Miles gets outed! Daniel's memory problems explained!! A shocking death!!! All this, plus lots of plot points getting set in motion, in the antepenultimate episode of season 5, "The Variable."
There were so many big reveals this week, each of which feeds off the others, that it's helpful to just lead off with the highlights, then delve deeper:
- Charles Widmore is unambiguously Faraday's father, and unambiguosly the man who staged the fake Oceanic 815 crash site;
- Daniel's memory problems were the result of testing his time projecting machine on himself, and the vegetative state of his girlfriend, Theresa, was the result of his mistakenly thinking the self-test went off flawlessly;
- Daniel's purpose for returning to the island was to try to change the future by using Jughead to blow up the energy source under the Swan station to prevent the hatch, flight 815 crash, freighter arrival and time skipping from ever happening; and
- Eloise Hawking's guiding of the destinies of our characters was always designed to send them all back to 1977...even though she knew her younger self would end up killing her son, Daniel.
So with these major points laid out, let's dig deeper, shall we?1980-something
Poor little Daniel - he wanted to play his piano, and, as a boy, seemed quite good at it. But then in came his mother, a young Eloise Hawking. Eloise, already crying when she entered the parlor, asked if Daniel knows what destiny means, then explains it’s that everyone has a special gift that must be nurtured. She stops his metornome and asks how many beats have gone by since he started, and he dutifully answers, "864." She explains to him that his gift is math and science, and it’s her job to keep him on his path. Unfortunately, there's no more time for the distraction of the piano. He insists he can do both – he can make time. Lamenting, Eloise smiles, "if only you could."
At graduation from Oxford, as the youngest doctoral candidate in its history, Daniel introduces his mother to Theresa - the girl he would eventually doom to a vegetative state, kept alive by Widmore money. Elloise offers to take him to lunch, but rudely dismisses Daniel's request to bring Theresa. Dan is not pleased. They go to an Indian restaurant. Mom insists Theresa is just his research assistant, not his girlfriend. She tells him he won’t have time for relationships, and the women in his life will be terribly hurt, then backtracks and says his work will be important. He tells her he got a 1.5 million pound grant from a Charles Widmore. She pauses, recognizing the name, then says she doesn’t want to fight with him. She came to congratulate him. She gives him a present, then says good luck, “and I do hope you know that I did mean that.” He opens it – it’s the journal he would eventually fill with DHARMA facts.
Aside Number 1 - Eloise, who always seems to know what will happen (or at least what "has to" happen), has guided Daniel his whole life to pursue physics, at the expense of other interests (pianos...girls...). She's pushed him, made him the youngest to succeed in his field. It's almost as though he had to accomplish so much by a certain time in history...
In a rehash of Daniel's first flashback from season 4, he sees the footage of the fake Oceanic 815 being discovered, and cries, but doesn’t know why he’s upset. There’s a knock at the door. It’s Widmore. Dan apologizes, and says his condition affects his memory. Charles says not to be embarrassed, they never met, then introduces himself. He lifts and pushes aside an issue of Wired magazine.
Aside Number 2 - the great thing about the internet is that, although it was clear that the Wired issue was significant, I didn't have to do any research to figure out how so. See the following explanation from Jeff Jensen at EW.com: "It was the August 2003 issue of Wired — 'The Super-Powers Issue' — devoted to the plausible science behind far-fetched stuff like invisibility, X-ray vision, and yes, time travel. The cover featured an archetypal superhero blasting white light out of his Cyclops-visored eyes and breaking a link of chain with his Man of Steel bare hands. The headline: 'The Impossible Gets Real!'" Clearly, this issue has plenty of significance to Lost - time travel, mental powers, agelessness...
Daniel tells Charles he wanted to thank him before leaving Oxford, but Charles interrupts, "you mean before you were dismissed?" Daniel explains that he tested the machine on himself before he used it on Theresa.
Aside Number 3 - Ever since Desmond discovered Theresa, we've been made to believe that Daniel breached all sense of ethics and used his girlfriend as a human test subject, wiping out her mind in the process. Now we have the explanation, both for what he did to Theresa, and the hints that his memory wasn't all that great - he tested the device on himself, first. Not finding any side effects, he then tested the machine on Theresa. She ended up badly hurt, and then, only later, did his memory start to go on him. You have to wonder if, deep in his lost memories, there may have been some knowledge about Oceanic 815's real fate before he saw the crash site footage. More on that later...
