(Author’s Note: Before reading my piece below, read imfromthepast’s very well-written piece, “Time Travel for Dummies.” Then, read or re-read the Wikipedia article on Predestination Loops you should have read in a previous post of mine. I’ll wait.)
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any stranger after “Jughead” and its potentially explosive reveals, the Lost timeline has somehow managed to get even more tangled and snagged thanks to “The Little Prince.” Unlike other writers whose recaps I’ve seen, I’m afraid I had to familiarize myself with the episode’s namesake novella as best possible via Wikipedia. As a former Comparative Literature major, I hang my head in shame.
Consequently, outside of the obvious analogy of Aaron to the titular Little Prince, I’m going to leave the literary allusions to that book to other, better-read individuals.
It’s a good thing so very much more was was going on, then. The predestination loop elements have clarified slightly, some characters tried a radical new thing called open communication, and Jack screwed things up with Kate even more…yay! ‘Sides, it’s not like Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land really seemed to have too much to do with the episode that bears its name… Shall we? Let’s.
I am the eye in the sky, looking at you…
Before we get to the brain-melting, fangirl-squee-inducing stuff, let’s start with something much, much simpler. Revenge. It just never seems to be a good idea on this show, now does it. And right now, even more than Ben, revenge is embodied by the new Sun 2.0, Extra Vicious™.
So Sun wasn’t the mysterious client represented by one Dan Norton, Esq. In retrospect, I was clearly over-thinking things last week and ended up double-crossing myself to avoid the obvious conclusion that it was Ben just trying to pry Kate loose from domestic bliss to get her back with the rest of the Oceanic Six. Can’t win ‘em all…but that’s why we all love this show, right? (By the way, nice red herring on Brian Vaughan’s & Melinda Taylor’s parts catching us off-guard with Claire’s mum and having Jack nearly spill the O6 beans. I can’t help but wonder if an off-Island “Oceanic 815 Truth” movement spearheaded by friends and family of all the 815 passengers — the Littletons, the Dawsons, the Reyeses, etc. — might not yet end up being a prominent story element, even after the O6 and other Island refugees find their way back. If anything, its flames would be fanned by the O6’s sudden disappearance.)
But Sun still got to have her own chocolaty part of the episode’s intrigue after finding a rather unusual surprise of a gun at the bottom of her Godiva assortment. Somewhere, Chekhov is smiling on the Lost writers’ room! Couple that with surveillance reports and photos concerning Jack and Ben, and Lady Vengeance is all coiled to strike…just as soon as she gets Aaron to drop off to sleep in the back seat.
However, thanks to the delightful dual-reveal of Danielle Rousseau’s team of French Science(?) All-Stars and Jin’s “live” status, we now know for sure what many of us suspected since the bad ship Kahana blew up in last season’s finale: Her vengeance is pointless, albeit quite understandable.
As much as I’ve enjoyed seeing newly badass Sun take over Paik Heavy Industries and cast her lot with Charles Widmore in post-Island life, Sun has clearly not had the evolution that Jin has over the course of the series (the latter of which being a big argument from the “no, Jin is dead” camp from last year since characters who exorcise their demons do have a way of dying on Lost). She has yet to learn to let go of her demons and it’s going to hurt people. Herself, Jin, and Ji Yeon, certainly. The other O6ers and Island Refugees, probably. Many more, possibly.
Jin has become worthy of Sun over the first four seasons of Lost, but now Sun needs to become worthy of the reformed Jin and of Ji Yeon. I’m rooting for her here, but there’s entirely too much of a possibility she ends up like poor Michael and that scares me.
Getting back to Widmore, what’s his game in trying to have Sun kill Ben? Isn’t that against “the rules?” Hm. Let’s ponder what we’ve learned about those rules.
The first rule of Fight Club is, “you do not talk about Fight Club.” The second rule of Fight Club is, “you do NOT. TALK. ABOUT FIGHT CLUB!”
