one of Lucifer’s angels who has come down to reclaim the territory he believes is his. That would put Widmore in the role of Lucifer. So who is God?


Marebabe said...

The sergeant yelling at the privates in this episode always reminds me of Monty Python. “SQUAD!!”

I know that other, sharper Lost fans no doubt caught this little detail years ago, but I finally noticed on this rewatch that Penny answered her phone after the 15th ring. And THEN I read about it in Nikki’s S4 book.

Nikki, I found your book report on “Slaughterhouse-Five” very interesting, and I have now added that title to my must-read list. I actually saw the movie in 1972 when it first came out. I don’t remember much about it, but I was pretty young (16), and not really ready for the subject matter. I think (I hope) that reading this book will help me grasp the time travel issues in Lost that are still confusing to me. It seems clear that this book was a major influence on Damon and Carlton.

Joan Crawford said...

I got your book today, Nikki!
I love it!
My name wasn't in the roll call


(tiny tears from my tiny black heart)

Nikki Stafford said...

Joan: Aw, no more tears!! Wait until season 6. :) The roll call included all of the names of the people who commented on my weekly episode guides that I wrote after each ep, up to the finale. You joined us on the rewatch or shortly before, I believe? Though the book came out in October, the writing was finished in June (there's a process of editing and printing them). But I already have a bunch of new names to add to the S6 one! :)

Red said...

Jacob is God. ;-)

Susan said...

"At least it was a bloody military dream" ROFL

This is widely regarded as the best Lost episode. When polls are done it usually tops the list. It has all the things you mentioned Nikki, plus the whole Des/Penny love story is well done and never sappy.

I have to say that after watching Flashforward, it's weird to see Penny now. Thank goodness Olivia doesn't have an accent or it would really mess me up.

Susan said...

I guess I should be more specific and say that Olivia doesn't have a British accent ;)

Anonymous said...

Have they ever explained what changed Penneh's mind about Des between 1996 when he crazily begged for her phone number and when she started searching for him? And what happened to the deal where she was going to marry someone else?

I like that Sayid sensed how important it was that Des make that phone call, though no one ever really explained to him why it would save his life.

I love Penneh. :)

Don said...

Like Flashes Before Your Eyes, this episode seems to hint at the whole mystery behind Lost, with Desmond seemingly the key to the mystery, then all of a sudden by the next episode it's back to the other story lines that don't involve time travel, and Des becomes a background character again.

Ironically, Season 5 comes back to focus mostly on expanding the time travel theme that kept defining Desmond's earlier brilliant episodes The Constant and Flashes Before Your Eyes, but in Season 5 Desmond becomes a background character as Lost delves deeper into those themes that defined Desmond's part in the story.

Don said...

..And Yes, I agree it's weird watching Flashforward, wondering why Olivia/Penny isn't with Desmond!

And I'm glad I'm not the only one who heard John Cleese's drill sergeant every time he barks at Desmond.

The Question Mark said...

@ Nikki: I'm asking for "Paradise Lost" for Christmas so i can get caught up in all the angelic buzz. I recently read the "His Dark Materials" trilogy by Philip Pullman, which were based off Milton's poem, but since I haven't read the epic poem yet I have no idea what any of Pullman's references mean LOL
I can't wait to see how the whole thing will fit into Lost's grand scheme. My money's on Man In Black being Lucifer, and Jacob being another angel who is trapped with him, but doesn't share his pessimism.
As for who could be money's on Vincent.

Fred said...

Again with the rain. We get Desmond flashing back (mind time travel) and they end up in the rain for the most part of it. Only when things get resolved at the end, after Des phones Penny in 2004, does the rain stop in 1996. But I am wondering if this episode has something to do with Des's dishonourable discharge? Was he AWOL while searching out Widmore and Daniel, or even getting to Penny to give him her phone number.

If Eloise dies after time travel, why didn't Des after the Swan blew up with him in it? Surely, Des had been exposed to more radiation than the little rat was.

