Apr 30 2009 12:06am

Lost Round Table: “The Variable”

We continue with our round-table discussions of Lost. This week, we’re joined by Bridget McGovern, Rajan Khanna and Theresa DeLucci. As always, spoilers abound, so stay away from this post if you haven’t watched the latest episode of Lost, “The Variable.”

Bridget: For Lost’s 100th episode, the writers seemed to want to remind us that Mothers’ Day is fast approaching—and we should all be glad we weren’t spawned from the icy loins of Eloise Hawking, who is one bad mamajama, indeed. Poor Jeremy Davies—always with the driven, domineering mothers; was anybody else having uncomfortable flashbacks to Spanking the Monkey tonight?

That aside, it’s clear that Faraday has been a pawn all his life, manipulated by Hawking and Charles Widmore, who claims to be his father. The title of the episode refers to his theory that it is possible to change the past through the exercise of free will: Faraday has come to believe that individual people, the ultimate variable in any equation, can challenge destiny, after all. This seems to be undermined, however, by the final moments of the show; if it’s true that Eloise Hawking knowingly sacrificed her son, controlling his entire life up to that moment, then how much faith can we put in free will to change the course of events rapidly unfolding on the Island?

So many questions: why is Eloise Hawking “the only person on this island who can get us back to where we belong,” as Faraday claims? There are other people who know where the hydrogen bomb is buried—I feel like I’m missing something here. And what purpose does Faraday’s murder ultimately serve? Clearly, Widmore and Hawking are working toward the same end, if not exactly working together—so why was Hawking partnered up with Ben earlier in the season? I suppose it’s possible that she’s playing both sides; she’s certainly formidable enough to hold her own. Finally, is it possible that Eloise is also Penny’s mother? It would explain her visit to the hospital, which didn’t seem to have much other point...and we know how much Lost loves to reveal scandalous secret siblings (it’s up there with All My Children, in that regard).

With only four hours left before The Swan station blows, the final few episodes of this season are going to be total insanity. Can’t wait.

Theresa: First thoughts: Nooooooooo! Not Daniel!

The Desmond and Daniel episodes kill me. And it was good to see Desmond again this week. I’m so happy he and Penny will continue to enjoy some well-deserved bliss for awhile. Even Charles was glad that Des was okay. And while Desmond’s constant is Penny and his love for her carries him forward in time and in his life’s purpose, Daniel is sort of like the flip-side of that coin. Daniel has no one when he steps off of that submarine in 1977. Jeremy Davies gave a hear-twrenching performance tonight, especially when Widmore offered him the job aboard the Freighter.

And to think Daniel’s mother knew his destiny was to die in 1977. What a terrible weight on her. But I can’t feel too bad for Eloise, either, as she didn’t seem to make a short life any easier for her son. (Run, Theresa, run! I’ve seen the future and you don’t want to get involved in this mother-son relationship. Trust me.) And did Eloise ever try to change that sad trajectory?

This brings up all kinds of questions about variables. I like how this season is coming full circle, with us seeing the Dr. Chang conversation in the Swan station from the season premiere. What happens if Daniel uses Jughead to neutralize the electromagnetic energy and Flight 815 never crashes? And Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Juliet never get to exchange a ton of meaningful glances? Lost’s constant is answering questions with more questions and I’m sure we’re going to get some real good ones for the finale.

Raj: I agree that the ending seems to suggest that events can’t be changed, and I saw it as reinforcement of that fact, that free will exists, but that ultimately it will result in the things “always” happening that way, because it’s happening in the past.

But then I had a second thought - what if, despite all her speeches about destiny, Eloise was hoping that Daniel “could” change the past/future. Maybe that’s why she was so insistent about him studying all the time and not having distractions - not so that he would definitely get to the island, she knew that would happen, but so that maybe, with all his knowledge, he could change the past so that she didn’t have shoot her own son. I kinda hope that’s true.

I’m sad to see Daniel go as he was such a great character. But I’m hoping it’s not the last we’ve seen of him. He could obviously reappear in a different flash of time. I had this inkling that his time travel experiment, that robbed his memory, somehow was more significant. But who knows. Maybe he already signed on to another show or movie.

Aside from Daniel’s death, most of the other reveals were confirmations of things people had already speculated on - Widmore’s relationship to Daniel, for example. The Incident and the reason for Miles and his mother leaving the island (which I think was basically telegraphed). How Charlotte got off the island.

Desmond’s appearance was a little baffling. I was glad to see him, glad to see that he’ll survive, but I wonder what part he’s going to play in this story. And what was Penny thinking leaving her kid with a nurse? After Ben just came after her and strange women are in the hospital? And with her dad out there? Bad move, Penny. Very bad move.

Thinking about Eloise, she obviously leaves the island. I’m guessing that it will have something to do with the Incident, but that it might also have to do with how the Losties are going to get out of the 70s. But I suppose we’ll see.

