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Lostwatch: Groundhog Day on Christmas Eve

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A changed Desmond arrives on Not Penny’s Boat. / ABC: MARIO PEREZ

SPOILER ALERT: Before read this post, set your device to 2.342, set the oscillator to 11 Hz, and watch last night’s Lost.

How badly is my mind blown? There’s a little rivulet of blood running out of my nose. Excuse me. I need to call my constant.

OK. When I take notes for a Lostwatch, I used to always mark the beginning of a flashback with a little notation: “fb.” When the flash-forwards began, I started using a new abbreviation: “ff.” When Desmond got unstuck last night and ended up with his Royal Scots’ regiment in 1996, I had to make up another abbreviation, “fwdk.” Flash We-Don’t Know.

It became clearer as the episode went on. It was a flash-sideways. Or a flash-both-ways. Or a flashtrance. Remember when Lost was the show that “never gave us any answers”? “The Constant” gave us some of the kind of answers that you might have never expected to get from Lost, ever. Such as, yes, time literally does pass differently on the island. (“Your perception of how long your friends have been gone, it’s not necessarily how long they’ve been gone.”) Such as, no, Desmond’s not hallucinating: his consciousness has actually been traveling backward and forward in time since he got blowed up real good in the Hatch.

And yet–of course–a lot of questions now. And we’ll get to them in a second (or just unstick in time and skip to them now). But first: I’m really impressed with how emotionally involving the producers have made the Desmond-Penny relationship, which I will admit, I did not give a fig about their first few flashbacks. I guess it owes to the fact that we’ve know Desmond a couple years now, we like and care about him, thus we care about DesPenny. (Pesmond?)

That said, the whole idea of Desmond needing a “constant”—something that exists in both his future and his past—seemed like a pretty convenient device to turn her into a pair of ruby slippers, making him literally need her to survive. It didn’t make much sense even on the terms of the hoo-hah Lost-science that I’m perfectly willing enough to accept for the sake of the story. For instance: what’s to stop Desmond from flashing back to some time before he met Penny? Or to the far future, after she’s died, or he had a midlife crisis and left her for the nanny, or whatever? (Update: Also, over at Sepinwall, Jim Treacher makes a great point: “how much “time shock” is a rat going to experience? ‘Wait, this isn’t the piece of cheese I was just eating! And wasn’t I just on the other side of this cage?’ It’s not like the little critter had a rat drill sergeant screaming in her face every five minutes.”)

None of that, of course, stopped me from getting totally verklempt when Penny picked up the phone.

OK, I need a tissue. On to the hail of bullets:

* Poor Fisher Stevens! I mean, what the hell? They made his role out as if he was practically going to be co-starring this season, and he’s dead before the last commercial break? More to the point, why do you suppose it is that the journey to and from the island affects some people but not others?

* What in hell is in the Black Rock’s first mate’s log, and why in hell does (did) Charles Widmore want it? Also, have we encountered the name of the Hanso family member said to be the log’s owner? (It sounded like “Torvald,” but I don’t know of a Hanso by that name.)

* So why doesn’t Faraday remember having met Desmond in 1996? Does this have something to do with his general mental disorientation–the side effect, possibly, of leaving his head uncovered for all those experiments–and the fact that he didn’t know why he was crying at the news of the 815 crash? He seems to have issues with his memory–recall Charlotte’s testing him with the cards, which seemed either like a precognition test or a memory test. (Or both? Is it possible that he also comes unstuck in time somehow–and thus has some kind of foreknowledge about 815–but is unable to remember his episodes consciously?)

* Has this particular “time travel” conceit, traveling not corporeally but in your consciousness from one point in your life to another, been used in sci-fi before? Becauuse it is cool ass. It’s so cool ass that I assume that it must have been used before, probablly in something I should have seen or read already, but I’m not familiar enough with the genre. (Update: Duh, Slaughterhouse-Five. Which I actually read in high school, and much of which I’m guessing flew over my head at the time.)

* Speaking of which: so what exactly is Past Daniel doing to that rat to unstick it in time? Or are you cool with the standard comic-book he-just-shined-a-bright-pink-light-on-it explanation?

* No Hurleyisms, no Sawyerisms, almost no comic relief at all in this episode–and I didn’t miss it a bit.

* “Looks like you guys have a friend on this boat.” Who?

* Speaking of which, if you have any theories about the boat people—their motives, their provenance, why they’re so pissed that Frank brought people back from the island, why they’re letting Penny go to voicemail—let ’em fly, because I got nothin’.

* How will Desmond’s unsticking come into play going forward? Lost itself is unstuck in time, with settings in the past and future, arrayed around the nexus of 2004. So Desmond, if he becomes one of the Oceanic 6, is the one character with the potential to “travel” between the survivors’ past, present and future. Which you’d think would come in handy if he could control it. And we have to assume he survives at least for a while, right, because the fact that he “flashed” on the image of others getting into the helicopter must mean he survived to see that. [Update: As John reminds me in the comments, duh, Desmond was not on Oceanic 815, so he could not be one of the “Oceanic 6”–but as Ben shows us, that doesn’t mean he can’t get off the island.]

* Do they really call them “crunches” in the Queen’s army? Because honestly, that is not exactly going to strike fear into the heart of your enemy.

* By the way, big thanks to Chaddogg for the awesome job you did recapping last week’s Lost. You were good. Too good, in fact. Look over your shoulder, Mr. Chaddogg–Matthew Abaddon may be tailing you.