“Lost” Recap: Episode 5.14

With its 100th episode, “Lost” pulled out all the stops tonight with “The Variable,” a Faraday-centric episode that sought to shed light not only on his whereabouts in the past, but his purpose throughout the history of the Dharma Initiative. While the episode featured some outstanding work by Jeremy Davies and a few incredible reveals, I’m working through how I feel about the episode’s final moments.

But all that in good time. On with the recap!

4) In Short

“Mama….oooo, didn’t mean to make you cry/If I’m not back again this time tomorrow, carry on, carry on…as if nothing really matters.”

8 ) On The Island

We see Daniel once again getting off the sub to Miles’ surprise. As Pierre briefs the rest of the Swan crew, Miles grills Daniel on the reason for this return. Faraday breaks out the photo of the newest Dharma recruits and requests to see Jack right away. He wakes the good doctor up, quickly tells Jack that he’s been in Ann Arbor doing research, and demands to know how Jack and company returned. Jack tells Faraday that it was Eloise’s idea, to which Faraday asks if she spoke of “destiny.” Upon hearing that was the reason, Daniel asserts that his mother was wrong.

Then, the Enterprise flies through the “Lost” logo and confuses the complete hell out of me.

Before Jack can find out what the heck Daniel’s talking about, he leaves on an important mission to the Orchid. Jack informs Sawyer, who’s busy with keeping Phil tied up and gagged in his closet. At the Orchid, all sorts of machinery that sounds EERILY like Smokey whir on while Faraday waits for Chang’s arrival. We then see another iteration of the first scene of the season, in which both Chang and Faraday explore the notches in the wall deep inside the unfinished Orchid.

normal_5×14-21.jpgWe then continue into a new part of the conversation, in which Faraday begs Chang to evacuate every man, woman, and child on the Island. Why? Swine flu! Oh wait, no, it’s actually because an electromagnetic anomaly at the site of the Swan will discharge in 6 hours which will be 30,000 times more powerful than what leveled the employee who just left on a stretcher. How does Faraday know all this? “Because I’m from the future,” he replies.

Outside the Orchid, Chang is furious with Faraday, figuring that Daniel is mocking him. Daniel tries to prove his point by showing Chang his journal, and even going so far as to admit that Miles is his son. Miles is having none of this, and denies Faraday’s assertion. Chang tells Faraday to stay away and leaves. When Miles confronts Faraday about his tactics, Daniel insists he’s merely ensuring that his father does what he’s supposed to do. However, in true “Lost” fashion, he doesn’t actually tell us what that is.

As Chez LaFleur, it’s strategy time. Sawyer lays out the options for them, with staying no longer possible: either commandeer the sub or retreat inland. Both Jin and Hurley insist on staying; the former for Sun and the latter to avoid being “wishy washy.” Hee. A knock at the door puts everyone on edge, but it’s only Daniel. “Welcome to the meeting, Twitchy,” he says. Double hee. Faraday surprises everyone by asking the location of the Hostiles. He ups the ante by admitting his mother is a Hostile, and declares her the only one able to put them back where they belong.

Sawyer forbids Faraday from going to see the Hostiles, but Jack’s had enough of Island Living II. He asks Kate, in front of everyone, to help him get Daniel to the Hostiles. Sawyer steps in, and says, “Come with us, Freckles.” OH NO HE DIDN’T. And the love quandrangle is back in play. Kill me with a stick. Juliet ain’t havin’ this “Freckles” bizzness, and so Juliet tells Freckles the code to the fence so Kate and her freckles can leave as soon as possible. Sawyer tells those remaining they have twenty minutes to pack before they have to leave.

normal_5×14-15.jpgAs Kate and Jack go to the motor pool for weaponry, Daniel has to make a quick pit stop at the Dharma playground to say hi to little Charlotte. Uh oh, here come the waterworks. They enact the conversation Charlotte described in “This Place is Death,” and it pretty much goes down as she remembered. He tells her that when Dr. Chang looks for volunteers to leave on the sub, she and her mother have to be on it. He thought he wouldn’t have to have this conversation with her, since he believed himself unable to change things. But now, he thinks perhaps he can.

