Thursday, March 6, 2008

'Lost': A Desmond Fact-Check Jensen/Still wondering if you really understood last week's time-space-heavy ep? Doc Jensen confirms some details with Damon Lindelof. Plus: a theory on ''the sickness,'' and a crazy new connection

''THE CONSTANT'' Once Desmond's 1996 self scored Penny's phone number, his 2004 mind got rebooted...complete with time-travel memories

A dollop of tasty info designed to whet your appetite for tonight's episode of Lost, the sixth episode of this fantastic fourth season, a Juliet-centric flashback outing called ''The Other Woman.'' Executive producer Carlton Cuse was gracious enough to spill the following:

''Finally! Ben's gonna tell us who sent that damn freighter!''

Whoa! Now that's a big-time tease for you! Thanks, Captain Cuse!

You know, wouldn't it be a fiendish twist if we find out that the man behind the freighter is none other than... Ben himself!? That's what reader Tom Champoux thinks. A fan of both Lost and The Usual Suspects, Doc Champoux sent me an e-mail arguing that Ben is pulling a ''Keyser Soze'' — creating a fictitious big bad to further manipulate our heroes and advance his big-picture agenda. ''I think he hired the freighter folk through some Kobayashi butler,'' writes Champoux, whose theory could explain the mysterious identity of Matthew Abbaddon. Regardless, he says, ''I think Ben was being honest when he told Michael at the end of season 2, 'I'm one of the good guys.'''

Tom, I like the crazy/scary/morally ambiguous way you think.

Yes, Doc Jensen is capable of making mistakes. (What do you mean you already knew that?!) Last week, in this column, I said that tonight's episode would involve a trip to the Orchid, a Dharma station that was introduced into Lost mythology last summer via a bizarre orientation film released to the Web. I was wrong. You will NOT see the Orchid tonight. However, you will see a new Dharma station, rumored to be called ''The Tempest.'' Guess it's time to bone up on our Shakespeare, huh?

My apologies for the inaccuracy.

With clarifications from special guest Damon Lindelof!

After last week's time-tripping Desmond episode, I promised you guys some more analysis of ''The Constant'' due to the fact that I watched it while suffering through a crunch of flu-induced fever. As it turns out, it's probably good we spend some more time with it, anyway, given the intensity of passion and interest that many fans continue to have in the episode, arguably the best single outing since season 1's ''Walkabout.'' And to help us understand the story's noodle-cooking intricacies, I have some crucial insight from exec producer and ''Constant'' co-writer Damon Lindelof that I think you'll wanna know. To wit:

In ''The Constant,'' Desmond became ''unstuck in time'' after flying through a thundercloud crackling with strange electricity. He experienced something like time travel, though not bodily time travel; instead, his consciousness shuttled between two different time periods, Island present 2004 and Desmond's past 1996. But here's the tricky twist: Desmond's Island-present mind wasn't the one doing the time traveling. When Desmond got hit with Island magic, his consciousness got knocked off-line and was replaced by his 1996 self. It was this older Desmond consciousness that toggled between present and past throughout the episode. Once Desmond '96 completed the errand of getting Penny's phone number so he could call her on Christmas Eve 2004, Desmond's present-day mind came back online, but rebooted with the new memories created by his time-travel adventure. I know: tricky stuff. But I had the chance to run all this by Damon Lindelof — and he says this interpretation is correct.

Desmond had the time-warp blues, but freighter freak Minkowski had Marty McFly Mania: Due to his own exposure to electromagnetic magic, he began psychically commuting back to a pleasant day on a Ferris wheel. He died desperately trying to zip-line back to this happy day one more time. Coldly poignant, I thought. Notice: Unlike Desmond's time-travel story, Minkowski's present day consciousness was making the trip. Lindelof says this difference was designed to make a very important point: ''As Faraday explains in the episode, the effect is random. Sometimes a person can be displaced by minutes, other times, years. And the direction of the effect is equally unpredictable. Our way of demonstrating this was to give Minkowski a wildly different experience than Desmond was having.'' Lindelof says none of this is arbitrary; exposure to electromagnetism or radiation plays a role. But he adds: ''Looking for specific rules for how all this works will lead you down the path of insanity.''

To be clear, Desmond's past was different before ''The Constant.'' Before his time-travel adventure, Desmond never met Faraday at Oxford, never got Penelope's digits. As a consequence of changing the past, Desmond's personal history has been ''course corrected'' by The Powers That Be, beginning from the moment he walked away from Penny's apartment. Lindelof says this interpretation is also correct. But here's a Big Question: since scoring Penelope's phone number, has Course-Corrected Desmond lived his life knowing that on Christmas Eve 2004, he MUST be on a freighter in the South Pacific in order to make a call to Penelope if he wants any chance of having a future with her? Lindelof says this is indeed a matter we should be mulling. Perhaps in the future, Lost will give us an episode that replays Desmond's backstory (getting the boat from Libby; killing Kelvin; meeting the castaways) from the point of view of this knowingness.

[And with that, our friend Damon leaves the column to attend to other important matters — running a show, raising a family, shopping for cool T-shirts. We thank him for his input. From here on, the analysis is purely mine. Sorry.]

