Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lost episode recap – “The Constant” (S4E5) airdate 02/28/08

Yikes - this recap's quite long. There's a LOT going on and it was fairly confusing. Best part of the episode: very little Jack.

Sayid, Desmond and Frank are in the helicopter, heading for Frank’s boat. Frank has Daniel’s very specific instructions taped to the dashboard and, luckily, the course (I think it’s “40 miles North at 305° 7 K East”, but I don’t have a high-def TV so am not sure) is taking them straight into a huge thunderhead. Frank tries to hold his course, gripping the controls with both hands, but I think he gets off-course a bit (going to 310) because Desmond suddenly jumps.

[Note: I’m going to call these “jumps” and not “flashes” or “flashbacks” because this time-travel is something Desmond is actually jumping around doing in this episode; the flashbacks in all the other episodes are a narrative device. Just want to keep the terms straight.]

He’s in an Army barracks, a soldier with short hair and a shaved face. Mmmmm-mm. He’d been dreaming of the helicopter, he thinks. The mean ol’ drill sergeant orders them all out into the pouring rain for pushups and sit-ups in the mud. He’s not there for long, however, as he quickly flashes back to the ‘copter. He looks around wildly and unbuckles his safety harness. Sayid grabs him and Des shouts, “Who are you?” Oops.

Ooh – Iron Man trailer. Love Robert Downey, Jr.

Back on the Island: Jack is bitching at Dan and Charlotte because no one knows where the ‘copter is. Juliet thinks they know something because they’re not worried about the missing ‘copter. Dan says to Charlotte that maybe they should just tell the Losties. Charlotte thinks that there’s no sense in confusing anyone and then I giggle because Juliet suggests that Dan go ahead, and speak real slow so they’ll be able to follow. “Your perception of how long your friends have been gone, it’s not necessarily how long they’ve actually been gone.” Jack’s all, what now?, and Dan tries to reassure him, saying that it’ll be fine if Frank stays on the coordinates. If he doesn’t, however, there could be “side effects.”

I’ll say there are side effects: Desmond practically throws himself out of the ‘copter before Frank can land it on the freighter. Desmond springs out immediately, frantically looking around him and clutching his Penny picture. Sayid is close behind, having paused to tuck his pistol into his waistband. Several men run up to the landing pad. One of them demands to know why Frank is back and who are these guys he’s brought. Frank says that they’re survivors of 815. Sayid tries to calm Desmond but Des insists that he doesn’t know Sayid. The tallest sailor says they’ll take Desmond to sickbay so the doctor can check him out. As they lead Des away, he shouts, “I’m not supposed to be here!”

Jump: Back to the Scottish army yard where all the soldiers are doing sit-ups in the pouring rain, except for Desmond who is standing up and shouting, “I’m not supposed to be here!” The drill sergeant makes them all run. Afterwards, a buddy asks Des what the hell’s the matter with him. Des tries to explain and sounds totally crazy. Remembering the photo, he decides he’s got to call Penny right then and there and heads for a phone booth. He drops his change and jumps back to the boat, where two of the sailors, Kimi and Omar, lock him in the sick bay. He pounds on the door, shouting, until a crazy-looking dude who is strapped to the bed pipes up, “Hey! It’s happening to you too, isn’t it?”

Sayid looks suspiciously around the boat, observing sees Frank being berated by Kimi. Frank comes down to talk with him. Sayid wants to know what’s happening to Des and why, if they took off from the Island at dusk, they landed in the middle of the day. Frank doesn’t know what happened to Des but says he is trying to help them. He allows Sayid to call his friends back on the Island on the sat phone.

Jack picks up immediately and is so relieved to hear from Sayid. He turns on the speaker and Sayid tells them that something happened on the ‘copter ride so that now Desmond doesn’t recognize him or know where he is. Daniel squinches up his eyes in an “oh shit – I was hoping that wouldn’t happen” expression. “Side effects?” Jack asks him pointedly, eyebrows raised. Dan explains that for some reason, going to or coming from the Island some people can get a little confused. It’s not amnesia.

Back on the boat, the crazy guy zones out for a bit and then comes back, telling Desmond that he was just on a Ferris wheel. Enter the doctor, who is Ecklie from CSI! For the record, he appears to be evil here too. Ecklie sedates the crazy man strapped to the bed and then asks to check Desmond’s eyes, promising to try to help him. He shines a little penlight into Desmond’s baby browns and -

Jump to raining Army Desmond, picking up the coins he dropped in the street. He steps into a phone booth and calls Penny. She does not sound pleased to hear from him. He says he needs help, he’s confused and he wants to see her. She refuses to see him and asks him not to call again.