Before the three can leave the motor pool, Radzinsky and two other Swan workers pull up in a Dharma van bearing weapons. Radzinsky, ever the conspiracy theorist, isn’t happy about Daniel’s gun-wielding presence, and grazes Daniel’s neck with a bullet. In the ensuing firefight, Jack shoots a gasoline tank and the three take off in a jeep towards the pylons. “Sound the alarm!” shouts Razinsky, about thirty or so years before he could have simply rung the alarm. Which is way sexier.

As Kate punches in the pylon code, Jack tends to Faraday’s minor wound. Faraday says he’s lucky; Jack wonders how luck factors into “whatever happened, happened.” Faraday points out that only applies to the past, but they are living their own present. “Any one of us can die, Jack.” CLANG. Oops, sorry, big anvil just fell there. Jack and Kate follow Daniel into the jungle, hoping he knows what he’s doing.

Back in the Barracks, Sawyer and Juliet pack with the sweet sounds of muffled Phil wafting through the air. He wants to know she still has his back; she returns the question. Neither answer, as the alarm sounds throughout the Barracks. Hurley, guitar case in hand, watches Radzinsky and Company walking right into Sawyer’s house. They quickly find Phil, and force Sawyer and Juliet to get down on all fours. So many jokes, so little time.

normal_5×14-09.jpgBy the Babbling Brook of TimeSpace, Faraday lays down the lessons learned during his time in Ann Arbor. In about four hours, the Swan peeps are going to drill into the ground and release energy so huge they will have to contain it like Chernobyl; above that, they will press a button for twenty years, the same button that when not pushed by Des will crash Oceanic 815 which will bring the Kahana. But, Faraday insists, they can change it.

How? Because while focused on the constants, he forgot about the variables. The “variables” in this case? People. Free will, he reasons, can alter destiny. As such, he thinks he can destroy the energy, breaking the chain of events that led to Oceanic 815 crashing on the Island. How’s he gonna destroy it? Huh? Huh? Line dancing! Oops, I mean “hydrogen bomb.” That’s the one.

On the way to the Hostiles, Kate wisely points out the insanity in a plan that will wipe out the timeline they are currently experiencing. Thank you, Kate, I was curious about that little side effect myself. But just then, they sneak up on the Others. FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE SHOW’S HISTORY. Sorry, had something caught in my throat there. Daniel goes down alone, brandishing a weapon and demanding to speak to Eloise.

Richard Alpert tries to talk him down, vaguely remembering him from their encounter 23 years before. Daniel demands to know where the bomb is while holding Richard at gunpoint. But before Daniel can count to 3, another shot is fired. Daniel turns around to see Eloise pointing the gun at him. Richard throws a fit, asking why she did that. Daniel stares up at her and says, “You knew…you always knew this was gonna happen. And you sent me here anyways.” Both Eloise and Richard look on in shock as Daniel reveals she is his mother.

15) Off the Island

normal_5×14-29.jpgPresent Day: Paramedics rush Desmond into the hospital after being shot by Ben. As Penny waits for the results of his surgery, Eloise Hawking walks in. Eloise mentions that Charlie has his father’s hair. Concerned by this statement, Penny confronts her. Eloise admits that it’s her son’s fault that Des got shot, and that her son is Daniel Faraday.

A while back: a young Daniel Faraday plays the piano accompanied by a metronome. A worried Eloise comes from the kitchen and stops him from playing. She enjoyed his playing, but insists that his “destiny” lies in nurturing one’s special gift. To prove her point, she asks Daniel how many times the metronome ticked during his playing. “864,” he replies, which has a whole lot of Numbers in it. She insists his mind is made for math and science, and it’s her job to keep her on this path. So, less Mozart, more Minkowski. Also? Kudos to the casting department for casting these two soundalikes. Hot damn.