It ain't the weather Doc Jensen's convinced that Sayid, Desmond, and Frank's chopper attempted to pass through a very nasty wormhole

Desmond's ''unstuck in time'' nightmare began when Frank flew the helicopter into that monstrous thundercloud. The chopper was buffeted by intense turbulence. Lightning flashed. Frank pulled up and out of trouble. So what was that weird weather all about? Well, I don't think it was a passing storm. In, fact, I really don't think you can call it weather. As I explained last week, I think the Island is located inside the mouth of a wormhole, a possibly volatile anomaly in the time-space fabric. The chopper was passing over the rough-and-tumble boundary that exists between the anomaly and the outside world. (That wormhole has seriously blistered lips.) Another way of thinking about this is to think of a curtain hanging around the Island at a certain point offshore. This curtain extends from the sky to the ocean floor — hence, why The Sub also encounters turbulence when traveling to and from the Island. (See: Juliet's backstory in ''One of Them.'')

The problem with wormhole theory is that wormholes don't stay open on their own. Theoretically, they require a constant (and literally astronomical) supply of energy to stay in business. This past week, (which frequently ruminates on the science of Lost) speculated that this could have been why The Button had to be pushed every 108 minutes — to harness and discharge wormhole-sustaining electromagnetic energy.

Of course, now that the Hatch is gone, does that mean the wormhole is closed? Here's my theory: I think the failsafe key protocol (initiated by Desmond in the season 2 finale) called for one last blast of energy designed to keep the wormhole open for an extended period of time so that final business could be conducted. But when that time elapses, it's hasta la vista time-space anomaly. And maybe, bye-bye Island, too.

The chopper left the Island at dusk, but didn't arrive at the freighter until afternoon the next day, even though the flight lasted about 30 minutes. This bit of weirdness inspired the following question in my mind: Do different trajectories away from the Island lead to different points in time? Lapidus flew a trajectory (A) that took just 30 minutes; the chopper landed about 18 hours later. If Lapidus had flown a slightly different trajectory (B) that took roughly the same time, perhaps he might have arrived sooner. Or even later. Or possibly never. Why might this be important to season 4? Because if I'm right — if every different route away from the Island leads to a different point in time — then you have to wonder about those coordinates Ben gave Michael and Walt at the end of season 2. The question isn't just ''Where did Ben send them?'' — it could also be ''When?''

For a couple weeks now, we've been trying to figure out the significance of Daniel Faraday's rocket experiment, which seemed to establish a 31-minute time differential between the Island and the freighter. However, ''The Constant'' suggested (at least to me) another possibility: it could be that the Island and the freighter are in synch, and that the rocket gained the extra time while flying through the turbulent perimeter of the anomaly. This is all to say, I think we need to reconsider the idea that ''time passes more slowly on the Island'' until we get more data.

I tip my hat to Lost blogger Vozzek69 (at and some of my own readers for catching this one: It seems most likely that the time-travel illness that killed Minkowski is the same mythical ''sickness'' that killed The French Lady's fellow scientists wayyy back in the day. I really love this idea. I was never fond of the idea that ''the sickness'' was a Dharma hoax. It just didn't feel right. But this — this feels right. And if it is right, I love it even more for the way this answer was basically left for us to puzzle out, as opposed to having some dude explain it all to us. I expect that in the coming episodes and seasons, more Lost mysteries will be resolved this way.

But enough of this stuffy science stuff! Let's kick some old-school, pop-nutty Doc Jensen lunacy:

DEACTIVATE! Obi-Won Kenobi and Charlie have more in common than a steely gaze
Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed: © & TM Lucasfilm Ltd.


Over the years, many connections have been made between Lost and Star Wars. But I got to thinking the other day: If Lost really did correlate to the original Star Wars trilogy, then season 4 — the middle of the Lost saga — would obviously correspond to The Empire Strikes Back. And it does! Think about it:

Hoth, hideaway home to ragtag rebels fleeing the big bad Empire people = The Dharma Barracks, hideaway home to ragtag castaways fleeing the big bad freighter folk.

Boba Fett, dangerous bounty hunter hired to bag Han Solo for Jabba the Hutt = Miles Straum, dangerous bounty hunter hired to bag Ben for mysterious master.

Cloud City, a distant locale that seems to offer hope for our heroes but actually houses hidden dangers = The freighter, a distant locale that seems to offer hope for our castaways but actually houses hidden dangers. It even has its own...

Lando, an old friend to our heroes but actually working (against his will) for their hated enemy = ''Ben's spy,'' an apparent friend to the castaways (probably responsible for opening that door for Desmond and Sayid in ''The Constant'') but actually employed by big bad Ben himself. (If the spy is Michael, as I believe it is, then we'll have the ''old friend'' connection that makes the Lando link complete.)

Obi-Won Kenobi, dead guy who deactivated the Death Star's tractor beam in the last movie and in Empire appears to Luke as a ghost and urges him to go to Dagobah = Charlie, dead guy who deactivated the Looking Glass's jamming device last year and in season 4 appears to Hurley as a ghost and urges him to return to the Island.

R2D2, heroic and very cute robot who can fix broken computers, spaceships, and other electronic stuff in a jiffy = Sayid, heroic and handsome, who this season alone has already worked on Frank's helicopter and fixed the phones on the freighter. C'mon. You know it's true!

And finally, a not-yet-confirmed link, but in the spirit of bringing this column full circle:

Space Slug, a giant worm that lives inside a hole in an asteroid and nearly gobbles up our unlucky heroes = The Wormhole, a giant anomaly that contains the rock that is the Island; it has gobbled up our unlucky castaways, but we know that six will get out. XXX

May the force be with you! = Namaste!

—Doc Jensen

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