Posted by: cousinbrandon | April 29, 2009

LOST – Season 5, Episode 14: “The Variable”

You would think I’d have been more “up” for last night’s 100th episode, and yet I was almost praying that Obama ran long and LOST’s 100th episode was pushed back another week.  Perhaps that makes me some sort of heathen, but as tired as I was I could’ve used a reprieve.  What’s more, I knew Mike Dell and “Larry” Farrish of the LCS Hockey Radio Show were waiting for me on the other side of LOST so that we might tackle some Red Dawn trivia.  (Incidentally, I whooped up on “Larry” but good, and I implore you to check out last night’s radio show in order to bear witness to the beatdown.)  I’m a trooper, though, and more importantly a geek, so my missing “The Variable” was unheard of, and thank God for that, as we got an albeit brief and somewhat unfulfilling back story on my man Daniel Faraday.  But before we get there, we kicked things off with…

1. The Confirmation.  Well, a confirmation, anyway.  Desmond is wheeled into the Marina Medical Center hospital as a distraught Penny and Charlie follow from behind.  They are made to stay in the waiting room while the doctors work on Des.  Who should walk in but Eloise Hawking, who comments that Charlie looks just like his father.  This, of course, startles Penny, as she can’t understand how this woman knows Des.  Eloise calmly reveals that, “My son is Daniel Faraday.”  At this point this really wasn’t much of a mystery, but I will pat myself on the back for pointing out that this would be the case way, way back when.  Well, at the start of the season, anyway.  We then cut away to 30 years earlier, in what I call…

2. The Opening, Part II.  We rejoin the conclusion of “Some Like It Hoth,” as Miles meets a Dharma-clad Daniel Faraday emerging from the sub at the dock.  Faraday insists Miles take him to Jack’s barracks.  Jack stumbles shirtless from his bedroom, though he’s got a towel wrapped around his waist, which elicited a “Huh?” from me.  (I mean, I guess he was sleeping naked, or was he mid-coitus?  Based on his apparent grogginess, I’ll assume he was asleep.  Yet for some reason I couldn’t help but think he was with someone.  Eh, I’m sure it’s nothing either way.)  Daniel want to know how Jack got back.  (On the surface level, he’s asking how Jack and the gang returned to the island, particularly in 1977.  I think the underlying question, though, is what put Jack on this path?  Is he where he’s supposed to be?  Is he there by choice or destiny?  For the majority of the season we’ve watched Daniel convinced (and convince) that we are products of destiny, and that “whatever happened, happened.”  Yet we will discover here, for the first time, that Daniel might think otherwise.  But I’ll get to that in a bit.)  Jack says that Eloise Hawking sent them back to the island, only to have Daniel inform Jack that Eloise was wrong.  I guess that requires something more than a “My bad,” huh?  And now, some back story…

3. The Piano.  And, no, not Holly Hunter nor Harvey Keitel’s naked bum The Piano.  Rather, we find a young, braces-clad Daniel Faraday playing beautifully at his piano, before his mother, Eloise Hawking, approaches him, asking if he knows the meaning of “destiny.”  She grabs the ticking metronome and asks Daniel how many beats on the metronome have transpired since he began playing.  In Rainman fashion, Daniel confidently replies, “864.”  Eloise points out that Daniel is special, and that he doesn’t have time for pointless endeavors such as the piano when he should be fulfilling his destiny.  In one of the more telling and tongue-in-cheek lines of the episode, young Daniel replies, “I can make time.”  Nice.  (And by the way, the number 864 was one of two numbers to appear in this episode for which I can’t seem to find any real significance.  I mean, sure, “8” and “4” are both there, but other than that the number itself seemingly has little meaning.  The other number, incidentally, was “141717,” which I’ll get to later.  I checked out the area codes for 864 (South Carolina), 141 (Colorado) and 717 (Pennsylvania, which just happens to be my area code), but none of these seem significant.  Any thoughts on these numbers?)  Interestingly, I would imagine that this “flashback” is around the mid-70’s, as young Daniel is perhaps slightly older here than Charlotte in 1977, which I point out only because we need clarity on…

4. Flashsideways.  The whole flashback/flashforward/flashsideways angle has really been something of a mindblower.  I mean, our cast, for the most part, is in 1977, yet we know a young Charlotte exists there, which is also the same “time” a young Faraday exists off-island.  So to say that we’re watching a Faraday “flashback” feels incorrect, as it’s more of a “flashsideways” or “coexisting flash.”  I don’t want to call it an alternate timeline, as that’s hardly the case.  I just need a better way to describe the same character existing at two points in his own timeline.  Tough to do, I think.  Anyway, back in 1977, we find…