Years later: Daniel introduces Theresa to Eloise at his graduation from lunch. However, Eloise isn’t feeling Theresa’s involvement too much, and makes her hatred pretty clear. At lunch for two, Eloise tells Faraday to focus on his research, not his research assistant. She tells Daniel, “The women in your life will be terribly hurt.” Faraday insists he couldn’t possibly work any harder, noting his many accomplishments including his latest: a 1.5 million pound grant from Charles Widmore. (Not 1.6?) Eloise seems shocked to hear Widmore’s name, but keeps her surprise to herself. Before leaving the table, she leaves Daniel a graduation present: a familiar-looking journal. Inside, a message: “Daniel, no matter what, remember, I will always love you.”

Years later: we’re back at the flashback from “Confirmed Dead” in which the faux Oceanic 815 was discovered in the Sunda Trench, which Daniel weeping despite himself. His caretaker answers the door, and Charles Widmore walks in. Daniel apologizes for not remembering the man before him due to his experiment-induced memory loss, but Charles insists they’ve never met before. Daniel preemptively apologizes about Theresa’s condition, but Widmore’s more interested in a new opportunity.

However, Daniel’s too upset about the plane crash to truly focus. Charles has a way to refocus him: he admits that he staged the crash. Why is he admitting this to Daniel? Because Charles knows Daniel’s Swiss cheese brain won’t remember. He tells Daniel about the Island, and says it will not only further his research, but also heal his brain. This latter fact makes Daniel extremely happy, although Widmore’s reveal that he and Eloise are “old friends” confuses him.

Soon after, Eloise tells Faraday it’s vital that he take Charles up on his offer. Daniel’s unsure, thinking he’s unable to do the maths required by the job. She pushes the healing aspect of the Island on him. In return, he asks if going will make her proud of him. With tears in her eyes, she says yes. He agrees to go.

Back in the present day, Eloise apologizes to Penny for Des’ involvement in a conflict “much bigger than any of us.” Eloise doesn’t know if Des will be OK, making the first thing in a long time she can’t anticipate. Just then, the nurse returns announcing a successful surgery. Penny visits Des, who is weak but awake. “I promised you, Penny. I promised I’d never leave you again.” And I’ll never leave you, Des! Oops, typing with my out loud voice again.

Outside, Eloise steps into a cab, but is stopped by Charles asking her if Des is alright. After saying he is, she sarcastically notes he should go inside to see his daughter. He tells her that his relationship with Penny is something he had to “sacrifice.” The word “sacrifice” sets her off, and as she speaks about sending her son back to the Island, Charles mentions Daniel is he son too. “Old friends?” Oh Eloise yoooooouuuu…you got what I neeeeeeeeeed…but you say he’s just a friend. She gets in the cab and goes home to watch like a hundred Lifetime movies in a row.

15) The Moment

Daniel shares a moment with Charlotte by the swings.

16) The Mythology

A lot of things assumed were confirmed, though a few new tidbits sprung up. Let’s get to the highlights.

We have a clearer sense of The Incident! In short: while excavating the ground at the Swan Station, a worker punctured a hole in the earth that released a lethal amount of energy. The DI then spent the next few decades plugging a hole in the proverbial dyke lest the entire source kill everyone, until Des decided to follow Kelvin Brown one sunny September afternoon in 2004.

So why did Des turning the key not kill everyone? Um…yea, let me get back to you on that one.

And how did they manage to build a station atop such a lethal site? Ah, well, as seen outside the Orchid, there was a whole lot of concrete on site. Instead of finishing off the Orchid, they plugged up the site with concrete, as described/theorized by Sayid back in Season 2. With the area effectively sealed off, they built the Swan atop that concrete slab for the sole purpose of releasing the energy every 108 minutes. But man, concrete pouring duty had to suck. I hope they checked for metal fillings first.