Widmore says he’s there to offer a new opportunity. Dan says he doesn’t know why the plane crash is bothering him so much. "Daniel," says Charles, "what if I told you they aren’t dead? What if I told you the plane was a fake, an elaborate, expensive fake?" Charles admits (finally) that he staged the crash, to keep others from finding the real crash site, and further admits he told Daniel because he wouldn't remember by the following day, anyway. Charles says he wants to send Daniel to the island, which would further his research, show him things he never dreamed of, and heal his mind and memory (hence the memory tests Charlotte ran with Daniel last season, which indicated he had improved). Daniel asks why Charles was doing this for him. Smiling, Charles says, "because you’re a man of tremendous gifts, and it would be a shame to see them go to waste." (Silently, we all said, "no, Luke, I am your father). Daniel responds, "you sound like my mother." Charles responds, "that’s because we’re old friends" (and I am your father...no wait...didn't say that there).
Aside Number 4 - Great to see the who faked the crash site thing finally resolved. Also kind of cool that it wasn't Ben (potentially redeeming Ben, at least partially), and that Charles may have had a "good" reason to do it himself (potentially redeeming Charles). I'm really starting to like my developing theory that the Charles-Ben conflict is just between them, but is not the great big war that we keep hearing is coming.
Later, Eloise enters while Daniel plays the piano. asks when she got there. She would have called, she tells him, but he would have forgotten. She hears he was offered the job, and came to tell him it’s very important he take up the offer. (Shades of Eloise telling Desmond to forget Penny and go to the island to push the button for three years). Daniel says he can’t, because he doesn’t know how to do what Widmore needs anymore. She says if the story about the island healing him is true, he could go about his work, and urges him on. "Will it make you proud of me?" Daniel asks sheepishly. When she says yes, he says, "then I’ll do it."
Aside Number 5 - five seasons in, and, after all the daddy issues, Daniel becomes the first Lost character with serious mommy issues. Even without knowing, at this point, how the episode ended, however, it's pretty clear that when Eloise Hawking tells you to stick with a plan, you should run the other way.
Returning to Long Beach, after Ben shot Desmond, we see Des rushed to the OR, with Penny and Charlie chasing behind. Hours pass, and Eloise comes to see them. She says Charlie has his father’s hair, then claims it’s her son’s fault that Des was shot. Penny asks if her son is Ben, and Eloise first scoffs at the very notion, then explains her son is Daniel. Penny has trouble wrapping her head around all this. Elly apologizes for Desmond becoming a casualty of conflict that’s bigger than them. For the first time in a long time, she explains, she doesn’t know what’s going to happen next. A nurse comes to get Penny, and says Desmond is fine, and the other nurse will watch Charlie.
Aside Number 6 - for a while it has seemed that, in some way, Ben, Eloise and Charles have had some foreknowledge of the events that have transpired on Lost. Perhaps Daniel had this knowledge, too, but lost it during his memory wipe. Now, for whatever reason, though, December 2007 seems to be the end of the effective range of their clairvoyance. Ben didn't know that Locke would be resurrected. Eloise doesn't know if Desmond would survive (but query her insistence that the island wasn't finished with him). And Charles...when he arrives, it will be clear that he doesn't know if Penny was ok. Indeed, holes in their collective confidence that they knew the future first appeared when Ben was startled to see Alex gunned down, only to mutter, "he changed the rules." All of this suggests that Daniel's theory that "whatever happened, happened" is not quite right, and that the mutable future, for whatever reason, became unknowable at this time - December 2007. So can the past be changed, as well? More on this later...
Penny goes in to see Desmond. She was scared she’d lost him. "I promised you, Penny. I promised you I’d never leave you again." (Every scene these two have together makes me weepy. I'm such a girl). They kiss. Eloise leaves, and Charles greets her. He asks if Desmond was alright, then seems relieved to discover that he is - which is odd, considering his relationship with Desmond. "Your daughter’s in there, too," nudges Eloise. "Why don’t you go in there and say hello?" He says his relationship with Penny was something he had to sacrifice. Angrily, Eloise says, "don’t talk to me about sacrifice." She says she sent her son back to the island, knowing full well...but Charles interrupts her, with the not-so-shocking reveal, "he’s my son, too, Eloise." She slaps him, and leaves in a cab.
Aside Number 7 - We obviously still don't know the outcome, but it's pretty clear, again, that Charles and Eloise have manipulated events to get us to this point in the story. It also seems clear that Charles never really disliked Desmond. He just needed to motivate Mr. Hume to compete in that boat race, landing him on the island (in much the same way Eloise told time-traveling Desmond to continue on that path, even knowing that to do so would leave him trapped in a hatch for three years). At least one reader told me this week that he knew the outcome of the episode, and I figure this must have been the moment when that took place. Me, I just watched, comfortable in the Jack or Locke-like belief that Lost would eventually reveal to me what Eloise meant.