5. Jack and Sawyer.  Jack arrives at Sawyer’s door, who is hesitant to let him inside.  Already knowing that their Miltonic paradise has been compromised, Juliet tells Sawyer to let Jack in.  Sawyer explains that Phil busted him, so to speak, which is why he’s now bound and gagged in the closet.  Now, I know that Sawyer isn’t a murderer (even though he is a murderer (see: Locke’s father, the man Sawyer thought was the real Sawyer)), but if chancing your entire, idyllic future on the island means “disposing” of an impish man like Phil, so be it.  In other 1977 island news…

6. The Season 5 Opening Scene, Redux.  Miles and Faraday arrive at the site of the Orchid Station.  Faraday takes the lift below ground, where the opening scene of season 5 is recreated.  Realizing what is about to happen, Faraday confronts Pierre Chang and implores him to evacuate the island, claiming that an electromagnetic event will affect everyone.  Furthermore, he tells Chang that the accident will be catastrophic.  Chang, clearly skeptical, wants to know how Daniel knows these things.  “I’m from the future,” he responds.  The conversation continues above ground, where Faraday further attempts to convince Chang of his identity.  He goes so far as to tell Chang that Miles is his son, asking him about the odds of there being another Chinese man on the island named Miles.  Looking for confirmation, Chang asks Miles if this is true, and Miles, of course, denies it.  Miles wants to know why Daniel has suddenly gone on “wildcard” on him.  “Because,” says Daniel, “I’m making sure your father does what he’s supposed to do.”  Now, I’m not exactly sure how to read that last line.  Is he making sure that Chang follows his destiny and, therefore, ensures the destiny of everyone else, or is he making sure Chang is acting against his destiny so that the future will be altered?  Go scratch your head, and in the meantime we flash “back” to…

7. The Graduate.  No, not the Dustin Hoffman film.  (Man, lots of movie references in this recap, huh?)  We find a long-haired Faraday graduating from Oxford as he approaches the “loving” arms of his mother, Eloise, whilst his “research assistant” Theresa walks happily at his side.  (You remember Theresa, yes?  She’s the babbling, bed-ridden woman Desmond encountered in Oxford earlier this season.)  Eloise, chock full of bitch, insists that she and Faraday go to dinner alone to celebrate Daniel’s accomplishment.  The truth, though, is that she wants to make sure Daniel stays on point, saying that “the women in your life will always be terribly hurt.”  Faraday reveals that he’s received a grant from a man named Charles Widmore, which immediately makes Eloise’s ears prick up.  Eloise leaves on less than happy turns, but not before presenting Daniel with his graduation gift, which is the leather-bound notebook we’ve seen him writing in the past two seasons.  Meanwhile…

8. The O6 Meeting.  Back at the barracks, Sawyer is hosting a meeting to determine their next course of action.  Present are him, Juliet, Jack, Kate, Jin, and Hurley.  The options as he sees them are to take the sub and get back to the mainland, or hide in the jungle and start over.  Jin refuses to take the sub, as he can’t leave knowing that Sun is on the island, even if she’s 30 years in the future.  A knock at the door prompts suspicion, and behind it are Daniel and Miles.  In one of his better nicknames, Sawyer says, “Welcome to the meeting, Twitchy.”  Talk switches to the notion of finding the hostiles, as Daniel thinks it might provide a way to “save” them, as one of the Hostiles is his mother.  In yet another strong Sawyer line, we get the following question:  “Your mother is an Other?”  Nice.  From here we cut to…

9. The Crying Game.  Okay, that reference is not at all apt, so don’t even speculate any further.  I merely meant to suggest that we return to a crying Daniel Faraday, rehashing the Season 4 episode in which Daniel stared, crying, at the underwater wreckage of Flight 815.  Now, even though I was hoping since Season 4 that the orderly would reveal herself to be someone of importance, it ended up being a nobody named Caroline.  (At least, I think she’s a nobody, as I certainly don’t remember her.)  In what proved to be some rather awful editing, the camera cuts to a man at the door, who reveals himself to be Charles Widmore.  (And the awful editing, in this case, is the hair length of Daniel, as it is exponentially longer in the “new” footage as opposed to the footage of him watching the plane wreckage.  What is it with bad hair/bad wigs on this show?)  “We’ve never met,” explains Widmore, though Daniel seems to recognize the name.  Clearly Daniel’s memory has been scrambled, as he explains that he was testing his experiments on himself first, and genuinely doesn’t know why he’s upset by footage of the wreck.  We get our answer, though, in that he merely feels bad for the people on board the flight, though subconsciously is connected to it despite his not realizing it.  Widmore proposes that the people on the flight aren’t really dead, and the whole thing is a farce.  Furthermore, Widmore, recognizing Daniel as a man of tremendous gifts, proposes to send Daniel to the island “to be healed” — to restore his memory, as the island has healing powers.  What’s more, Widmore makes mention of Daniel’s mother.  Ah, that wacky Eloise.  But before Daniel can reach a decision, we return to…