Eloise purposefully raised her son to always die to the Island’s past! Now, before we start handing out “Anti-Mother of the Year” awards, we need a bit more information here. I expect a lot of conflicting responses to this in the comments below, but there’s potentially a new way to look at “Flashes Before Your Eyes”: a vain attempt to keep Desmond pushing the button perpetually. If Des always presses it, then the plane never crashes, and the chain of events that leads Daniel to eventually be shot by her never has to happen. However…

Destiny is a fickle bitch!
OK, so Daniel spent three years at Ann Arbor figuring out that while the past is the immutable past, the present is in fact changeable through human intent, action, and above all, free will. This is kind of what I’ve argued all along, that there’s a way on a micro if not macro way to change things. But holy crap, did this episode put a dent in the ability for anyone outside of Desmond Hume to change a thing. If Eloise and Daniel can’t change things, how can anyone else? This brings me to a relook at another episode…

Eloise potentially sent the Oceanic 6 back as the variables! Remember the word she used to describe what would happen should everyone not return to recreate the events of Oceanic 815? “Unpredictable.” While it’s safe to assume her true intentions were not revealed that day, what if her actions were to help give her son one last chance at survival? Too bad she wasn’t the only one putting variables into play…

Charles Widmore is a bad man, horrible father, kicks kittens, and probably is responsible for both the Macarena and Mambo #5. Eloise may have ruefully put aside Daniel’s musical aspirations and love life aside in service of destiny, but Charles Widmore provided outrageous funding that not only ensured his son’s demise but Theresa’s downfall as well. The money he gives to her care is a drop in the hat if it ensures that Daniel learns the skills necessary to fulfill his role on the Island.

If you put Ben, Charles, and Eloise into a closed room with three weapons, who comes out alive? I don’t have an answer, I just think it’s a cool question.

We know now why Charles made all those off-shore trips that eventually led to his downfall! I can see Eloise banished for this action, one Richard clearly does not condone. We have seen Juliet kill an Other, and the trial that ensued. Maybe we’re due for another one.

Ironically, what truly seals Daniel’s fate is Charlotte! Without the need to save her, he doesn’t time travel, doesn’t study the DI for three years in Ann Arbor, and doesn’t return to stop the Incident from occurring. This is the variable neither Widmore nor Eloise counted on: maybe both thought they could avoid his fate. But watch Daniel watching the fake crash: even he knows it’s the beginning of the end for him. Somewhere deep in the recesses of his time-traveling mind, he’s already dead.

42) Random Thoughts

  1. If you notice, I didn’t play the “maybe Daniel isn’t dead, it could be a Young Ben fakeout” card. I just don’t see it happening that way. Sad to report. That doesn’t mean we’ll never see Jeremy Davies on “Lost” again, it just means I don’t see Richard taking him to the Temple in next week’s episode.
  2. Didn’t buy the quick discovery of Phil by Radzinsky. Seemed like sloppy writing to have Phil in so obvious a place. Then again, it was semi-sloppy to have Radzinksy turn into Rambo for no apparent reason while looking for Faraday. I’ll be looking for a deleted scene in the DVD set that connects the dots for me there.
  3. I’m gonna choke up “Freckles” to old habits, not old flames. But that’s probably because I’m not a fan of the love quadrangle in the slightest and want story, not wooing, at this point in the game.
  4. Curious about all those “What Did You See?” ads during the show? My main man Rick has the scoop for you.

108) In Summary

Here’s the biggest problem the show has going for it at this moment: it’s pretty much impossible to understand the true goals of Ben, Charles, and Eloise. As long as their purposes stay nigh impenetrable, we have no good way of ascertaining the meanings of their words or actions. And while I realize the show has to sustain mystery at a basic level until the end of Season 6, that lack of knowledge means that Daniel’s death sort of just hangs there for me right now. I WANT to feel something, but I can’t.

After all, intent matters in things like this. Did Daniel die at the hands of despicable parents that sacrificed their child in order to return to their homeland? Did Daniel die despite their best efforts at overcoming that seemingly inevitable fate? Version A and B yield two extremely different ways in which to view the final scene of tonight’s episode. And without a way for me to truly pick one over the other, I’m in emotional limbo over the singular result from those two equally plausible options. Until I learn more, I simply can’t feel more. And while Faraday’s brain made him special to his parents, it was his heart that made him special as a character to me.

Once I figure out where the hearts of Eloise and Charles truly lie, then I can figure out how I feel about Daniel’s death.

What did you think about “The Variable”? Were Eloise and Charles acting in Daniel’s best interest, their own best interests, or simply sacrificing him to gain favor with the Island? Will Daniel’s death avert or directly cause “The Incident”? Leave your thoughts below!