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Objects in Space

By Daniel Carlson | Lost Recaps | April 7, 2010 |

By Daniel Carlson | Lost Recaps | April 7, 2010 |

This — this — is what I’m talking about. This week’s “Lost,” titled “Happily Ever After,” was another one of the head-benders that opens up new avenues for stories and brings us one step closer to an understanding of the ins and outs of the show’s universe. It doesn’t hurt that it was written by creators Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse and directed by long-time series helmer Jack Bender, either. Plus it was a Desmond-centric episode, and Desmond’s special abilities always make for interesting story turns. It was a strong episode in general, and especially welcome after last week’s dreary Sun-and-Jin debacle. The narrative was also notably less segmented than other eps this season, and the non-crash timeline events were more directly related to the original timeline than ever before. As such, I’ll do my best to lay out the events as easily as possible.

The Island Timeline
Desmond, in a shot that opens on his eye because that’s the way this show goes, is being treated by Zoe, who tells him he’s been unconscious for three days because of the drugs they gave him. He gets his next big shock when he looks up from his bed to see Charles Widmore, who asks Desmond if he remembers being shot. (It happened in the middle of last season, which feels like a lifetime ago.) Desmond does, and Widmore eventually lets the other shoe drop: He admits that he’s brought Desmond back to the island, which news Desmond greets with a predictable look of murderous rage that leads to a physical attack on the older man. Telling him that the island isn’t done with him yet, Widmore leads Zoe, Jin, and the rest of his team outside and over to a warehouse-looking building where a test is being set up.

Inside a control room, Widmore’s team is nervously trying to make sure that they can start a machine housed in a small shack outside; the machine turns out to be a pair of giant coils used to create an electromagnetic field. Widmore wants to toss Desmond into the field since he’s proven he can survive an EM attack, and Widmore wants to know if he can replicate his luck. After the predictable accidental frying of a redshirt crewmember, Desmond is dragged into the chamber and strapped to a chair between the coils. Widmore gives Desmond the hard sell about the importance of his mission, and says he’ll need to eventually ask a “sacrifice” of Desmond, after which he and the rest scram to make sure they don’t get zapped by the blast. Desmond manages to break free from his chair but can’t escape the small room before the coils begin to build their charge and eventually emit golden bolts of light. Desmond’s blasted from all sides as the screen fades to white and comes back with:

The Los Angeles Timeline
Desmond is in LAX, shortly after the safe landing of Oceanic 815. Hurley, sensing he’s disoriented, reminds him that their bags are at carousel 4, and Desmond heads there and winds up chatting with Claire for a bit. Desmond meets his driver, who turns out to be George Minkowski, who was the Kahana’s communications officer in the original timeline before he lost the ability to pin his consciousness in a set point in time and subsequently bled out from the mental trauma. He’s looking good, considering. George drives Desmond to a tall office building where he meets Charles Widmore, his boss, who greets him with a smile and a hug. It’s a crazy world.

Desmond is basically Widmore’s fixer, and the old man gives him a new assignment: Widmore’s wife is throwing a charity event, and their son, a musician, wanted to perform classical music mixed with rock at the event. The hitch is that the rock band in question is Driveshaft, and their bassist, Charlie Pace, just overdosed and got arrested for heroin possession. Desmond’s job is to babysit the recently arraigned Charlie and get him to the party. Widmore toasts Desmond’s skill as well as his unencumbered lifestyle, though the dialogue hits it too heavy on this stuff; obviously we know Desmond’s happier with Penny than as a corporate fixer, and that he’ll likely learn that in some way in this timeline, so it’s not as if we need to be tricked into actually agreeing with Widmore here, since we won’t. Still, Widmore pours them both a glass of 60-year-old MacCutcheon whisky (the same brand Widmore didn’t share in “Flashes Before Your Eyes,” and in fact the same fictional brand that’s used quite a bit in the show) as they drink in friendly company.

Desmond picks up Charlie at court, but Charlie bails and heads across the street to a bar, where Charlie starts rambling about “consciousness-altering love,” a phrase no one has ever said outside a TV show, but his roundabout stories have a point: He reveals that as he was accidentally choking on the heroin ball in the bathroom of Oceanic 815, he had a vision of a “rapturously beautiful blonde” and knew it was a vision of real love. It isn’t made clear, but this has to be Claire, and that sets up what’s to come. As Charlie and Desmond are driving back to Widmore’s — with Suckshaft Driveshaft on the radio — Charlie lectures Desmond about the danger of enjoying his material trappings, then decides to give him a taste of what Charlie saw in the plane. Charlie grabs the wheel and forces the car over a pier and into the water. Desmond panics and goes up for air, then dives back down to rescue Charlie, who’s still buckled inside the car. Looking in through the window, Desmond sees Charlie turn and press his hand against the window just like he did at the Looking Glass station, and in that instant, Desmond flashes on the original-timeline Charlie and the “Not Penny’s Boat” message he scrawled on his hand in a dying act of bravery. Desmond is startled for a moment but manages to get Charlie out of the car and safely back to the pier.

They’re taken to a hospital, where Desmond is ordered to get an MRI after he admitted he might have had some hallucinations in the event. Down in the lab, a tech straps Desmond to the machine’s slab and gives him a panic button to push if the numbers reach zero he starts to wig out. Once the machine’s up and running, the magnetic field triggers more flashes, and Desmond sees Charlie again, then Penny, and their little baby Charlie, and even hears her voice. But he overloads and hits the panic button, then races off to find Charlie. He finds Jack instead, reminding him they were on the same flight and looking for help locating Charlie, but just then Charlie goes running by in nothing but his hospital gown. Desmond gives chase and catches up with him on the ground floor, asking him to explain the visions. Charlie can’t, but he advises Desmond to find Penny. With that, he walks away.