Jump back to the boat. Frank busts into the sick bay with Sayid hot on his heels. Ecklie is cranky about it and, when Sayid slams him up against the wall, hits an alarm. Frank puts Desmond on the sat phone: it’s Daniel on the other end, on speaker so the Losties can hear. He asks Desmond what year it is for him; Des replies that it’s 1996. Jack looks wildly at Juliet. Daniel asks Des where he is supposed to be right now. Desmond says that he’s with the Royal Scottish Regiment north of Glasgow. Daniel then tells him to get on a train the next time he goes back, and go the physics department at Queens College, Oxford University. Desmond is totally confused now and asks why he needs to go to Oxford. Daniel says, “I need you to find me.”

After the commercial Daniel searches frantically through his bag, looking for his journal, saying otherwise he won’t believe Desmond. He pointedly ignores Jack’s requests for more information. Back on the sat phone, he tells Desmond to tell him in 1996 to “set the device to 2.342 and it must be oscillating at 11 Hz.” Des writes these numbers on his hand with a ballpoint pen. Also, if Desmond needs to convince 1996 Daniel, he should say that he “knows about Eloise.” Their conversation is cut off, however, as Kimi, Omar and Ecklie bust back into the sickbay. Plus, Desmond does his little time-travel thing again.

Jump back to the Army in 1996. Desmond is huddled on the floor of the phone booth. He looks at his hand, but nothing is written there. I bet if he used a Sharpie it would have stuck, even through time. Some time later, a very handsome and on-leave Desmond finds a longhaired and scraggly Daniel at Oxford. Des says that he thinks he’s been to the future and that Future Daniel told him that Present Daniel could help him. Daniel thinks this is a trick so Des rattles off the frequency. Now Daniel gets snotty – “Who told you those numbers?” – until Desmond says he knows about Eloise. This does the trick.

They go into Daniel’s mad-scientist laboratory. Daniel fusses about, putting on a lead apron to protect himself from radiation. Des asks if he gets one but Daniel says that it’s only for prolonged exposure as he himself does this twenty times a day. Des looks at him and asks why he’s got nothing protecting his head. Daniel stares at him for a moment and gives a rueful laugh, the thought obviously never having crossed his mind before.

He grabs a rat, “Eloise,” and flashes some light on her – said light having been set to the frequency Future Daniel told Desmond – and “unsticking her in time.” Afterwards, he lets the rat run through a maze, which she does perfectly. Daniel is beside himself; Des doesn’t care – what’s the big deal? The big deal is that Daniel just built the maze that morning and wasn’t scheduled to teach the rat how to run it until an hour for now. The frequency of light flashes (or whatever – fuzzy science) sent the rat’s consciousness into the future where she learned the route through the maze. So how does that help me? Desmond wants to know.

Jump back to the boat: Everyone is shouting – Frank trying to explain that Daniel just wanted to talk to Desmond to help him. “Faraday can’t even help himself!” barks Ecklie. Kimi, Eckley and the other sailor drag Frank off to talk to the captain, locking Sayid and Desmond back in the sick bay. Des grabs a little penlight and starts flashing it into his own eyes, trying to hit the frequency that will send him back to 1996 Daniel. Just then, the crazy guy strapped to the bed speaks up, “You’re Desmond? … I’m George Minkosky, the communications officer.” He says that before he was strapped to the bed, there was a certain phone line he was told never to answer, even though it buzzed in every now and again. Minkowsky did answer it: it was Penny calling.

Jump to 1996 Oxford University: Desmond wakes up in Daniel’s lab after being catatonic for 75 minutes, according to Daniel’s watch; in his own future, however, he was only gone for five minutes. Daniel observes that the flashes are happening more often and for longer durations: “ … the progression is exponential … each time it gets harder to jump back. I’d be careful crossing the street if I were you.” Nice – 1996 Daniel is cynical! Desmond looks down at Eloise the rat: she’s dead. Daniel thinks that her brain short-circuited, unable to deal with the jumping back and forth with no frame of reference, nothing familiar in both her times, no “constant.” Daniel says that Desmond too needs a “constant,” something to ground himself in both the past and the future, or it’s possible that his brain will short-circuit too. Desmond decides his constant is Penny and tries to call her, but the phone has been disconnected. As he rushes down the stairwell, he passes out and

Jumps to the boat. He tells Sayid and Minkowsky that he’s got to call Penny. Minkowsky says that’s fine, but someone sabotaged the radio equipment. He would have fixed it but he went nuts. Minkowsky’s nose is bleeding and Des gives him a tissue. Sayid thinks he can fix the radios and, luckily enough, someone (Frank? or someone with another ulterior motive, like Ben’s spy?) has opened the door to the sick bay. They head out.