10. The O6 Meeting, Part II.  Daniel is trying to convince them that he needs to speak to the Hostiles, particularly his mother.  Sawyer points out that it didn’t do much good back in 1954 (“Like, Fonzie times?” asks Hurley.)  Jack and Sawyer fall back into their old adversarial roles, as Jack is pressuring Kate to go with him to turn off the sonar fence, while Sawyer is pressuring Kate to return with him to the beach.  Juliet, not only wanting to help Daniel but seemingly trying to break up any developing situation with Kate and Sawyer, reveals the fence shut-off code (141717).  Kate intends to take Jack and Daniel to the Hostiles, while Sawyer, Juliet, Jin, Hurley and Miles plan to return to the beach.  As they make their way to the motorcade, Daniel needs 10 minutes.  He walks to the swingset where a young Charlotte is eating a candy bar.  “I’m not allowed to have chocolate before dinner,” she says (again), as these were Charlotte’s last words before she died.  Daniel, distraught, tells her that she has to leave the island with her mother, even though he previously decided that he wouldn’t get involved.  In other words, Daniel is attempting to affect the future (change his destiny), but is, in fact, fulfilling his destiny in telling Charlotte to leave the island.  Oh, the joy of irony.  Daniel catches up with Jack and Kate, and they arm themselves.  Daniel, in a bit of comic relief, asks if Kate’s got a gun “for beginners.”  Radzinsky and the black-clad crew pull up, wondering who they are, where they’re going, and why they have guns.  Sure enough, a shoot-out ensues, and Daniel is shot near the neck.  Cut to…

11. The Piano, Redux.  Daniel is playing the same piano piece he played as a child, though he is clearly fumbling his way through it as his memory won’t allow him to play it correctly.  Eloise enters and says that she’s heard about his offer from Widmore, and that it’s important Daniel accepts the offer to go to the island.  “Did he tell you this island could make you better?” she asks.  Daniel concurs that Widmore did, and informs Eloise that he will go in order to make her proud.  Man, is this broad shady as all hell, or what?  So, with that bit of foreshadowing (and a bit more to follow), we cut “back” to…

12. The Fence.  Jack, Kate and Daniel arrive at the fence.  Kate enters the code and powers it down.  Daniel makes a point of saying that “this” is their present, which means any of them can die.  (Wink, wink.)  My question, then, is this how we explain the death of Alex by Keamy’s hand?  I mean, it was clear that Ben was shocked by Alex’s execution not because she was killed in front of him, but because she could be killed in front of him.  This, then, suggests that Ben does not, in fact, understand this principle of the island.  Certainly Ben was under the impression that Alex must have been alive in the future, which is why “Widmore changed the rules,” in his estimation.  By pointing out that “this” is their present, Daniel is essentially pointing out that there is no future, at least not the one they know.  Or at least, so he thinks.  Again, the irony is that Daniel is still under the impression that he is changing the future, but we’ll get there in a second.  First…

13. Busted.  As Sawyer and Juliet are frantically packing, Sawyer once again asks if Juliet has his back.  A clearly irritated Juliet responds, “I don’t know.  Do you still have mine?”  Catfight to come, folks.  While packing, a wounded Radzinsky bursts through the door to tell Sawyer what happened, and ask him where he’s been.  Sawyer, of course, tries to diffuse the situation, but things quickly go from bad to worse when Radskinsy et al discover Phil in Sawyer’s closet.  Radzinsky pulls his gun on Sawyer and Juliet and orders them to the ground.  Not good.  We return to…

