Sunday, July 24, 2011

LOST Redux: S3E08 Flashes Before Your Eyes

(At the request of a reader, I will be reposting old editions of my LOST column as they no longer appear on the internet. I will not be making any edits to them, so please be aware that they represent a moment and time--my thoughts and analysis after watching an episode's initial airing.)

“Timeline? This is no time to talk about time. We don't have the time!... What was I saying?” Deanna Troi, Star Trek First Contact

“The mortician said that Death has a design. Right? Now, what if you, me, Tod, Carter, Terry, Billy, Missus Lewton messed up that design. For whatever reason, I, I saw Death's plan. We cheated him. But what if it was our time? What if we were not meant to get off that plane? What if it still is our time? If it is, then it's not finished, and we will die - now, not later - unless, unless we find the patterns and cheat It again,” Alex Browning, Final Destination

LOST fans, I would like you to meet can of worms. Can of worms, I’d like you to meet LOST fans. Before I get started with this column, I would like to make a point. Before you all start complaining that the show doesn’t make any sense and is ripe with paradoxes and inconsistencies, please remember one thing: YOU asked for this season. YOU criticized the show for moving to slowly. YOU demanded answers. Well, now you’re getting them. What did you expect them to do, not create new questions? I said it from our first journey into The Midside together. I warned you. There would be no LOST without questions. Good going everybody, now we’re really waist deep.

The specific species of can of worms we met tonight is time travel. Many different theories exist. There is a plethora of critiques, complaints, and a third c word to complete this list of three concerning the idea. The reason I typed “Good going everybody” in a mocking manner is because I almost feel like this episode was to mess with the fan base. We asked for faster storylines. We asked for plot progression. Well, we got it and more. It may be more than we can handle. Oh, and a nice little tragic story on Valentine’s Day too. I bet you didn’t catch that little joke on us. Well, I did and I’ll tell you what else I caught. Come along now, children. It’s time to sit back and enjoy the ride from now on rather than telling the creators what to do. It’s their show made for us to enjoy. So how about we let them make and we’ll enjoy it? Then, I can write this column and we’ll all be fulfilling our purpose in the world. No course correction necessary.


A warning: what you are about to read may upset you. You may not understand it. It may not make sense to you because, hey, let’s be honest, to most people, this episode made absolutely no sense. As I’m sure you can guess though, as the story began to unfolded, my brain was formulating theories. Most did not hold up throughout the episode. One did. Before I explain what I saw in this flashback, I have to set out a couple underlying assumptions first. To understand my thoughts, you must accept these assumptions.

1. The flashbacks in this episode were real events that occurred. They were not hallucinations brought on by the concussion or conjured by the island.
2. The flashback began right after Desmond tackled Charlie. Therefore, the majority of the episode was a flashback.
3. Much of what we learned from this episode’s flashback is intertwined with LOSTology and thus will be saved for that section.

Those assumptions accepted (if you didn’t accept them, I guess there is no point to you reading The Midside anymore. Of course, if you don’t agree, you could always hypothetically accept them to understand my perspective), there is an event I would like to remind everyone of.

Turn back to the season two finale. Take out your DVDs and watch it again if you need to. I probably would if I hadn’t loaned them out to another new addict I’ve created. However, to save yourself time and energy, skip to the closing moments of the show. In a remote monitoring facility, two men pick up an energy signal they have picked up once before. We are led to believe this signal is the button not being pushed. They discover the source of the signal and make a phone call. Who is on the other end of the line? Penny Widmore. Why would Penny Widmore be looking for the island? Simple, somehow, her father is involved with it and she knows that her love, Desmond, is on it. She discovered all this information after Desmond ran away because of her father. Her reason to dig was that she still had a chance with Desmond. If she could find him, she could convince him.

Flashforward to this weeks flashback (and that statement is where people struggle with time travel theory and why such ideas as “predestination paradoxes” are created). After turning the key, Desmond is forced to relive this event. But why this event? Why make relive the moment he almost proposed to the woman he loved only to run away in fear? Why make him feel like a coward one more time?

The first question to answer is actually an unwritten one. Who made him relive the event? I will actually discuss the answer further in the LOSTology section, but for now I’ll say it’s the island. The island made Desmond relive the event. This answer means that his reliving of the event was not about him. It was not meant to cause him emotional pain or joy. So now we turn to the most important question, why would the island want him to have a do over?