The interactions between our time-tripping Lostaways and various parties in 1954, 1988 and other past times so far have proven that the on-Island Others, Widmore, Hawking, probably Faraday, and possibly more tell us that certain people have known about the crash of Oceanic 815 in 2004 and its survivors for a very long time. Given that we know there are some ground-rules in the temporal chess match between Widmore’s camp and the Others, I think we need to start delineating them. And I don’t mean agreements or concessions here, I mean hard and fast rules, the penalty for breaking which would inspire the now-common phrase, “God help us all.” What do we know so far?
Observation #1: Some events are known and cannot be changed even if you want to.
To quote old, reliable Vonnegut from Slaughterhouse-Five, “the moment is structured that way.” If an event is known to have happened, then it needs to happen or we’re in “crossing the streams” territory. Do not make Eloise Hawking come over there and scowl you to death, because you know she’ll do it. So, if events looked to us back in seasons 1-4 as if they’d conspired to put these people on that plane (or boat in Desmond’s case, or submarine in Juliet’s), it’s because there was a conspiracy to put them there.
This is why Ben sounded almost as though he was reading it from a script as he said, “there may actually be survivors” as he watched 815 crash in “A Tale of Two Cities.” He’d been rehearsing for that moment his whole adult life. It’s also why people like Ben, Alpert, Hawking, and Widmore kept their secrets even from their own associates and loved ones. It’s bad enough they themselves have to endure knowingly being puppets on fate’s strings knowing full well that they lacked the ability to change even what they might want to change, or that any achievement of theirs was fated, leeching away any satisfaction they might have taken from them…they would never have burdened the ones they cared about with that knowledge. Take a moment to reflect on just how corrosive that kind of knowledge can be. Just going a spoiler too far on “Through the Looking Glass” was enough to seriously disappoint me, so magnify that to the point where you know your life is a cosmic joke. As Sawyer so pithily observed, “Time travel is a bitch!”
That Locke appeared to feel no temptation to counsel his past self despite knowing his exact location on that night, even seeing it advertised in the night sky (and how cool was that?), gives me all kinds of hope that he’ll be necessary to the endgame, requiring the ultimate miracle in a life defined by them: resurrection. More on this later.
Observation #2: The existence of a wild-card implies the possibility to change the future beyond known events. That’s the ultimate prize.
Poor Charles Widmore. For all his dislike of Desmond Hume, he had to not only let Des date his daughter and enter his sailing race, he had to ensure it happened. Desmond’s “wild-card” nature meant that he required more forceful manipulation than the rest, given that the universe would “course-correct” to ensure the actions of the other Lostaways. (And doesn’t that put a very interesting spin indeed on Hurley’s epic-scale misfortunes? The universe or the Island had to intervene big-time to deal with Hurley’s inadvertent causality-hack of using the Numbers to play the lotto.)
What’s more, I put it to you that whichever side more successfully manipulates Desmond (and it could ultimately be Desmond himself, for all we know) will end up winning what they really want: the chance to actually affect the future.
Desmond’s actions have been crucial to enabling the trips to the past by a) turning the fail-safe key which made the Island visible to Penny’s listening station, and b) keeping Charlie alive long enough to shut down the Looking Glass Station’s jamming signal. These allowed Widmore’s freighter to first find the Island’s current coordinates and let the crew know Naomi had successfully landed on the Island, paving the way for Daniel’s team and Keamy’s mercs to arrive and the Oceanic 6 to leave.
All this had to happen or the time-trips wouldn’t. It’s prologue, already written and immutable. That there is uncertainty beyond a certain date in time must also follow, or there would be no game to be played.
But something was already different by the time we got to “The Shape of Things to Come,” or Ben wouldn’t have been so shocked by Alex’s death. It was clear from his reactions that this was not foreseen, that if anything Ben “knew” to the contrary.
I suspect this is why Others had such an interest in “special” kids like Walt, who seems to have the innate ability to manipulate probability around him in small ways that are desirable to him: for his thrown knife to his its target, for the backgammon dice to go his way, or for the bird he wants to see to fly into his own window. Clearly, they hoped to find a “wild card” they could indoctrinate from an early age. Ditto the DHARMA Initiative’s efforts on parapsychology.