14. The Variable.  Resting en route to the Hostiles, Faraday explains that, in four hours, the Dharma Initiative will release an uncontrollable energy they will later be forced to cement in (i.e., The Hatch/The Swan Station).  He then explains that in order to keep this energy from venting, a button will be constructed that must be pushed every 108 minutes in order to keep the energy at bay.  In four hours this chain of events will unfold, where Desmond won’t crash their plane, they won’t end up on the island, they won’t end up leaving and returning, and so on.  Why does Faraday suddenly think this?  Because he’s been concerned with nothing but constants up till now, but he forgot about one important variable:  “Us!”  “We have free will,” he explains.  “We can change our destiny!”  (If ever the free will versus destiny debate was a hot topic of discussion, never more so than right here.  Holy hell!)  Daniel believes that if he can keep the hatch from being built, he can keep their plane from crashing, and, therefore, keep everything else from following suit, including his own presence on the island.  And how does he intend to do this?  “I’m going to detonate a hydrogen bomb.”  And you thought Jughead was just for show.  Now, what exactly does Daniel’s revelation mean?  Well, I’m not completely sure.  That is, it suggests that the whole element of time traveling and “whatever happened, happened” meant nothing at all, as Daniel is now armed with the knowledge that destiny is not, in fact, set in stone.  Do I believe that?  Not really.  Why?  “Because the universe has a way of course correcting.”  That is, Daniel isn’t preventing things from happening; rather, he’s inciting them.  The irony, though, is that in exercising “free will” — in voluntarily deciding to change his destiny — he is actually falling victim to his destiny, thereby eliminating the existence of free will.  What’s more, as we’ll soon see, Daniel took on quite the John Locke roll in this episode, as he was manipulated over and over again despite thinking he was acting of his own accord.  But we’ll get there.  First, we flash back to the future(?), where we meet…

15. Ma and Pa Hawking.  We return to the Marina Medical Center, where Eloise is in the waiting room with Penny.  Eloise apologizes, and reveals that, for the first time in a long time, she doesn’t know what will happen.  Desmond, as it turns out, is okay, as he promised Penny he’d “never leave [her] again.”  Eloise takes her leave, and is confronted outside the hospital by none other than Charles Widmore.  He asks if Desmond is alright, and she tells him to go see for himself, as his daughter is upstairs.  Widmore speaks to Eloise of sacrifice, to which Eloise speaks of Daniel and says Widmore knows nothing of sacrifice.  And in one of the great reveals of the episode, Charles responds — wait for it — “He’s my son, too, Eloise.”  Zing!  Daniel is the son of Eloise Hawking and Charles Widmore, hence the half-brother of Penny Widmore.  Can we then assume that Eloise got pregnant with Daniel while on the island, or is Daniel the reason why Widmore was eventually exiled?  That is, was Eloise no longer on the island at that point, and was he leaving the island to sire a child with her?  Interesting.  And if you thought that was a reveal…

16. “Luke, I am Your Father.”  Okay, not exactly the case, but hard to ignore these sort of secret parent themes, particularly in light of Hurley rewriting Empire.  Jack, Kate and Daniel approach the Hostile’s camp.  Daniel walks in on his own and calls out for Eloise, only to be informed by one Richard Alpert that she isn’t there at the moment.  “Do we know each other?” asks Richard.  The answer, of course, is yes, as the two of them met 23 years ago (yep, that’s one of the numbers) back in 1954.  “Where’s the bomb?” asks Daniel.  But before he can get his answers, a bullet pierces Daniel’s midsection, dropping him to his knees.  The camera pulls back to reveal that he was shot by none other than Eloise.  Daniel, in a final moment of clarity, stares into his mother’s eyes and says, “You knew; you always knew.”  Eloise, still unsure as to who he is, stares at Daniel, only to have Daniel reveal, “I’m your son,” before passing over into the beyond.  First of all, this sudden epiphany was absolutely brilliant.  I mean, Daniel suddenly realizes that his whole life has been telegraphed by his own mother, and that she sent him to the island to die.  Ironically, and perhaps what sets it apart from Locke, is that there was a sort of closure, wherein Daniel understands his purpose, however cruel it might be.  Locke, however, was continuously manipulated, and yet still reaches no endgame.  Secondly, Daniel is dead, right?  I mean, I hope he is.  As much as I love the character, I want him to be dead, and can only assume that he is.  Bringing him back doesn’t make much sense in light of his “mission” to die.

All in all, a pretty great episode.  I guess I felt somewhat short-changed by the amount of time (or lack thereof) spent on Daniel’s back story, as he is one of the shows great, interesting characters.  Still, this was great stuff, and I’m oh so happy to have stayed awake for it.

Until next time, have at it, you vultures!

BD

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