The most important scenes of the episode that informed the theory I am explicating are the ones that involved the old jewelry sales lady (unfortunately, I can’t think of a witty name for her). To get a couple references out of the way, her actions and mode of speak were reminiscent of the grim reapers in Dead Like Me, The Oracle in The Matrix, and God in Joan of Arcadia. That statement made, the key concept that The Oracle discussed was “course correction.” At anytime, the “universe” (for right now read: island) can “course correct” by “fixing” an event. How does it fix that event? It uses its ultimate tool, people.

Since he was on the island, Desmond was at the island’s disposal. The island sent him back in time and made him relive the event. Then, at the moment of purchasing the ring, it manipulated him in exactly the manner it knew would get Desmond to hurt Penny. Why would it want Desmond to hurt Penny? Because now that he basically told her to get lost (har har), she’ll have no reason to search for him. Essentially, the island has protected itself. No one is aware of its location.

This theory I have outline is, of course, fraught with problems that I’m sure people will point out. First off, it supposedly makes it so the final events of the season two finale never happened due to a “predestination paradox”. Basically, in order for the events of the show to unravel in the manner they are, they would have to be predetermined. Desmond would always have had to go back and live that event in the way we saw in the episode he did tonight. However, he didn’t. The first time around he ran away like a coward and join the Army. Therefore, to some people, a paradox I created, as two contradictory events occurred at the same time that negate each other. Desmond now has memories of running away and telling Penny to get lost.

I disagree with the “predestination paradox” idea and in this episode the writers demonstrated why. All events occur. Just because they are wiped from the timeline, doesn’t mean they didn’t occur and doesn’t mean the other events were predetermined to happen. Take this episode for example. The first even of running away occurred. The island didn’t like the outcome. Therefore, it sent Desmond back in time to relive the event as telling Penny to get lost. The first even is wiped from the timeline and thus Desmond was predestined to go back in time. I disagree adamantly. Desmond did go back in time, yes, but saying he was predetermined to means all forces operate within the timeline. Clearly, the island operates outside the constraints of time. Therefore, both events occurred. Essentially, whose eyes do you see the universe through? Through a human’s eyes, Desmond is involved in a predestination paradox. Through God’s eyes, he was not.

For you philosophers out there, this episode was basically a compatibilist view of free will and determinism.

On a final note on Desmond for this episode, is he now a tragic hero? He was told pushing the button was saving the world (and the only thing great he would ever do). Now he was told in order to save the world, he had to sacrifice his own love? Obviously he didn’t literally kill Penny, but he had to essentially break her heart. Worst of all, he had to willingly break his own heart. It kind of makes Jack look like even more of a whiny bitch, doesn’t it? Desmond is a hell of a lot more likeable too.

Oh, and the island may have fudged up its own course correction. When that Indian Doctor friend of Desmond sees the result of the soccer match, he’ll know that Desmond wasn’t crazy and start investigating. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him show up in a later episode.


Besides Desmond, there weren’t very many characters in the episode. Sayid and Locke briefly explained Eko’s death to Charlie and Hurley. Charlie and Hurley represented the curious masses, with Hurley playing the lesser role. Claire played the damsel in distress. Sawyer and Kate, despite the episode write ups, were missing from the episode. I, for one, was disappointed.

Based on the previous paragraph and the revelation at the end of the episode, the most important character to discuss is Charlie. First off, I’d like to take a second to gloat. At the end of last season, I said that his storyline was done (he redeemed himself by tossing the heroine away) and predicted he would die in the season finale. He narrowly escaped death several times in that episode. Now we know what happened, the island was trying to kill him and he was pulling a Final Destination by avoiding his deaths. However, now that Desmond is all but ready to pack it in, we can be sure he will bite it soon. In fact, when Desmond told Charlie he couldn’t escape death, I dance a little jig. I’m not even Irish! Teenybopper LOST fans across the country probably cried, but the rest of us will finally be rid of the selfpitying sometimes-witty-but-most-of-the-time-just-annoying hobbit! Maybe Claire will finally hook up with Johnny Locke. On second though, forget I ever said that last thing.


The Desmond and Charlie situation does raise some interesting questions as to the nature of the island. If the island is indeed trying to kill Charlie, then why give Desmond the ability of foresight so he can save him? And if Desmond receiving the power of foresight was an accident, why not course correct and take the power away? It doesn’t add up. Is Charlie supposed to live or die?