Jump to 1996: We’re at an auction in London, and the current item up for bid is the journal of the first mate of the Black Rock, the ship that was found on the Island, full of dynamite. Penny’s dad is there – I think he’s the high bidder. After the auction is over, Desmond speaks with Penny’s dad who actually gives him her new address.

Jump to the boat. Sayid, Desmond and Minkowsky find the radio room. It’s been trashed. Minkowsky starts to tell them what happened to him: he and another crewmember were bored and took a tender out to see the Island. The other guy started acting crazy so they turned around; now the other guy is dead and now Minkowsky thinks he’s going nuts. Suddenly, he blanks out and collapses. Des picks him up, dabbing at the nosebleed. Sayid gets to work on the radio, muttering that when this is over someone’s going to have to tell him precisely what’s going on. Desmond looks up and notices a calendar: 2004. He is horrified. Sayid looks at him and says “Desmond, your nose.” Des’s nose is bleeding now too, just a little. Minkowsky, on the other hand, starts having massive convulsions. He dies in Desmond’s arms. “What happened to him?” asks Sayid. Desmond says, “The same thing that’s going to happen to me.”

Jump back to 1996: Desmond comes to and heads straight to Penny’s new flat. She is surprised to see him, to say the least. He starts to plead with her to listen to him and something desperate in his voice makes her let him inside. He says, in part, “Eight years from now … I need to call you and I can’t call you if I don’t have your number … if there’s any part of you that still believes in us, just – give me your number.” Penny is crying, wondering why he won’t call tomorrow or next week. Des: “I won’t call for eight years ... 2004 ... I promise.” He begs, and she gives him the number. He repeats it and she sarcastically asks why he won’t write it down. He tells her that she must keep that number until 2004. She’s had enough and throws him out.

Jump back to the boat in 2004: Desmond snaps out of it, muttering the number. “Perfect timing,” notes Sayid, cautioning that the battery won’t last long. Des clutches the phone. It rings for a long time and finally, Penny picks up. She is so happy to hear his voice! There’s a quick cut back to 1996, with Desmond walking away from Penny’s flat, a slow smile growing on his face. Back in 2004, Des tells Penny that he’s on a boat but he’s been on an Island. She tells him that she’s been looking for him for three years. Both of them are crying now. She says that she knows about the Island and then says something about research but those sneaky Lost writers make the phone line go staticky so we viewers don’t know what she says. Des and Penny each say they love each other, and they promise to find each other again, and it’s all quite urgent and sweet. Until the battery dies and they are cut off. Sayid apologizes; Des calls him by name and says that it was enough, he’s fine.

On the Island, Daniel pages through his journal from his Oxford days. He finds a page and breathes in deeply: in 1996 he wrote, “If anything goes wrong, Desmond Hume will be my constant.”

Next time on Lost. Previously on Lost.


  1. Great recap. This show already had me totally hooked. I dream about this stuff. But this episode was one of my favorite ever. Totally for the sci-fi geeks out there, and still with a little romance for the softer sensibilities--this episode answered many questions in the way that Lost does best, by providing viewers with even more mysteries. Do you ever get that feeling that watching Lost is sorta like taking one step forward and then two steps back. That's the fun of it, of course. We already had so much to wrap our minds around and then here comes the whole time-traveling story line many people already suspected would come but which none of us could have predicted h ow it would actually play out. Desmond's travels were slyly similar to the flashbacks and forwards that are an integral part of Lost.

    I just love the writing for this show. I honestly believe it is pretty much the most well-written show ever. If the show keeps going like it is and then pulls it all together for a satisfying ending-- as the creators and network plan to do, a couple seasons from now--then I don't really see how its excellence could not be broadly acknowledged and justifiably accoladed.I can't wait to see what happens. Even if they totally screw up the ending to this series, nothing will be able to take away the hours of viewing pleasure and satisfaction I've already been given. I could keep going on like this but I'll spare you the gushing.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Garish. I thought this was an above-par episode too (not least because it was Desmond-centric).

    I wonder if the events in this episode are what trigger Desmond's visions (writing about time travel is confusing so bear with me): perhaps Island-Desmond's consciousness time-travelling back to 1996-Desmond was the first "vision." From there on out, as 1996-Desmond went through time normally, his consciousness would continue to do those time-jumps and what he thinks are "visions" are actually experiences in a possible future. Who knows - but it's certainly fun to speculate.