Is the Journal of the Black Rock a constant--Daniel doesn't imply it can't be a thing, just something constant between different times (past and present).Just a note, but there has been a lot of explanation using time travel via black holes. But really a black hole is just a "black rock," or collapsed sun without any light escaping. (Actually, if you entered a massive black hole you'd suddenly pass into a region of extremely bright light, before being vapourized by the intense heat--the black/white endings to the episodes of LOST?).

If Daniel regards Des as his constant, that implies Daniel is travelling back to 1996, the only time he met Des. How can Daniel predict what time he will travel back to? Is there a sort of time limit on mind traveling? Clearly, Charlotte was traveling back to her childhood. Or is it that the mind travels back to where a constant might be (Charlotte travels back to the time she met Daniel as a little girl), so that its like the constant acts like a magnet, attracting a time traveling mind only to certain times? The trick would be deciding what or who is the constant.

crazyinlost said...

@Marebabe-The sergeant yelling at the privates in this episode always reminds me of Monty Python. “SQUAD!!”
Yeah! Monty Python! "...military fairies!" hahahahaha

crazyinlost said...

@Nikki-yes! I love anything with a time travel twist, things that mess with my head, so when I saw this ep (besides being Desmond-centric) and saw Lost just might be headed this way, I was like, YEAH!!!!!

Love Des and his "crazy-eye"!

As I said in "The Economist", I'm partial to long, curly hair, so I definitely like Des' hair post-island. The only exception I've seen so far is w/Daniel-don't like him with long hair!

But Daniel does make a great Mad Scientist!

Daniel, "Has your friend recently been exposed to radiation or electro magnatism?" Uh, duh!!

How did something from the Black Rock surface in the real "non-island" world?

Leave it to Sayid, "Mr. Fix-it" man, to save the day!

Oh, the ending on this episode with Penny and Des! This is definitely in my top five fav moments. I laugh, cry, get chills.
"Twoo wooove" ahhhh

crazyinlost said...

@Fred-so why doesn't Daniel at anytime tell Charlotte to have him be her constant?

EvaHart said...

Loved, loved,loved this episode! I have probably rewatched it more times than any other. I also love Dan- Jeremy Davies is a fantastic actor and I really hope we see more of him in season 6.

However there arew still many things that still confuse me, forexample, how did Eloise actually run the maze when she died- so in an hour was she taught the maze or not? She wouldn't need to be taught maze as she could already run it as her mind had gone to the future?
Sorry if that made absolutely no sense.

I'm also still surprised that charles actually gave desmond teh adress. It seems strangely nice of him.

Overall probably my favourite episode ever, teh only tiny nitpick i can find is that i have never seen a phone box like the one Desmonds uses ever in the UK. But that may be down to my lack of phone box experience!

Marebabe said...

@studiorose: They really did gloss over the events that led Penny to a change of heart concerning Desmond. Then again, maybe the writers were correct in ignoring that (minor) plot point, because Every Time I watch this episode, I briefly wonder about that, but then they quickly move on to the brilliant, pivotal, and absolutely beautiful phone call between Penny and Desmond, and one part of my brain can be heard shushing up another part of my brain: "Quiet! Here comes the Christmas Eve phone call. *sigh* I love this part!" I realize now that, to deal with all the Penny stuff (like when did she call off the wedding to the other dude?), would have only taken time away from the essential Desmond stuff. The pacing would've changed, probably drastically, and this episode would no longer be on everyone's Favorites list.

crazyinlost said...

@EvaHart-" did Eloise actually run the maze when she died- so in an hour was she taught the maze or not? She wouldn't need to be taught maze as she could already run it as her mind had gone to the future?"
Exactally! This is the kind of spin-your-head-around stuff I love about time travel. Cant get enough of it!

Joan Crawford said...

@ Nikki- Whew! That makes me feel better! I knew there had to be some explanation :D

M9 EGO said...