My prediction here is that the time beyond which events are “known” is not too long after the Oceanic 6 return to the Island. Why else would Ben be so keen to hitch a ride? He knows they have to go back even if he doesn’t know the details.
Observation #3: Ben’s Others, Widmore, and Hawking had very incomplete data from the recorded time-trips and have worked extremely hard to extrapolate the rest. They now know how to map causality like nobody’s business.
Isaac Asimov created the fictitious science of “psychohistory” for his landmark Foundation series. It was the science of predicting what humans in large enough numbers — societies, basically — would do for centuries and millennia into the future with pinpoint accuracy. I assert that certain characters have likewise mastered the arts of extrapolating both backwards and forwards along the timeline of smaller groups and individuals, with Eloise Hawking and Daniel Faraday probably being the most accomplished practitioners of this science. The very odd, specialized nature of Hawking’s equipment and equations in her short scene with Ben in “The Lie” really drove home the parallel with Asimov’s psychohistory. Both Ben and Widmore act deferent toward Hawking, and this is probably why. It’s also why I suspect her and Faraday of having their own agenda, particularly where Desmond is concerned.
This explains the extreme subtlety and convolution of each “player’s” machinations. It explains the exhaustive level of detail in the Others’ dossiers on the 815 survivors. If speculation about Dan being Hawking’s son and Miles being Pierre Chang’s son are correct it could also explain why they were given names different from their parents’, so that Ben and possibly Widmore as well would be unaware of their true identity and role in the script of our little play. Heck, Miles might not even know his own true identity, given that he seems to have logged Island-time of which he’s unaware according to Dan’s Unified Nosebleed Theory. What does this imply for Charlotte then, hmm?
Finally, I think it also explains the need for Locke at the end because of his prodigious intuitive grasp of strategy. Somehow, some way, John Locke is going to make a brilliant move that trumps all the decades-long machinations of the rest once he understands the game better.
Communication breakdown, it’s always the same. I’m having a nervous breakdown…drive me insane!
If there’s one thing on Lost that’s always driven me crazy, it’s the seeming inability of our Lostaways to share sufficient information with one another. The Others, at least, I can understand…they’ve got this whole time-travel cover-up thing going on, after all. But you’d think that, after all the things that have happened to them on Mystery Frickin’ Island, our heroes would have learned that silence really does equal death. Instead, they act like a bunch of riverboat gamblers, playing their cards so close to their vests even they can’t see their own hands rather than treating their fellow survivors like people on whom their lives depend.
But this episode finally had our characters open up to one another the way they should have been doing all along, or at least starting as soon as they realized just how bizarre their crash-site actually was.
Locke told Sawyer the story of banging on the hatch door and thinking the light coming out of it had more significance than there just being someone living in the Hatch. Sawyer told Juliet about seeing Kate and Claire delivering Aaron. Miles told Dan he was having a nosebleed. Jack tells Kate about Sayid’s would-be captor (wanna bet he’s working for Ben, too, serving the same function toward Sayid that lawyer Norton did for Kate, namely to flush him out into the open?). Of course, he neglected to tell her up-front about Ben, but hey…baby-steps, right? And he’d already shaved off that chin-badger, so we’ll cut him just a little slack despite being a dupe and a maker of Jackfaces.
Even Ben came clean about being Norton’s client as soon as he came face to face with Kate. Imagine that. Now, is it just me or has he seemed awfully…improvisational…since turning that Frozen Donkey Wheel? He’s let an awful lot hinge on his ability to directly persuade the O6 et al of their need to return to the Island. That he was temporarily outmaneuvered by Hurley should have everyone’s jaw on the floor, if you think about it. Though, that said, he’s almost certainly had his trump card over Sun of knowing Jin’s alive ever since he stole Alex from Rousseau then learned all the details about Jin after 815 crashed and he got his lists from Ethan and Goodwin, putting two and two together.