Basically, two things are being called into question. First, is the island good or bad? We’ve been led to believe, so far, that the island is a benevolent force. It creates opportunities for the 815ers to overcome their pasts and become better people, right? I’m not so sure. I put forward the example of Eko. One could argue that his inability to ask for forgiveness made him a better person. He came to terms with his past and was self assured. However, the island killed him for his disobedience. He refused to ask the island, through the visage of Yemi, for forgiveness. He was then pounded against a tree until he died.

I now turn to tonight’s episode. What type of a benevolent power would make Desmond relive such a painful memory twice, making it even more difficult the second time around? The first time, he simply ran away. This time he actually had to make the woman he loved cry. Wouldn’t a benevolent supernatural power conjure its desired outcome and have the 815ers have positive lives? At the very least, if their lives were going to be bad, wouldn’t it let them have free will to screw up their own lives? I don’t understand why such a power would mess up someone’s life just to achieve its purpose. That type of action seems pretty selfish to me.

Also tonight, we saw a flashback from a unique perspective. We saw how Desmond’s life was directly manipulated by the island assuming a role of someone in his past in order to control events concerning the island. I put forward that the island has exerted such control in EVERY flashback we have ever since. Every flashback has been a key event in the past that either brought the 815er to the island OR affected some pivotal event on the island. What if we are shown the flashback to show us how the island has manipulated the past events so they necessitate the outcome on the island? Notice how Locke’s boss at the box company was the same as Hurley’s boss at the chicken joint. What if Randy was controlled by the island? His phrasing of, “Maybe you don’t need this job that badly” or whatever made Hurley realize he didn’t need the job and subsequently quit. The quitting made him gallivant around town with DJ Qualls which inevitably led to the series of events that influenced him to decide to distribute the food evenly between all the 815ers? Do you see the point I’m getting at here?

I am also focusing on a statement Prince Ben made earlier this season. He said he needed a spinal surgeon and one fell out of the sky. Well, notice how events were manipulated so that not only would Jack crash in the plane and get captured by The Good Guys, but Sawyer and Kate would be captured too, giving Jack a reason to pretend to perform the surgery so they could escape. But, since they ultimately escaped, he actually did perform the surgery and Prince Ben was saved.

Now, take another step forward. What if Prince Ben and company ARE The Good Guys? What if they know the island is a malevolent force and are trying to figure out a way to stop it? What if that purpose is the purpose of DHARMA’s research? A lot of effort has certainly been put into making them look bad. Then again, how can they escape the island’s powers if the island can course correct anytime it wants? If they were working against the island, wouldn’t it just course correct and nullify their actions?

In conclusion, I am going to put one more controversial idea out into the abyss of the internet. What if dying in LOST is a GOOD THING as you are no longer a pawn of evil? Whenever a character has died, their story has come full circle and they are redeemed. Thus, the malevolent force of the island can no longer use them and kills them. Notice how tonight, Desmond hurt Penny because he was afraid. He was afraid staying with her would end the world. He was still a coward. This idea brings forth another interesting idea though. What if there are two forces at work on the island? The MALEVOLENT force is exhibited through the flashbacks. It “course corrects” by making the 815ers do terrible things. However, on the island, a BENEVOLENT force gives the 815ers a shot at redemption. In other words, the BENEVOLENT force emulated Yemi to give Eko the chance to redeem himself. Eko was redeemed though his denial. The MALEVOLENT force witnessed these events, found Eko useless, and killed him.

These two forces would satisfy the “Two players, one light, one dark” theme of the show. Right now, I am pretty sold on this theory. I hope I explained it well enough.


Since I received more comments over the last week on my column from before the break rather than my most recent one, I’ll briefly respond to those ideas. I never said Peyton Manning would never win the Super Bowl. That possibility always existed. However, he had to prove he could. My problem was that people were accepting it as fact that he could win it even though he did everything in his power to lose it. Now, he has proven that he has what it takes to NOT LOSE the big games. He stepped back and let his teammates make the big plays. Dominic Rhodes deserved the MVP of the Super Bowl for his excellent ground game. Next time you guys respond to my column, make sure you read it a little better first, alright? I know this week’s is a tough one, but it was an incredibly tough episode, so cut me some slack. And if you’re still going to mischaracterize what I said about Peyton Manning, then there’s only one thing left to say and you know what it is (No, it’s not “Do it, Rockappella!”):

Shut up, you’re wrong.

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