Continuing on from what Don mentioned about Desmond being so special. I am ploughing on with S5 at the moment and have just watch episode 4 when Daniel knocks on the hatch door and tells Desmond he is special and the rules do not apply to him. BUT from that moment on there's never any real mention again of how special Des is and no one tries to get him back tot he island. I still think he could come to the front of the action in S6 (especially as I still believe Ben kills Pene at the docks..maybe this wil force Des back to join the Oceanic 6 and the La Fluer mob) ?...thoughts anyone ?

Nikki Stafford said...

M9: We know that Ben didn't kill Penny at the docks because she's at the hospital later when they're patching up Desmond, after the Ben attack. However, the last we see of that happy family, Pen's in the hospital room with Desmond and has left Charlie out in the lobby with some nurse they've never met, and that's always worried me. Will someone take Charlie? Will he end up back on the island and Desmond has to return to get his kid back?

M9 EGO said...

Nikki, yep I know what you are saying about the hospital scene with Aaron BUT there is a scene after that (not sure what episode) when Ben says to someone (again can't remember who !) " tell Desmond I am sorry "...I remember at the time think ..he's killed Pene.....Damn need to watch more episodes quickly so I can watch them again with you lot in a few weeks time !

M9 EGO said...

Joan : S5 Book is not out in the UK I in there ?!

Nikki Stafford said...

M9: I remember thinking the same thing. I'm thinking if Charlie does get kidnapped from the hospital, it's because of something Ben did. He could, of course, have simply been referring to the fact that he shot Desmond and held his wife at gunpoint (not a light offense) but on Lost, there's always something more.

And of course you're in the acknowledgements! :)

M9 EGO said...

@ Nikki: Now I am excited !!!!. I don;t think its released until Dec 4th in the UK....Its on order ...I can't wait !

Nikki Stafford said...

M9: You should enter the contest over on Nik at Nite. The DVD can only be won by people in North America, but if anyone outside N.A. enters it, I put you into a separate contest to win a copy of the book (I'll be drawing the winners' names on Saturday, so if you win you could cancel your UK order and I'll ship the book over to you). ;)

Fred said...

@crazyinlost: so why doesn't Daniel at anytime tell Charlotte to have him be her constant?

That's a good question, unless Charlotte would not have known Daniel as anything but the "crazy man," when she was a child. But I gather from Charlotte's flashes into her past, she is just bouncing around without any direction. A good analogy is the path of a magnet between three oppositely polar magnets (a child's toy from most novelty shops). The magent just goes on a random path, although it stays within the 'circle' made by the 3 outer magnets. But if that's the case, why is Des, Daniel's constant? Did Daniel know Charlotte would die, and then promptly forgot? Seems unlikely, but you'd think 2 people in love would want each other as constants, after all what else are soul-mates.

Fred said...

@EvaHart: how did Eloise actually run the maze when she died- so in an hour was she taught the maze or not? She wouldn't need to be taught maze as she could already run it as her mind had gone to the future?

Exactly, and this sort of thing makes so many fans believe there is something called "alternate timelines." Yes, in some future timeline, everything being the same, Eloise would be taught to run the maze by Daniel. But then a variable enters the room (Des). New timeline forms. So while Eloise learns from the, let's call it, unaltered future timeline, she returns to live out the altered timeline, and dies. In other words, the timeline where she learnt the maze, simply vanishes as the altered timeline takes over, but the effects of that timeline continue in the present.

Eloise's dying is just a byproduct of her having no constant (really, lab rats should live with one another, then she'd have had a chance).

Perhaps we have been seeing the effects of alternate timeline all along. Consider the 2 pictures on the wall Miles passes (indeed, the whole wall of pictures). So is the crisis that is at the heart of LOST, a ripple of multiple timelines that will wreck the universe, unless things settle down to a single timeline? Who knows, but it may be a good bet. Then who started it all? Where is the first bifurcation in the road of time? The ancient Egyptians, Tarewet?