All I can say is that our Lostaways had better keep up this kind of open exchange of information because if they don’t, they’re going to end up someone’s pawns for sure rather than the captains of their own destinies.
La mer, des reflets changeants sous la pluie…
At last, we have visual confirmation of at least some of Danielle Rousseau’s story as she related it to Sayid all the way back in “Solitary.” Yes, her crew did hear the radio broadcast of the Numbers emanating from the Island. Yes, they really were stranded by their dashed ship to wash ashore on the Island. Yes, Alex was a precious little bump in Danielle’s belly. They also just happened to pick up a time-displaced Jin, floating on a bit of flotsam from the Kahana.
And seriously, how awesome was it that the writers managed to make all the fan-geeks squeal with delight at seeing and hearing the long-awaited French team only to actually manage to trump that with the reveal of Jin still being alive? Audacious! Well played, Vaughan and Taylor, well played, indeed. Also, while I love Mira Furlan to death, it was kind of nice to have a Danielle Rousseau with an actual French accent.
Given that the next episode is entitled “This Place is Death,” I can only imagine that we’re also going to see the “sickness” and death of everyone in that party except for Rousseau, who is driven mad by slaughtering her compatriots and by the theft of her newborn daughter, and for Jin, who gets to time-warp out of there and presumably reconnect with his fellow Lostaways. Though somehow I’m sure there will be a bit more to it than that, n’est-ce pas?
We’ve got to go back…to the future!
Our first flash of the future — well, the first one of which we’re completely sure…I suspect that the jump where Alpert was Johnny-on-the-spot for Locke was also to the future, if only a near one — certainly looked grim, didn’t it. The camp was in ruins, the DHARMA beer had been drunk, Vincent’s leash was there without any sign of our golden friend, and strangers in outrigger canoes were shooting at our heroes.
That we finally got our first in-show appearance of Ajira Airways on the found water-bottle was rather telling here. Somewhere down the line, another airliner is going to crash on or around the Island.
I wonder who could have been on that plane in addition to the O6 that would do that to the 815ers’ camp. The exchange of gunfire could very well have been between time-shifted Lostaways, though likely not future versions of the same ones who were in Locke’s appropriated canoe. They would never have given chase and opened fire if that were the case because they’d remember.
But I also don’t think that any future-version Lostaways would have devastated the beach camp like that. No, there’s got to be someone actively antagonistic to the Lostaways on that Ajira flight, and they can’t help but figure prominently down the line as the story plunges into the (relative) future for our on-Island characters for whom it should be January of 2005.
I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this particular question isn’t fully answered until at least the latter half of this season, if not in Season 6.
That is not dead which can eternal lie, yet with strange aeons even death may die.
Finally, the jumbo-sized easter egg. If you read this blog (or any of the other big Lost blogs) with any diligence, you’re already well aware that the company name on the side of Ben’s cargo van, “Canton-Rainier,” is an anagram for “reincarnation.”
I find the choice of the word “reincarnation” over the word “resurrection” there very telling. Reincarnation very specifically means the return of the same soul in a new body after death rather than the reanimation of an existing dead body. Maybe I’m nitpicking and going overboard with this a bit, but it inclines me to think that this is not to do with Locke, who I still very much think (and hope!) is going to be resurrected rather than reincarnated.
Instead, I actually think it has to do with the leadership of the Others. As we all should know by now, the test administered by Alpert to young Locke to determine whether or not he was destined to lead the Others as time-traveling Locke had asserted was very similar to that administered by Tibet’s Panchen Lama to children who might possibly be the new incarnation of the Dalai Lama.
This makes me wonder if Ben and/or Widmore might not be slated to die so that one of the Lostaway babies — Aaron, Ji Yeon, or Charlie…but probably Aaron — could end up the Once and Future King of New Otherton™. And, lest there be any moaning about overlapping lifetimes, let’s not forget that we’re dealing with a show which now features corporeal travel through time rather than just consciousness-travel a la “Flashes Before Your Eyes” and “The Constant.”
That ought to be enough to chew on until next Wednesday.