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What Nikki Noticed: 5.05 This Place Is Death

By Nikki Stafford,

  Filed under: Lost News, Lost Recaps
  Comments: 33


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 (season 3 or the combined season 1/2 are also available). She posts regularly on her television blog, Nik at Nite.


  • hyperRevue

    The time travel always happened, at least that’s my take on it.

  • I think that the Back to the Future analogy doesn’t quite describe what’s going on, but the idea of perspective is important. J Wood (in his Powell’s book blog) touches on this–the notion that both for the viewer and the protagonists, there is a narrative time and there is a real time that isn’t static–things are moving in a certain direction regardless of when they take place. Despite jumps and flash backs and flash forwards, there is a master timeline: so when Daniel speaks to Desmond, he remembers it in 2008 because that’s where the master timeline is. he couldn’t remember it earlier because earlier already happened.

    Consider Locke aiming his rifle at young Widmore running away in the jungle, did Locke not shoot him because it’s just Locke being Locke, or because Widmore is alive in the future (the master timeline) therefore he cannot be shot in the past. i think in the LOST universe there is no butterfly effect.

    • Benny

      I like that idea of master timeline. I tried explaining it before but had trouble. What I find wrong (read: iffy) with that is that the Daniel who talks to Desmond is from 2005 in the Master timeline. He’s just lived a week or so since Ben turned the wheel. Desmond has lived three years, all of that is in the Master.

      Summarized: MasterDan05 jumps in time to 2001-2004 and talks to Des. MasterDes08 remembers. There is a discontinuity that I can’t explain either from a narrative perspective or a time-mechanics perspective.

    • Eric T

      The concept of a “Master Timeline” is the central time-traveling concept used in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” … Remember that the school clock always moves forward and so Bill & Ted had to race to get all those historical figured before their report was due.

  • Brian McBrian

    The first thing I thought when Charlotte said “Daniel, It was you.” Was that He due to the effects of a future jump encountered a young Charlotte and told her she can never return. However like Daniel said whatever happens happens so she still ended up dying on the island.

  • b3astlyz

    Now that Charlotte’s dead, Daniel will say ‘damn the rules of space travel’ and confront child Charlotte in the past and attempt to save her from her grim future. I don’t know that everyone made this connection, seems kinda obvious. I’m sure we’ll see it in a future time jump. But what are the other implications for Daniel’s motivation for the rest of the series?

    • verylost

      I agree, my first thought was that Daniel hadn’t yet confronted a young Charlotte. That would explain: 1. How he knows she would die, and 2. why he doesn’t recall this encounter.

    • Absolutely. I definitely made that connection (I said on my blog that it’s interesting that despite his adamant instructions to the contrary, he will now go back in time and try to do the very thing he’s told others not to). The question wasn’t why Dan didn’t remember doing it (because he hasn’t done it yet) but Charlotte. And you’re right: the big question now will be what makes him go back and do all the other things he does?

  • Mack

    I believe what we are seeing is time in disarray. By time in disarray I mean, we are seeing the miss mash time line that exists as a result of several different people attempting to manipulate time. If I may I would like to take a quick departure and explain this.
    It seem as though Ben or someone has been attempting to alter Locke’s path for some time. Whatever future it is that Locke is meant to bring about, and I don’t assume it’s either good or bad, doesn’t suit the purposes of one or more persons. These people, most likely for personal reasons that we aren’t yet privy to, want to alter the path or delay the Locke future as long as possible.

    This individual or group of individuals, Ben and Widmore the two most prominent candidates, experienced the Locke future, or some other future, the first time around and found the results less than satisfying. Here is why I believe those individuals are Ben and Widmore.

    Ben has demonstrated some knowledge of future events and I believe Charles Widmore has some of the same information that Ben does. Charles Widmore provided the Second protocol documents to Keamy which appeared to contain information about Ben’s activities. They both have established a set of rules which many assume are defined by some exterior worth such as fate or god but do not think that is the reason. I believe these rules are actually meant to ensure that neither Ben nor Widmore intentionally or unintentionally make a mistake which causes the Locke future to come about. That is what the rules are about, controlling variables.

    Back to how this fits into your observations about memory and time. In Lost the consciousness can exist separate from the body and this is important. Understanding how the creators of Lost have defined the relationship between the consciousness and time is going to be crucial. Are time and consciousness connected would be a good starting question.

    In the end, possible after the time line is corrected, any of the memories that do not concern the “true” future/time line will become unnecessary and will be discarded. In the present, these memories are not accessibly because they do not help aid course correction. In the end you only need to know what is absolutely necessary. Charlotte can draw on these memories because she is between places. Her mind is not bound to a particular time and/or series of events. She is seeing from the outside.

    Course correction probably relies heavily on simplification. If there is a connection between consciousness and time, then acting on consciousness would be the easiest way for time to correct itself. If consciousness is as immutable as time, why bother on the flesh wrappers. It breaks, just as Locke but the mind…its forever. Anybody up for some reincarnation?

    Sorry this is so long. I wrote it quickly so there are probably a ton of grammar and spelling errors.

    • SonshineMusic

      If this is so, then it would seem that Alex was not supposed to die and by causing her death Widmore “changed the rules”. If she hadn’t died, what would have been different? Would Locke have turned the wheel instead of Ben?

      So possibly now Ben is out to try to right the wrong that Widmore set into motion by Alex’s death?

      • Eric T

        I always thought the “Rules” were analogous to the Others’ Laws … If you kill one of your own, you are exiled (ala Juliet for killing Picket).

        Ben saying that “Widmore changed the Rules”, is based on his belief that Widmore killed Alex, but Widmore found a loophole (by using Keamy to actually commit the murder) … This is the same loophole Ben used when he sent Goodwin on his mission to infiltrate the Tailies.

    • This is fantastic, Mack. I really like the idea that if it’s not important, the brain discards it. That could explain (once I think it through) why some memories are held, others aren’t. I suggested in my post last week on this site that maybe Ben has already time-jumped and saw that Alex was supposed to have lived, and that’s what he meant when he said Widmore changed the rules. I still think it’s a viable possibility. But probably won’t be the case. 🙂

    • Jacobs Lather

      Great theory! I like your interpretation of ‘The Rules.’ Whether or not it has to do with Locke taking over the island…I’m a little iffy on that one. But I think you might be on to something regardless.

  • Eric

    Back when Dan knocked on the hatch door – Don’t you think Kelvin would have answered the door seeing how he was more ‘in charge’? If Desmond answered the door and asked “Are you Him?” then that would have meant that Kelvin was dead and Des was waiting for his replacement. So, if the latter is correct then Des wouldn’t have worn his rad-suit cause Kelvin had already died. Continuity goof?

    • hyperRevue

      When Des answered, he asked Daniel, “Are you him?” which means to me that he was waiting for his replacement. Which means that Kelvin was dead and Des knew that he didn’t need the suit. Hmmmmm…

    • Eric T

      Kelvin could have been out mapping the Island, while he left Des to man the Swan hatch …

    • Jacobs Lather

      Or Desmond could’ve been either been covering his rear–you never know who is going to be knocking on your door or what they know or don’t know about you–or he was planning on continuing the same lie with his or Kelvin’s replacement. (Would it be someone replacing him or replacing Kelvin? Logically, it seems like he would take over Kelvin’s role and the new person would take over his role…but I have no idea of course.)

  • Mack

    Oh I forgot to add this. Sorry its more exposition on Ben and Widmore but it relates to how the time line became muck up.

    I wonder if part of Ben’s plan isn’t to create an approximation of events that are close enough to actual events to trick the great time lord into accepting his version. Ben attempts to do this by mimicking events that were meant to occur but altering them slightly to fit his designs
    Maybe this plan was originally the work of someone else, Widmore perhaps, but Ben went rogue is still fulfilling that plan but for his own reasons. Ben has been injected into the time line artificially. Think about this, we get Ben the boy wonder instead of Locke the boy wonder. Ben is the one to turn the wheel instead of Locke.
    I related this to immune suppression drugs that are used in conjunction with organ transplants. Immune suppression drugs are used to fool the body into accepting the foreign organ to prevent rejection.

  • rove3

    LOL. You lost me in the third paragraph so you must be doing something right. 😉

  • brent

    All of this stuff ACTUALLY happened. We’re just getting other pieces of the character’s flashbacks that we didn’t expect. Think that we just saw a Jin-centric episode and holy crap! Jin was on the Island before! Whoooosh…. Just a flashback.

    Of course, the biggest reason everyone is so confused is “What about Desmond?” Exactly. Take him out. He is above the rules. It is impossible to explain everyone else and Desmond with one unifying theory. Desmond is different for a few reasons.

  • What if the flashes happen every time something is changed? What if the flashes/skips are the island’s defence against changing something? The flashes do seem to happen at critical moments, no?

    Jimzip 😀

    • Zetaprime

      The flashes seemed to be happening because the wheel was loose on its axle and was moving back and forth. Once Locke gave it a good shove it locked into place and the island is probably in whatever time it was in at the last flash, which is probably somewhere in the Dharma era.

      • Dolce

        Or maybe it’s going to get back on track (like a record skipping) to where it was going in the first place…

    • You know, you bring up a really good point. I read something somewhere that the flashes seem to be too convenient and over-used as a plot device, like just when Locke is about to find out how to get off the island, he jumps. But the idea that the island is actually preventing the butterfly effect is really interesting.