Oh, and I thought it was very interesting that Richard was against Eloise shooting Daniel. It may have just been his curiosity at how he knew about Jughead, but it seemed a little strange coming from someone who supposedly helped orchestrate the Purge. Richard, what hidden depths you have.

Joe Sherry
1. jsherry
Ya know, with all of Daniel's insistence about variables (which is something else to mull over), he could be wrong.

If someone does blow Jughead - might it not kill everyone on the island? How big is that island anyway?

If the bomb doesn't kill everyone on the island - and it does prevent Flight 815 from crashing - are we talking alternate timelines? Shouldn't the time travel paradox have something to say about this?

What if someone does blow Jughead, it prevents the Hatch, but there is a similar explosion of energy elsewhere with the same basic result - because it HAS TO HAPPEN. Sort of like Charlie's death. Des couldn't prevent it in the end.
Rajan Khanna
2. rajanyk
My take is that he was wrong. You can't change the past. But he did mention his plan to Jack and Kate and I wonder if they will try to tackle it on their own. For all we know, it could be their "meddling" that causes the incident in the first place.
Mr Wesley
3. Mr Wesley
I don't think we've seen the end of Daniel Think back on the first scene we saw with young Daniel at the piano as his mother comes out of the kitchen. Hawking was obviously distressed about something. I'm guessing that Daniel himself was able to go back in time and instruct Hawking on what to do with young Daniel.

Besides, there are too many unanswered questions around Daniel. Like, how does he know exactly when the Swan is scheduled to blow up. How does he know? At some point in the (1977) past, he discovered when the Swan was scheduled to blow, down to the hour, with enough time to get on the sub and travel to the island with enough time to stop/ensure the explosion.

And where does he get his last name. We saw no sign of a "Mr. Faraday." His mom's last name is Hawking, his birth (?) father's is Widmore. Where did "Faraday" come from?

And a couple of lesser ones. Where did his American accent come from? How did he fall in love with Charlotte as quickly as he did? I'm sure there are others.
Rajan Khanna
4. rajanyk
I think Eloise knew what was going to happen to him because she remembers it. Daniel's death happened in her past. But I think you have hit on something - it appears that some event caused her to have that conversation with him. Maybe it has something to do with Widmore.

I still like the idea of Eloise pushing Daniel so that he could find a way out of the time loop, but there's no real evidence for that just now.

As to the unanswered questions, they're there, certainly, but they're not some of the more pressing ones and I read an interview with the creators saying that they don't intend to answer them all (which I agree with - doing that would certainly rob the show of some of its greatness).
Heather Johnson
5. HeatherJ
First off, I'm glad someone else thought that Penny leaving Charlie with the nurse was CRAZY. After she's kept him on the boat for protection all these years, she leaves him with some random woman in a public hospital?! I would think not ...

MrWelsey@3 has a good point. Daniel said he came back to the island b/c he saw the picture of the O6 as new recruits. But was that true or was he coming back to save the island? Or does the Incident only happen once they O6 arrive?

I loved this episode, despite the sad theme. Can't wait to see what happens next!
Sheila Ruth
6. SheilaRuth
What about Eloise's statement to Penny that "For the first time, I don't know what's going to happen." Other than Daniel dying, how did she know what was going to happen before? When she said it, I thought that when Daniel went back to 1977, he must have told her everything that happened, so that she would know everything up to when he left to go back. But since he died before really having a chance to talk to her, how would she know?

I also think (hope) that she sent Daniel back in the hopes that he could change the past, so that she wouldn't kill her own son. Even as cold as she is, I can't believe she would send him back intentionally to die at her own hands. On the other hand, the island seems to demand a lot of sacrifices in its service, so maybe there's some other purpose to it.

Mr. Wesley makes some good points. Where did the name Faraday come from? And how did Daniel know exactly when the Swan is going to blow? And we know that Daniel has time-traveled before; he admitted that he tested it on himself. We don't really know "when" he traveled to, do we? So we may yet see him again.

I loved Faraday telling Dr. Chang that Miles is his son.

And Richard certainly seems to be at the crux of all the mysteries. Just who and what is he?
Dave Thompson
7. DKT
I'm hoping the writers can avoid the paradox thing but at the same time somehow demonstrate free will, that we are in fact the variables. There's theories out there that Faraday came back to the island as an agent of Chaos, activating all our team as Variables, hoping one of them would make a difference and change something. If they did, wouldn't that mean that Faraday cheated his own death? I don't know. The way he walked into the camp waving that gun, it was like he wanted to die.

I hope it's nothing as ridiculous as a reboot of everything we've seen. The writers have said will never have a Heroes scenario where future Hiro comes back to talk to present Hiro into changing stuff, and thus erasing himself from the future so that he never existed and could never have the conversation with his past self.

So maybe whatever change the Oceanic 6 and Co. make, it will chance something more in the present? I don't know. But despite the way the show closed out, I'm pretty convinced that there are variables in how things play out.
Mr Wesley
8. joten
what's bothering me is: where is 1977 Daniel? There's no way he's younger than 27 in 2004. He can't be born on the island, or he would have suffered more from time sickness earlier this season.

Maybe Eloise's last name and Daniel's accent come from a stepfather?
Mitchell Downs
9. Beamish
When this episode ended all I could think was: that's it? It was such a depressingly cliche "twist" to reinforce the idea that "what happened, happened".

From the moment we saw 30-something Ellie talking to piano playing Dan I knew he was going to be shot/killed by her in 1977 - but I kept hoping I was wrong. For all the hype of this being Episode 100 and Carlton Cuse saying the in the podcast that it was his favorite I found it terribly mediocre and un-original from a story telling perspective.

I expect that even though Dan is dead, Ellie knows what is going to happen because Jack/Kate will fill her in on the high-points.

I am particularly coming to loathe Radzinsky - he is so destructively paranoid and angry one would think he was a Hostile. Come to think of if it they have never sufficiently answered the question: why are the "Others" or "Hostiles" so unrelentingly vicious and violent? They seem to embody the worst anger and callous xenophobia of human nature to the point that they shoot their own children in the back...Why? At first we think they are embodying the coldness of Ben...but Widmore was running them when they went about committing filicide. So what makes them such horrible animals?
Rajan Khanna
10. rajanyk
Well, they've mentioned that the island demands sacrifices. Often of children or loved ones. And we've seen people suddenly become violent and switch allegiances before. But yeah, it's not clear what's behind that.

On the other hand, that's what made Richard's compassion (at least that's what it seemed like) stand out when he told Eloise she didn't need to shoot him.

Then again, waving that gun around was pretty stupid.
Mr Wesley
11. baronjonah
One thing that I'm curious about: Does all this time travel business finally explain Desmond's special ability? In seasons past, Desmond had the ability to foretell the future in regard to Charlie. He knew that Charlie had to die in the underwater station, pushing the giant button.

Was Desmond a subject in Farraday's experiments? They have now established a connection; the Penny/Daniel siblings. I wonder if Desmond was meant to be another variable intended to change the future/the present.
Mr Wesley
12. msp203
Does anyone know what was going on in those commercials that kept showing pictures and saying "What did you see?" I feel like it had something to do with the show, but I don't know what.
Dave Thompson
13. DKT
@ 12 msp203

I'm pretty sure it's a new TV show created by David Goyer called Flash Forward or something. But it was intentionally made to look like that so LOST fans would go digging and find a new TV show.

Regarding the Hostiles, if the Oceanic group did cause the Incident (which seems bound to be the case) and completely messed everything up on the island (like childbirth), it makes sense that they would hate the 815ers, especially if they knew some of them were the cause for all of this.

Jack Shepherd, James Ford, Kate Austen, and Hugo Reyes are all back in the Dharma 70s and they were also all on the list the Others gave to Michael waaaaaaaaaaaay back in Season 2. Maybe the Incident is the reason why those particulars were on the list.
Mr Wesley
14. msp203
@DKT -- thanks for clearing that up!
Eugene Myers
15. ecmyers
@ 2
The previews for next week's episode imply that Kate and Jack use Faraday's notebook to attempt to finish what he started.

Did anyone watch the title credits? I was totally surprised when the Enterprise came flying through the "O" in LOST. When I saw the starfield I thought they were just going for some kind of Twilight Zone reference. Aside from the J.J. Abrams connection, it's interesting to have the Star Trek tie-in appear in this episode, which involves going back in time to change the future... It would have been nice if they'd shown a better of the movie.

I'm really happy that Desmond is still all right, but just like Faraday saying "Anyone of us can die" turned out to be a bad idea, I really wish Desmond hadn't repeated his promise to never leave Penny. He and Faraday are two of my favorite characters, and I'm sorry to see Faraday gone (for now?). I worry that if Desmond was Faraday's constant, what purpose can Desmond serve without him?
Rajan Khanna
16. rajanyk
I think Desmond is the variable. He's the only one who's been shown to maybe be outside the whole loop that everyone else is stuck in. Of course not even he can change things completely - hence Charlie. But the idea seems to be that he can maybe influence things.

I'm starting to think that maybe Desmond will be key in the end to breaking this cycle and cracking the loop open.
Rajan Khanna
17. rajanyk
Just a few more things from elsewhere:

I keep seeing a theory that little Charlie Hume will grow up to be Charlie Widmore and will then adopt his mother as his daughter. With the time travel shenanigans we've already seen, that's a possibility, I suppose.

Someone said recently that maybe Desmond and Penny go to the island and somehow end up in the past, and are the corpses (Adam and Eve) that the Losties find in the cave. And then Charlie grows up to be Charles Widmore. I think the dates must match up, right? Weird theory.

I also find myself wondering where the hell Sayid is? Where did he go after shooting Ben? Is he hiding out with the others? Living on his own? Will we find out? We better...

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