I loved this week’s episode of Lost. Great storyline, lots of intrigue, funny moments, both major plotlines hurtling toward one another, questions answered, new questions raised. And Old Smokey. All the things I love about Lost. (I saw DocArzt’s note the other day about how the season is already a quarter of the way done… and with this episode it’s almost a third… that made me very sad.)
But here’s my big question, and I wanted to throw it out there for discussion, because I can only speculate but don’t have any firm answers (I think any answer would be speculation at this point, actually). When people go back in time, are they altering the future/present? Or did those things always happen?
In “The Constant,” Dan tells Desmond to go to Oxford in 1996 and visit him and give him coordinates that he has written in his journal. He would have gotten those coordinates from Des giving them to him in 1996, that’s how they were already in there. Des hadn’t gone back in time to give him the coordinates yet, but the assumption is that he always did and always will go back to do that, and that’s how Dan has them. BUT… when Juliet brings Desmond to the helicopter (this is before Des boards it and has the flash), he sees Daniel standing nearby and doesn’t recognize him. Dan played a major role in his past, and vice versa, but neither one of them knows the other guy yet.
In “Because You Left,” Dan goes back a couple of years to see a Swan-hatch Desmond and tells him to go find his mother at Oxford. This would have happened before the events in “The Constant,” but again, Dan and Des don’t know each other when they first meet at the helicopter. And Desmond apparently has no memory of this encounter until 2008, when he suddenly wakes up knowing that Daniel told him to do this… Daniel having just gone back in time to actually do it.
Rousseau doesn’t recognize Jin when she comes to the beach in season 3 to lead them across the island. Yet he’s the only person she’s met on the island besides her own team, and he disappeared twice before her very eyes. You’d think he would have left an impression. The easy answer: The writers hadn’t come up with this twist yet and therefore logically couldn’t work it in. But let’s pretend the series WAS planned out and discuss it from that basis. Let’s not look at possibilities outside the text itself. Could Rousseau have no memory of Jin because he hasn’t yet gone back in time to meet her?
Locke goes back to 1954 and tells Richard to come and see him in 1956. Before he does this, though, Richard always knows Locke and DOES seem to know him when he first sees him on the island. He knows instantly who he is, pulls him away from Ben and gives him the file on his dad, effectively usurping Ben as the Messiah of the Others and giving the job to Locke. So in that case, going back in time was the lynchpin for everything, and Alpert has a clear memory of it, even before present-day Locke went back to do it, as if, again, Locke always went back and always will. Is it because Richard’s different? Because he apparently doesn’t age? Because he’s an Other?
Daniel went back in time and spoke to Charlotte when she was a child, and it scared her a lot. Yet he never seemed familiar to her before, and she didn’t remember him doing that. I think this example might be a little different, simply because her memory of her childhood might be foggy (as most of ours are) and only when time-jumping and moving into her childhood head (notice she keeps talking like a little girl) did the memory suddenly occur to her.
One of the readers on my blog, Chuck, suggested a Back to the Future type of explanation:
“There is a theory that if you were to travel through time and interact with people who know you in the future, they may remember the interaction but not remember that it was you that they were interacting with. It is a way of protecting the space-time continuum and the minds of the people involved. The time traveler retains the knowledge because it is not a memory to them, it is happenning in real time.
Example: In Back to the Future, Marty’s parents don’t remember that the guy who got them together was a dead ringer for their son, but Marty remembers everything. If you subscribe to the above theory, then this makes perfect sense.”
I like this idea, that maybe the events are too traumatic for the average mind to handle, so it erases them.
Daniel, on the other hand, has no recollection of anything, it seems. Maybe all those experiments with his long line of Eloises did his head in. Or maybe he time-travelled so much he began losing his memory (remember last season there were several references to his memory troubles). Or maybe he has become so unstuck in time that his memory is just wiped repeatedly.
What is happening to these people jumping through time? Ben turns the donkey wheel in “There’s No Place Like Home” and ends up 10 months later in Tunisia. Will he ever get that 10 months back? How about the island folk right now? Locke’s turned the wheel again to stop the time-jumping. Does that mean the island has stopped in January 2005, where it started jumping, or did it stop in another time? How can the island events fastforward to January 2008 when the Oceanic 6 will be returning?
Or… is part of Ms. Hawking’s master plan that she’s sending them all back in time to January 2005 on the island?
Let’s discuss! For a more detailed episode guide to “This Place Is Death” (including “Find that Season 1 Reference”) come on over to my blog!
Nikki Stafford is the author of the Finding Lost series of books, which offer episode-by-episode guides to each season. The guide to season 4 is now available at Amazon.com (season 3 or the combined season 1/2 are also available). She posts regularly on her television blog, Nik at Nite.