The episode: The Constant
Original Airdate: February 28, 2008
Written by: Damon Lindelof & Carlton Cuse
Directed by: Jack Bender
Content: Sayid and Desmond hit some turbulence on the way to the freighter, which causes Desmond to experience some unexpected side effects: his 1996 consciousness travels to 2004 and back multiple times. The episode follows Desmond's 1996 consciousness in one continuous narrative between the two years.
Why It's Worth Re-Watching: Narratively speaking, it is the most ambitious episode LOST has produced. It took 6 weeks just to break the story for this episode. The episode has recently been named TelevisionWithoutPity's favorite LOST episode of the series. It's also the Christmas episode of LOST which is why it's getting its episode of the day.
I've had this planned since about September, to write about "The Constant," because I, and many fans, have embraced the episode as the Christmas episode. There's nothing better to lift the holiday spirits than to re-watch the fantastic phone conversation between Desmond and Penny but I'll get to that.
This episode reminds the viewer about time-travel, a sort of long set-up for what's to come in the fifth season. Desmond previous experience with time-travel occured in season three's "Flashes Before Your Eyes." When he turned the failsafe key, his conciousness traveled through time. Likewise, another Island-something sends his conciousness to 1996. When he's active or aware in 2004, he still experiences his 1996 conciousness. Anywho, as Desmond continues to randomly black out on The Freighter, Daniel Faraday comes to help via Freighter mobile phone. He tells Desmond that he needs Desmond to go to Oxford because he needs to find Faraday and to declare that he knows about Eloise. Desmond does. BEFORE THAT, Desmond and Sayid are introduced to Minkowski (the communications guy). He, too, experiences what Desmond is experiencing and warns that the entire crew will experience this because of The Island. At this point, Minkowski suffering from nose-bleeds and then eventually dies because he did not have a constant. I'll allow Faraday to take it from here:
[DESMOND awakes, back in DAN's office.]
DESMOND: What happened?
DAN: Whoa, you're back, and you were out for almost 75 minutes.
DAN: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You just whoof, went catatonic right in the middle of a sentence. I had to carry you to the chair. So I take it you were, you were in the future again?
DAN: For how long?
DESMOND: I don't know...five minutes? Why does this keep happening?
DAN: In your case, I'm guessing that progression is exponential. Each time your consciousness jumps, it gets harder to jump back. I would be careful crossing the street if I were you.
[DESMOND looks at the body of ELOISE.]
DESMOND: What happened to her?
DAN: She died.
DESMOND: Yeah, I can see that. How?
DAN: Brain aneurysm, probably. I dunno. I'll need to do an autopsy later.
DESMOND: Is that going to happen to me?
DAN: The effects seem to vary from case to case, but uh...
[DESMOND pins DAN to the wall.]
DESMOND: If these keeps happening, am I going to die?
DAN: I don't know. I think Eloise's brain short-circuited. The jumps between the present and the future...she couldn't tell which was which, she had no anchor.
DESMOND: Wh...what do you mean, anchor?
DAN: Something familiar in both times. All this, see this is variables, it's random, it's chaotic. Every equation needs stability, something known. It's called a constant. Desmond, you have no constant. When you go to the future, nothing there is familiar. So if you want to stop this, then you need to find something there...something that you really, really care about....that also exists back here, in 1996.
DESMOND: This constant...can it be a person?
DAN: Yeah, maybe. But you have to make some kind of contact. Didn't you say you were off on a boat, in the middle of nowhere?
Penny is Desmond's constant. Something very sweet, very real, and very human comes out of the time-wonkiness. I think this episode captures the essence of LOST. There's a lot of 'out there' things happening throughout the episode but it's grounded by a very familiar love story. It's always about the characters. I think that is why this particular episode of LOST has resonated with fans the way it has. Penny literally saves Desmond's life in this episode. It's a beautiful episode.
As for the other happenings in this episode, there isn't much beyond the Desmond story but there's a very important auction scene involving Charles Widmore. Here's the most important part:
AUCTIONEER: The Black Rock set sail from Portsmith England on March 22, 1845 on a trading mission to the kingdom of Siam, when she was tragically lost at sea. The only known artifact of this journey is the journal of the ship's first mate, which was discovered among the artifacts of pirates on the Ile Sante-Marie off the coast of Madagascar seven years later. The contents of this journal have never been made public, or known to anyone outside the family of the seller, Tovard Hanso. We open the bidding on lot 2342 at 150,000 pounds. 150,000, sir. For 160? Do I hear one six- 160, sir. 170, sir. 180 on the phone. 200,000 pounds. 220,000 pounds, 240? 260,000 pounds, sir. 280? On the phone I have 300,000...320. 340,000 pounds. 360? 380...
I will bet the journal belongs to one Richard Alpert. And there's no way that ship was tragically lost at sea. As we saw in "The Incident," Jacob was sort of willing the ship towards the Island much to Man in Black's chagrin. But I digress.
I recommend listening to the audio commentary for this episode. Editor Mark Goldman joins Lindelof and Cuse, and it's really cool to hear how he cut the episode. Plus, Damon and Carlton never disappoint. There's also a podcast rehash of the episode, which is a great listen.
All in all, the episode is terrific. One of the finest. Probably the best of season four. Do watch. And Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays.