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Turn off your Mind – 5.14 “The Variable”

By Fishbiscuit,

  Filed under: Lost Recaps
  Comments: 108

Turn off your mind, relax
and float down stream
It is not dying”
– The Beatles

Whatever Happened, Happened. It’s been our Constant this season, our guide through the jungle of time travel absurdity and confusion. Remember how Daniel schooled us all in this one simple basic rule in the first episode of the season? You do remember that, right?

OK, now forget it.

Daniel took the yellow submarine back to Ann Arbor circa 1974, and whatever happened to him there convinced him that maybe something else could happen than whatever happened the first time. He had it all written down in his trusty notebook.

He came twitching into town with this revised theory, hoping to recruit some of his old friends to test it out. He told them that even though whatever happened, happened in the past, now that the past was their present, he had brilliantly surmised that whatever happened didn’t happen yet so maybe he could make something different happen.

Wow. And it only took a lifetime of studying relativistic physics for him to come up with this. He had carefully considered the pseudo-Reimemannian metrics and Lorentz invariants, worked through all the ramifications of teleparallelism and energy-momentum tensors, rejected the Schwarzschild solution, the Reissner-Nordström solution and the Kerr metric, and come up with his own brilliant discovery: Hey, guys, we can do whatever we want!

So this is great, right? Whatever happened doesn’t have to happen! Except not so fast. Because in this episode, whatever had ever happened did manage to happen again. First we got a literal repeat of the opening scene of the season. It happened. Again.

Then we saw Daniel kneel down like an icky child molester man in front of baby Charlotte and repeat exactly the same lines she remembered him telling her, about never ever coming back to the Island.

Which she will take with her into adulthood and repeat to Daniel as she dies, because she will still only remember that a scary weirdo said them to her and she won’t remember that she died because of it. Until she’s actually dying of course.

Whatever happened, happened.

And Daniel’s lovely mother, who killed him in the past, will raise him up just so she can kill him again, endlessly, ad infinitum, in the same twisted Oedipal loop, over and over and over. Whatever happened, happened.

Now there was a little glitch in this predestined family Oresteia. Mama Eloise, knowing she’d killed her adult son, apparently, from what we can guess, took her child off the Island, and raised him in America. Now, one would think, if it’s Sophocles we’re copying here, that Mom would have tried very hard to outrun Fate, tried to cheat cruel Fate out of making her sacrifice her only begotten son. But no, if you thought that, you’d be wrong.

When she heard his gift for the piano she could have sent him to Conservatory and kept him as far from a Physics textbook as was humanly possible.

When she found out he could count metronome beats in his head like an Idiot Savante she could have marketed him as a sideshow freak and made enough money to keep him set for life.

Or she could have gone even further, and tried to have him raised by another, set him adrift in a basket like Moses and tried to protect him that way. Instead it seemed like she wanted her only child to fry his beautiful mind with Relativistic Physics until he couldn’t see straight. And then she wanted him to go back to Craphole Island so he could walk straight into the barrel of her gun.

Twice.

Eloise was convinced that whatever happened had to happen so she warped and twisted and forced her only child’s life into a living hell, just so she could be sure to make whatever happened, happen. I think these writers need to go re-read their Sophocles, because the whole idea of Greek tragedy was that no matter how hard one tried to escape an inevitable Fate, they got caught in its claws anyway. That’s the whole basis of catharsis. In this story, Mama wasn’t just accepting Fate, she was boosting it along and feeding it steroids. She even managed to hop inside Desmond’s head when his consciousness time travelled back to her ring shop, to make sure he went back to the Island to not push the button that would crash Flight 815 so her son would have to travel to the Island so she could kill him.

Maybe she figured if she was going to have to take out her only kid, at least she could see him go out in a blaze of academic glory.

I wonder if that’s why she gave him the name of a famous historic physicist rather than her own, or that of his mystery Dad. Poor Daniel, his whole life was an exercise in futility.

She wouldn’t let him have a girlfriend. She thought that her love inscriptions in a fancy notebook would be an acceptable substitute and might somehow make up for the fact that she spent his whole life fattening him up like a pig for the slaughter.

But Daniel showed her, didn’t he? He fried his brains, blew out his memory, and then he made his forbidden girlfriend into his forbidden test subject and sent her broken memory careening through whatever had ever happened, while she lay paralyzed, a vegetable unstuck in time for all eternity.

But none of this stopped Mom from marching along her predestined path. After all, she had warned him to stay away from girls.

When Daniel’s brain got smoked, she let him go live in the family home, where he was sitting, sobbing in front of the tv set at the sight of a sunken faux-Flight815, probably suffering from the pangs of precognition of his coming death. Or something.

There he was visited by two spirits – his father, the graverobber,

and his mother, the assasin.

Together these two true believing missionaries worked to convince their darling boy to take a trip to the Island they knew would become his tomb. Did they want to be sure he prevented whatever happened from happening or that he made sure whatever happened happened, which by the way, would have happened without them being such noodges, but …uh, whatever. It happened.

Somewhere along the way, we know not where, Daniel discovered that Desmond Hume was his Constant. Maybe that happened when Future Desmond came to his Oxford lab and gave him the proper variables to make his equation work so that he could send his beloved mouse Eloise on the time trip that would sizzle her brains and kill her.

We don’t really know how that led to Daniel realizing Desmond was his Constant. Heck, we don’t even know what it means that Desmond was Daniel’s Constant. And, uh, looks like we’re not going to find out now.

In any case, at some point, Daniel’s memory returned. When he first got to the Island, it wasn’t working too well.

But by the time Ben pushed the Dharma Wheel, it seemed to have returned and he was giving seminars to the left behind group about all the intricacies of time travel. Which all boiled down to one hard and fast rule – Whatever Happened, Happened. Now we do remember that, as soon as Daniel delivered this message, he knocked on the hatch door, met Hazmat Desmond and proceeded to try to make something different happen.

But my understanding was that, once he did that, then that chain of events became the Whatever that always had Happened, and the rule remained true. But that would be wrong. Maybe.

When Daniel met Pierre Chang, he messed with his mind a little and sent him off fuming. Miles scolded him and Daniel responded that he was only trying to make sure that Chang did what he had to do. Which sounded a lot like what Mommy Dearest had been trying to do with him. So at that point Daniel was still trying to make whatever happened happen. Then he went to see his old friends – who seemed astonishingly not surprised to see him – and tried to get them to help him make whatever happened NOT happen.

That brought us to our stupid High School Musical moment of the week. Jack jumped on board with Daniel’s plan because he’s still looking for that pony under his bed…er, I mean that Destiny! they promised him he could have if he came back here.

Sawyer wanted his Freckles to come with him.

Which prompted Juliet to get her bitch on and give out the code to the fence,

probably hoping that Kate and her cute little freckles would fall into a wormhole someplace out there and disappear forever.

Kate took the hint and ran off with Jack Daniels, but first they stopped at one of the many convenient gun cabinets that this peaceful Dharma community keeps fully stocked and loaded at all times. Jack had the keys because you know, he’s been there three days, and Dharma security is so airtight that they hand out keys to their gun stash to all the janitors.

Guns were handed out like party hats, even to Daniel, whose brain was becoming refried by the minute. The only thing he was missing was a big KILL ME NOW sign on his jumpsuit.

There followed a hilarious cartoon gunfight that looked like a bunch of 8 year old boys playing in the backyard.

They should have just had them point their fingers and go POW! BANG!

You are so dead!

Then Jack and Kate and Daniel walked through the jungle towards the Others, swinging their guns, looking for whatever happened to happen. Daniel explained to Jack that he had a truly brilliant idea. Instead of letting a leak of electromagnetic energy to force the Swan hatch to be built as a containment unit that would need to have a button pushed every 108 minutes, he was going to find the hydrogen bomb he’d seen in 1954 and blow that up instead! Jack listened and nodded and thought that sounded good. This way Flight 815 would never crash. Of course, Jack, Kate, Sawyer, Hurley, Jin and everyone else on the freaking Island would probably be blown to kingdom come in a great big beautiful mushroom cloud. But, hey! Look at the bright side. At least their flight would never crash!