Having “lost” Charlie, Desmond has to explain the incident to Widmore’s wife, but when he gets to their place, she turns out to be surprisingly understanding about the mishap with the band. She’s also Eloise Hawking, who in this timeline is married to Widmore and raised her son, Daniel, with him. Eloise definitely has a moment of looking spooked when Desmond introduces himself, though, and her behavior turns sour when Desmond overhears some party planning official reading a list of guest names and mentions Penny. Desmond asks to see the list but is totally cockblocked by Eloise, who pulls him aside and forcefully tells him to quit doing what he’s doing. She says that someone has done something to change the way Desmond sees things but that he should stop looking for whatever he’s seeking and be happy with his life. After all, he’s got the respect of Charles Widmore, which is what he wanted more than anything, right? Desmond wants to know how the hell she knows what he wants, but she ignores him and holds firm, simply telling him he can’t see the list because he’s “not ready yet.”

Of course, Daniel Widmore has other ideas. This timeline’s version of Daniel Faraday, Daniel Widmore catches up to Desmond as he gets back to his car and takes him for a walk to explain things, by which I mean raise a ton of interesting questions. Daniel tells Desmond about falling in love at first sight with a redhead that might be Charlotte, and after that, “things got weird,” like when Daniel woke up one night and wrote out an advanced set of quantum physics equations despite having no idea what they meant until a friend told him. Daniel asks Desmond to think of a scenario in which a coming catastrophe could only be avoided by detonating something like a nuclear bomb. He posits that there’s a whole other life out there, but for whatever reason, “we changed things.” It’s fascinating to see these other version of the characters begin to wake up to the notion of competing realities. Daniel says he doesn’t want to set off a nuclear bomb because he’s pretty sure that, somehow, he already has. After some more goopy dialogue that seems to place a lot of narrative importance on true love as a boundary breaker between worlds, Daniel lets Desmond know that Penny is Daniel’s half-sister, and that he can tell Desmond how to find her.

And of course: She’s at the stadium where Jack and Desmond met in the other timeline, running the tour de stade when Desmond shows up. She reaches the bottom of the steps and rests as Desmond approaches, smiling more as he realizes it’s the woman from his vision, and that he feels the familiarity and love Daniel and Charlie were talking about. He approaches her and they introduce themselves, reaching out to shake hands, but the moment they do, we get a smooth cut to:

The Island Timeline
Desmond wakes up on the floor of the EM chamber, with Widmore and the team looking down at him, impressed at his survival abilities. He was only out for a few seconds, they say. Desmond stands as Widmore starts in again on his spiel about protecting the island, but Desmond cuts him off with look of understanding, acceptance, and even kindness. He accepts that he’s there to help with the mission, and so sets off for somewhere through the jungle with Zoe and some others. She’s suspicious of Desmond’s new attitude, but he tells her that a lot can happen in 20 minutes, the time elapsed since he awoke. Just then, Sayid jumps from the jungle, snaps a guard’s neck, and tells Zoe to run away. He tells Desmond that Widmore’s people are “extremely dangerous,” and Desmond just grins and rolls with it, telling Sayid to lead the way.

There’s one last bit, back in the Los Angeles timeline. Desmond wakes up in the stadium at Penny’s feet, having fainted when they shook hands. She thinks he’s cute, though, and they make a coffee date for an hour later. Desmond heads back to his car, where George is waiting, and Desmond asks the man to wrangle a passenger manifest for Oceanic 815. George says he can do that no problem, though he’s curious what Desmond wants with it. Desmond, staring into the middle distance with worrying conviction, says, “I just need to show them something.”

And that’s that. And, well, it was a hell of an episode. The fact that the original timeline is making itself more forcibly known on the Los Angeles one is telling. At first it was just knowing glances like the one Jack and Kate shared at LAX, but this is bigger. Maybe it’s triggered by a proximity to an extreme emotional state, hence the near-death flashes and the crumbling of the walls that happens when someone spots the person they loved in the other world. Desmond is special, though. He doesn’t just time-travel, he can project his consciousness into other times and come back with the memories and experiences. So when he blacked out and woke up a few seconds later in the electromagnetic chamber, the L.A. action wasn’t just an alternative to his other self but a very real thing he was experiencing that then affected his behavior upon waking. Eloise is also still extremely creepy, and seems to have the ability to know about/travel between alternate timelines at will, or maybe to transmit knowledge between them, or maybe just to know about them all at once. Her admonishment of Desmond almost made it seem like she had a hand in planning his Los Angeles life, or at least that she’d known about it as long as he had, making that world feel like a construct that depends upon the complacency of the Oceanic passengers for its integrity. It feels like eventually, the “original” timeline will have to overpower the new one, though how, when, why, or in what way remain a mystery. And just what does Widmore want Desmond to do? Live through another electromagnetic explosion that turns the sky purple? Become the new protector? Will we ever meet Penny’s mother? Can every episode be this good? I leave the discussion, as always, in your hands.

Daniel Carlson is the managing editor of Pajiba and a member of the Houston Film Critics Society, as well as a TV blogger for the Houston Press. You can visit his blog, Slowly Going Bald.