Perhaps that's the smoke monster's job, the eliminate doubles. Every time there is a fork in time, twins of the smae person are created (shades of Hugh Everett's multiple worlds hypothesis).

The Shout said...

Possibly the most perfect episode of Lost to date. One for the heart and the head.

Just a thought - in Flashes Before Your Eyes Desmond mentions that he was due to get married until he woke up in the street and had an epithany to change his life. Could this be the result of more conscious travelling? Since Faraday has huge gaps in his memory from his experiments, is it possible there was another encounter between we have not yet seen? The writers have hinted that Faraday will feature somehow in Season 6 - unless time is reset, his time traveling may have brought him into contact with other characters' pasts.

Rebecca T. said...

@Nikki: Widmore says, “It’s not me who hates you” and the insinuation is it’s Penny, but there’s also the sense that it’s someone bigger… like Jacob or the man in black.

That is exactly what I was thinking.

@crazyinlost: "Twoo wooove"

Ah hahahahahaha!

I definitely think Daniel did more time travelling, but we shall see how that plays out.

Okay, so HANSO had the journal of the Black Rock's first mate?! I missed that before. But this time I immediately wondered if it might be Richard's journal. How crazy would that be!?

This really was a mind-blowing episode that introduced us to SO many things: Time travel, consciousness jumping, constants, Daniel's notebook, Eloise, nose bleeds, time differentials on the Island... so many, many things. It's basically the foundation for season 5.

I love that last bit with Des and Pen on the phone. Please, please, please, please let them have a happy ending ;-;

crazyinlost said...

@Fred-"Eloise's dying is just a byproduct of her having no constant (really, lab rats should live with one another, then she'd have had a chance)."

Unknown said...

As much as I love "The Constant," and as much as I love Season 5... was anyone else totally let down by the lack of anything substantial for Desmond in S5? Faraday tells him he's "uniquely special" and Eloise has told him the same... and yet he had very little to do. (Hopefully it had nothing to do with the Cusick lawsuit...)

Here's hoping that S6 is Desmond-heavy -- not only because he's such a great character, but because he's been described several times as being one of the keys to it all...

Pamalamb said...

@Studiorose and Marebabe:
I agree they did not go into Penny's change of heart regarding Desmond, but they did have that scene (I think it was in the season two finale) of Penny's meeting with Des when he was at the stadium in LA just about to start his stadium seat run -- were he first met Jack (When Jack fell and Des helped him) -- at that point it was obvious she still cared about him. It doesn't really answer the question of what changed her mind, but it does show that she always cared about him even when they were not together.

I agree with all who have stated that this is one of their favorite episodes and I too am in tears at the Des/Penny phone call. Great TV!

Unknown said...

@Pamalamb: I always cry too :) Its a Christmas Miracle ;)

tiasabita said...

Daniel is the best mad scientist ever! Loved this episode. It is without a doubt the most mind-blowing! I'd be lying like Ben if I said 'I get it' but after this second viewing and reading Nikki's book and summary and your comments I feel like I almost have a grip on what actually happened!

Austin Gorton said...

e.g. Daniel as Charlotte's constant:

Unless I'm misunderstanding the way constants work (which is entirely possible) in order for Daniel to tell Charlotte to make Daniel her constant, he would have to know that she'll encounter him in the times to which her consciousness is traveling. And he didn't learn that she met him as a child until she was dying and it was far too late to save her (plus, he wouldn't be a constant in all the other times to which her mind was presumably flashing).

Jazzygirl said...

It's been said but I'll say it again...WONDERFUL episode! Just makes my heart sing! :) You know a show or movie is good when you can watch it over and over and STILL cry in certain scenes! That phone call...even though I knew she'd answer, I still felt myself shifting to the edge of the couch, waiting in anticipation. Now THAT's good writing!
I know I'm WAY behind on the rewatch but I had to chime in on this one!