Fresh off the sub, Daniel tells Miles that he came back because of the induction photo showing Jack, Kate and Hurley. He insists Miles take him to Jack. They wake Jack up. Daniel says he was at DHARMA headquarters in Ann Arbor doing research. Jack explains that Eloise was the one who told him to get on a plane. "How did she convince you," asks Daniel. "Did she tell you it was your destiny? I got bad news for you Jack. You don’t belong here at all." (Like I said - when Eloise sends you on a crazy errand, you just...say...NO!!!)
Jack wants to know more, but Daniel heads off the Orchid. Jack goes to see Sawyer. Sawyer says he’d love to trade theories but he’s busy. Juliet makes him invite Jack in. Sawyer explains the Phil kerfuffle, and shows him Phil tied up in the closet.
Daniel flips through his diary at the Orchid. He sees Chang pull up, says they’re right on time, and tells Miles he’ll be back in 10 minutes. He reads his book as he goes down the elevator. This is the opening scene of the season again, this time from Daniel's perspective. Daniel sees Chang's talk with the worker, then grabs the hard hat and canister to blend in. He sees the injured worker, then goes to see Chang. Chang says he remembers his arrival with LaFleur. Daniel says Chang needs to evacuate the island, because the injured man was hurt by the drilling. The same thing will happen, he explains, in 6 hours at the Swan station site, where the energy is 30,000 times stronger, and the accident will be catastrophic. He reveals he knows this because he’s from the future. Dan follows Chang out of the station. Miles overhears Chang insisting Daniel was playing a joke based on overhearing his conversation about time travel with the worker. Daniel shows him the equations that won’t be discovered for 20 years. Miles tries to shut Daniel up, but Daniel reveals that Miles is his son (hello - two Chinese guys named Miles on the same island???) Chang asks if it’s true, but Miles denies it, so Chang tells Daniel to stay away. As he leaves, Miles asks why Daniel outed him, and Daniel says he’s making sure his father does what he’s supposed to do.
Aside Number 8 - For most of the 1977 scenes in this episode, Daniel seems deliberately to be making a mess of things in ways that will motivate actions to be taken. Here, he got Chang thinking about Miles being his grown up son. Later, we'll see him take all sorts of actions that make no sense unless you figure he wanted to bring about the awful results that ensued.
Sawyer assembles the DHARMA-inducted Lostaways, and tells them the party’s over. There’s no choice but to leave. Kate wonders how long before Phil’s missed. Sawyer says they can either commandeer the sub or flee to the jungle. Jin won’t take the sub until Sun is found, and Hurley doesn’t like leaving abruptly after trying so hard to get back. There’s a knock, and it’s Farraday and Miles. Sawyer asks Miles if "Twitchy" is still crazy, and Miles responds, "whole new level man." Farraday apologizes to Jack, for his abruptness then asks the room where he can find the hostiles. Juliet asks why he needs to know that, and Daniel responds, "because one of them is his mother, and she’s the only person on the island who can get them back to where they belong."
Aside Number 9 - not that there was much doubt by now that Eloise and Elly the Other were one and the same. But anyone not following along with a score card connected the dots here.
Jack says they don’t belong there, but Sawyer says "I belonged here just fine until you came along." Jack asks Kate how to get to the hostiles, but Sawyer tries to stop her. "Come with us, Freckles." Hearing this, and knowing now that the party between them really is over, Juliet tells Kate the code for the fence, 141717. She urges her to take Daniel, then tells Sawyer, "it’s over here for us, anyways.: Miles gives Daniel the keys, and Kate and Jack leave with him. Sawyer tells them on their way out, "when you realize you’ve made a huge mistake, we’ll be back at the beach, right where we started." James tells Hurley, Jin and Miles to pack what they can and meet back in 20 minutes. He takes Juliet’s hand.
Kate says they should bring guns, and Jack points out he can get the guns from the locker in the motor pool. Daniel sees young Charlotte on the swing, sneaking some chocolate, and goes to talk to her. “I’m not allowed to have chocolate before dinner," she says, shyly, which explains why this phrase became her dying words later. Daniel says it’s okay, he won’t tell. He says he’s new there, and asks if she knows Dr. Chang. Daniel says "hopefully really soon he’ll tell people to get on the sub and leave. When he does, you and your mommy have to leave. In case what I’m doing doesn’t work, you have to leave. I tried to avoid telling you this. I didn’t think I could change things, but maybe I can."
Aside Number 10 - Obviously, this is the conversation Charlotte remembered at her death, the one that perversely convinced her to return to the island, only to die there. But will she die? Daniel seems oddly confident that this go-around, things may have changed.
