Every time I read an intricately researched theory on LOST’s time travel element, the ‘constant’ device, and Cuse and Lindelof’s Laws of LOST-time relativity, I imagine this very troubling scene: Carlton and Damon sitting in a dimly lit office, reading those very same theories, muffling sinister self-satisfied guffaws as they realize that we’ve all ‘fallen for it.’ That part of my mind suspects we’re all marks in one of LOST’s bigger narrative-con games.
At some point – probably while researching how grifters do their job for Sawyer’s character – the LOST writers realized that this one particular social engineering game of ‘The Long Con’ can be particularly useful in their craft. And so, they sat about figuring out how to lull us all into a sense of ‘how things are’, so they could effectively pull the carpet out from under us many episodes later. For instance, consider how we were lead to believe that The Others were grubby bare-footed folks that seemed to be living in the wild. The fact that they occasionally appeared in clean clothes was the source for tons of speculation – they could have been Dharma, for instance.
When later season 3 opened in the bucolic village of mustard colored bungalows we would later refer to fondly as ‘otherville,’ we began to learn the truth about at least one aspect of The Others – but more importantly, we learned that we really didn’t know much to begin with.
The sheer genius of this sort of story-telling could arguabley be how well it extends a story that could probably be told in a much shorter span of time. With the grand distraction and myriad possibilities, LOST managed to keep us entertained and bemused by The Others actions without simply blurting out that they were a pocket civilization that ‘worshipped’ a deity named Jacob, needed fresh women for reproduction experiments, and strove to avert becoming ‘fools enslaved by time and space.’
This is all part of LOST’s genius, to distract us with possibilities (what is the strange Dharma station being guarded at that coastal camp?) that turn out to be nothing at all, or convincing us that we know where things are going only to take an abrupt exit. As a matter of craft, it is the show’s signature and it is a stylistic mark of the writers that they themselves cannot escape.
The conclusion can only be that time travel, LOST’s handbook of time travel rules, and any shenanigans thereof, will ultimately prove to be nothing more than an intersection to LOST’s final act. A clever way to show us the history of what will lead to ‘whatever happens’ in LOST’s endgame. A side effect of whatever island magic LOST”s brain trust has cooked up for the final hours of the show. Like any overarching series theme of LOST, there may be some overlapping elements, but in my mind there is as good a chance of time travel – or it’s rules – being of importance in the final season as there was of The Others walking around barefoot for Season 3, or Flashbacks being the only temporal device for season 4, or the freighter still being parked off shore of the island in season 5.
As I’m sure a lot of you will point out, there is no concrete evidence to support this idea. Or is there? Think of this, the season began with the skipping of a record – a metaphor, we suspect, for what is currently going on with the island. If that is true, putting the penny on the turntable arm is the end game for this season. Stopping the erratic time flashing so that the narrative can resume unabated, dropping our characters – incidentally – into the time frame that becomes LOST’s final playing field with information they couldn’t have had without this time travel diversion.