  • humanebean

    I think the key to this line of discussion is whether the interaction of Locke and Richard represents an exception to the rule that one doesn’t “remember” a person visiting from the future until the event has taken place on the vistor’s timeline. By the time the Season 3 episode (“The Brig”) takes place in which Richard “introduces” himself to Locke and hands him Sawyer’s file, he has a great deal of knowledge about Locke that may have nothing to do meeting him during timeshifts in Season 6. (or even the visits to young Locke we saw in Season 4’s “Cabin Fever”) Thorough research on every Lostaway has yielded up the circumstances of Locke’s miraculous transformation upon arriving on the Island. This alone could spark Richard’s focus on Locke and his “specialness”.

    Imagine holding a book in your hands that represents the entire timeline of our story from chronological start to finish. Then, imagine taking a straight pin to the back page and slowly pushing it through towards the front of the book until the tip reaches, say, page 25. Only at the moment that the point arrives there are the events on that page altered. We experience time as the unfolding of events as we read the book from front to back. Since the pin has not begun it’s journey as we read past page 25 to the end of the book, we “remember” the events of page 25 in one fashion only. Only later, when the “happening” of the pin reaching through to page 25 occurs on the timeline as we experience it are we able to “remember” or conceive of those events differently.

    One of the most brilliant achievements of the writers has been their ability to keep these seemingly convoluted twists of time consistent even as our shifting perspective forces us to reexamine events and wonder whether a paradox has been established by “past” circumstances being changed by “future” ones. Faraday doesn’t recognize Desmond by the helicopter because the shifts in consciousness that will lead Desmond to Oxford in 1996 haven’t “happened” yet. Charlotte and Faraday don’t recognize each other when they board the freighter for the island because future Faraday hasn’t yet traveled into her past to deliver his fateful warning. She only “remembers” him when HER consciousness, set adrift by timeshifts, travels to her own past and sees Faraday there. Rousseau can’t recognize Jin when she meets the Lostaways at their beach camp because the freighter explosion and timeshifts that set him adrift to be discovered by the Beseixdouze life raft haven’t yet occurred.

    Crazy. Brilliant. Confounding. Consistent. THAT’S why I love this show.

    • Mack

      Oddly enough I used a very similar analogy while explaining Lost time to my wife.

  • One scientific theory is multiple universes. It is posited that for every single being there are multiple universes that…reflect that being’s existence. For every decision made, every path followed, every motivation – too scared to ask that pretty girl out; I’m going to ask that girl out; I asked that girl out, wow – there is a universe that reflects each possibility for that individual being.

    In my head I think of it as Possibilities Universe.

    SO the time-slipping events that one person does or does not remember could actually be interactions with different reflections – timelines if you must.

    Of course, folks. The great thing about fiction is you can make up or combine theories, never have to justify a thing. The writer only has to sit back with a knowing smiles at your confused questions because you have been sucked into his false reality based on the universal logos we all share and believe, faith-like, that the writer has an answer.

    And of course, there is no answer. IT’s fiction.

  • Desi’s Brother

    I thin your analysis is off on this time travel.

    It has clearly been established I think that you can’t change the past. So everything that our Losties are doing has actually happened in the past. I think the excuse for Rousseau is that she is crazy.

    The only exception is Desmond. Why? Who knows, but it has been made clear that Desmond’s time travel is different and the rules don’t apply to him.

    So there you have it. You don’t need to read more into it than that.

    • Eric T

      I concur … The past cannot be changed. All of the time-traveling in the past have happened (ala time-travel in Terminator, where time-traveling to the past is what creates the future from which it came).

      Desmond is a “wildcard” and thus is outside the Rules of LOST Time-Travel.

      Rousseau doesn’t recognize Jin from 16yrs ago, because she is crazy as a loon.

      Richard does recognize Locke (in 2004) from the very start. I think he uses Locke’s ability to walk as his justification to Locke as to why he is special, even though Alpert knows the real reason and that is because he knows Locke will have to travel-back to the past (1950s) at some point in the future (at that point in the story).

      Daniel doesn’t remember meeting Desmond (in 1996) because, at that point in time, Dan’s memory is swiss-cheese.

      Charlotte doesn’t remember Daniel from her on-Island childhood because she doesn’t remember most of that childhood.

      • brent

        That’s pretty much what I’m thinking. Charlotte’s experience right before she dies is intriguing, however. She seems to be consciousness traveling (as others have surmised) in those final few moments back to her childhood. Almost as if the flashes have caused her mind to disassociate from her body.

        We’ll have to wait and see how old Charlotte was when Faraday told her never to return.

    • That’s a good point. Something is definitely different about Desmond, and I think it’s his experience that keeps throwing me off, yet everyone else’s seems to be consistent with each other.

  • ackermaniv

    it’s easy. everything that happens in the past as we see it now has always happened. the ONLY difference is with desmond, because the rules don’t apply to him. it’s really not that difficult……

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