Jack should have stopped and consulted his Paradox manual because a doctor as brilliant as himself would have easily understood that what Daniel was proposing was impossible. If Flight 815 never crashed then Daniel would never have been sent to the Island on the freighter and would never be in any position to blow up the H-bomb to stop the Incident that eventually led to the plane crashing. We are talking Elementary Paradox Theory here. Daniel’s plan was doomed from the get go, because even if whatever happened never happened, what he wanted to make happen would have prevented him from ever being in a position to make it not happen. Come on!

Halfway through this episode, the 100th episode ever in a mostly glorious series, I came to the sad conclusion that this might just have been one of the dumbest episodes they ever wrote. It wasn’t just the writers who were dumb. It was also the characters. Did Juliet stop to think that sending Jack and Kate into Others territory might have some ramifications aside from keeping Freckles away from her Snookums?

Did the brilliant Dr. Burke not think of maybe giving crazy ass Phil a little sedative to keep him from thumping around in that closet like a big telltale heart?

How about this packing job they were doing on their way to go live in the wild? I get that Sawyer has become as soft and squishy as a bowl of tapioca, but how was he planning on getting all that crap down to the beach?

Was he planning on driving his Winnebago down there and hooking up to the utilities at the campsite? And Juliet was clearly planning on needing an elaborate wardrobe on this adventure.

I hope she remembered to pack her heels and a little black evening dress.

Back in the jungle, Jack and Kate were also showing a great deal of savvy.

First they let Daniel wander down into the camp waving a gun around like a big red flag – because that worked out so well during the gunfight at the truckshop corral.

Then, once he was down there, they watched from their vantage point as Eloise apparently crept up behind him and shot him in the back.

Way to be good lookouts! I guess the farce won’t be complete until next week, when I’m guessing they sit on their butts and wait to get captured. I mean, I know whatever happened has to happen, but can it happen only if all our characters get mind sucked?

?

With that in mind, it seems the 100th episode of Lost really did mark a milestone in our experience of this show. I do believe this was the moment when every last holdout, every fan who still bravely pretended to know what was going on, finally gave up the ghost and admitted defeat. And there’s probably no point right now in overthinking it. Let’s just all give up. We surrender!

Let’s not think of any of the consequences, for example, if Daniel is right about Flight 815 never crashing. Just kicking the Paradox Monster out the door for a minute, what would that mean? Well, it would mean that Desmond and Penny never reunited, which would mean that this touching moment never happened.

And this little boy would never exist.

Michael could go on to raise his video game playing son.

Sun could have divorced Jin and his 98 pound weakling sperm. Sorry about that, Ji Yeon.

Aaron could be raised by that nice couple in L.A. and Claire could go back to … whatever Claire did.

Hurley could continue on his merry way as an overstuffed, exuberant gajillionaire.

Boone and Shannon could have played their incestuous psychodrama out to its natural sordid conclusion.

Locke could stay in his chair, unmanned and unspecial.

Sawyer would never have to wear those hideous coveralls.

Kate could go to jail until all her freckles faded into wrinkles.

Jack’s hair could go back to never growing.

None of their triangular sex games would ever happen. Juliet would still be holding book club, Alex would be alive and Ben would die of a spinal tumor. In essence, the whole story we’ve seen would not have happened. And Jack was down with that. He was hopping right on board that Do-Over Wagon.

I’m curious though. If Daniel’s plan succeeds and Flight 815 never crashes, would Sawyer, Kate, Jack, Hurley, et. al. just disappear from 1977 Dharmalala or would they disappear off of Flight 815? When whatever happened doesn’t happen, which whatever doesn’t happen first? What’s the priority sequence here?

I tell you what. I’m not going to even bother thinking about it, until I see what they have up their sleeve. Even if we concede that it’s possible for human beings to be variables in the great equation of cause and effect, we don’t know which people are the independent variables and which the dependent variables. Once you change one value, a whole different cascade of results will ensue, changing the values of all the other variables in the equation, which in turn will cause a new chain of events in all the other related equations. Bu it’s not like this is science we’re dealing with here. Or mathematics. Or common sense. We’re in comic book territory, good and proper.

The consequences, however, could still be very serious and tragic. In any case they’re sure to be unpredictable.

“Or play the game
existence to the end
Of the beginning
Of the beginning….”
– The Beatles