As they gear up, Radzinsky pulls up. He wants to know why Farraday isn’t at the Swan site. Daniel's carlessness in letting Radzinsky see he has a gun borders on the intentional, and Radzinsky and his men pull guns on them. A shot rings out, then everyone starts shooting. Daniel and Radzinsky both get nicked. Jack covers them, and Kate and Dan get in the jeep. Jack shoots some fuel cans, then jumps in the jeep. The windshield gets shot out, but they get away. Radzinsky shouts to sound the alarm.
They arrive at the fence. Kate turns it off. Daniel explains they are mortal, because this is their present, and, for the first time, Jack's "let's just watch and see what happens" attitude becomes noticeably more dire. Kate says it’s just a couple of miles in. She asks Jack if he thinks Daniel knows what he’s doing?
Sawyer and Juliet pack. He offers her the chance to say, “I told you so,” and asks if she still has his back. She asks if he still has hers. He pauses, sensing the something more about her question, when, suddenly, the alarm goes off. Hurley, guitar case in hand, asks Jin, "that’s not good, right?" Radzinsky goes to see Lafleur to report what happened, but he hears Phil in the closet. Radzinsky holds his gun on Sawyer and Juliet, and orders them to the ground.
Kate leads them through the jungle. Jack asks Daniel what they have to talk to Eloise about, why she was wrong, why they don’t belong there. Daniel says in about 4 hours, at the Swan site, there will be a release of catastrophic energy; that DHARMA will have to close off the engergy pocket with concrete in like Chernobyl (and Jack's reaction makes clear that he remembers Sayid saying the same thing about the concrete in the Swan hatch basement back in season 2); they’ll then have to build the hatch, and spend 20 years pushing a button, until Desmond forgets to push it once, bringing down flight 815, and leading the freighter to the island. This whole chain of events will start this afternoon. Daniel explains that, after years of study, he spent so much time studying the constants, he forgot about the variables - people, and their innate ability to change their own destinies. Daniel says he thinks, if he can destroy the energy under the Swan, then the hatch will never be built, and their plane will land like it was supposed to, in Los Angeles. Daniel says he can destroy the energy by detonating the Hydrogen bomb.
As they march on, Kate says this is insane, but Jack notes he’s getting used to that after they got yanked off a flying airplane only to land in 1977. They find the Others camp. Daniel says, "wish me luck," then darts off. Clumsily, he holds the Others at gunpoint, then demands to see Eloise. Richard comes out and apologizes that she’s not there right now. Daniel asks where the bomb is. He gives Richard to the count of three, but then Daniel is shot in the chest…by Eloise. Daniel looks up at her, and says, "you knew, you always knew. You knew this was going to happen, and you sent me here anyway." She asks who he is. He says, "I’m your son," and then he dies.
Aside Number 11 - again, Daniel's tactic for heading into the camp looked like suicide-by Others. A lone gunman coming in and acting like a threat, then marching towards an authority figure while not watching his back or flanks suggests he's either an idiot or knew he would be killed. I suspect the latter, and here's why. Before he got too far into the camp, Daniel deliberately dropped his pack, the one carrying his journal. I think Daniel, like Eloise would decades later, came to realize he needed to die here in order to have a chance to change things in the future. When Eloise wished him luck before sending him off to the freighter, I think she meant it. She knew her younger self would kill this Daniel. But I think she wished him luck in his plan to change history. Then, presumably, if there was no hatch, and no plane crash, there would be no freighter for him to board. No freighter means no being on the island when it goes back in time (if, indeed, it ever would), so no being in 1977 to get shot.
Some people mentioned to me this week that, if they were Kate, would they want to change history? Now she's a free woman. If she never became one of the Oceanic 6, she'd still be a fugitive from justice, with no "son" and no story of heroism to win over the public.
But then the question is which of Daniel's theories is right - the Battlestar Galactica-style "all of this happened before, and all of it will happen again" theory (which, I concede, was more aobut history repeating itself than time travel), or the Terminator-style, "there is no fate but what we make?" We know the "incident" is coming, and that it always happened. What if trying to change the future brings it about? Case in point, Charlotte. It's pretty clear Daniel's actions will order at least a partial evacuation of DHARMA, and young Charlotte and baby Miles will be among those to leave. So then didn't Daniel just cause the same things to happen that he claimed he could change?
Then there's the black hole of foreknowledge that is 2007. We still don't know how the Others knew so much about the future (or thought they knew, in the case of Ben's mistake that got Alex killed). It seems the future is open to change, what with their inability to know what will happen next.
Which makes me wonder, what will happen next for Juliet and Sawyer? They do not seem to be in a good place right now. We know a major death is due to happen in the remaining three hours this season, and right now, it can be any of them.
So I'm looking forward to next week, entitled, "Follow the Leader." Internet chatter suggests it will be focused on the ever-mysterious Richard Alpert, which, if true, could be very exciting. Until then, Namaste.