This is Not Amnesia
Where to start? One of the Big Questions behind the show (at least in my book), along with “what is the smoke monster?,” “what exactly is the island?,” and “who are the Others/Natives/Hostiles?” was “how is time flowing differently on the island?” Not the most cogent phrasing, I know, but you get the idea. There’s been a steadily increasing flow of hints and allusions concerning the fact that time ain’t flowing quite right there, whether it be a throwaway reference by one of our castaways “[insert event] felt like an eternity ago,” or in analysis of empirical data from an experiment hastily assembled by an eccentric scientist (Faraday’s ship-to-shore rocket payload). Well, we have a pretty good idea after tonight. I’m sure that episode made the heads of many feel pain under the weight of the equations and concepts thrown at the audience, so let’s try and make some sense of it.
In the season two finale, Desmond turned the Dharma key underneath Swan Station, releasing the built-up energy from the electromagnetic “anomaly” held at bay by the computer-controlled release valve up until Locke thought it’d be a good idea to stop entering the Numbers. In the process, he was undoubtedly exposed to high levels of said electromagnetism. We’re all exposed to electromagnetic fields (EMF’s) everyday, from our cell phones, our power lines, our computers, etc., with no discernible ill effects, though much research is being done on the long-term effects of such “negligible” exposure. What is generally accepted is that the effects upon humans varies with the intensity and duration of exposure to those EMF’s. Let’s figure Desmond got as intense a dose of EM radiation as one can get when he imploded ole’ Swannie.
Some members of the public have attributed a diffuse collection of symptoms to low levels of exposure to electromagnetic fields at home. Reported symptoms include headaches, anxiety, suicide and depression, nausea, fatigue and loss of libido. To date, scientific evidence does not support a link between these symptoms and exposure to electromagnetic fields. At least some of these health problems may be caused by noise or other factors in the environment, or by anxiety related to the presence of new technologies. [Corrosion Doctors]
Hardly a ringing endorsement of the harmful connotation of EMF’s, but I (and the show’s writers, apparently) have never let a thin premise keep me from liberally exploiting a concept. In the case of Lost, high-intensity exposure to an EMF results in the ability of one’s consciousness to shift to different points upon one’s own timeline. It’s an important distinction to make that it’s Desmond’s consciousness that is doing the time-travelling, and not his actual corporeal self. The fact that it’s just his mind making the journey, coupled with the fact that Faraday tells our castaways that the perception of time on the island is askew, leads me to believe the island itself is a vehicle independent (though not unintegrated) with the space-time continuum. (I’m not sure I’m helping make things simpler yet, am I?)
It’s a Faraday Cage, but with effects not restricted to electromagnetism. It’s a shield-of-sorts that allows the island protection from all external influence, whether radiation or electromagnetism or climate change or time itself. Taking a leap, it’s a sanctuary from the rest of the world’s ills. This immediately conjures memories of the Lost Experience game that took place between seasons one and two, which chronicled the exploits of Alvar Hanso’s daughter, Rachel Blake, who sought to take down his Foundation and its seemingly evil aims. The one particular detail that relates to our current story is the Valenzetti Equation, which “predicts the exact number of years and months until humanity extinguishes itself.” The equation’s core numerical values are–you guessed it–8, 15, 16, 23, and 42, our favorite Numbers.
The Lost Experience alluded to the fact that the Hanso Foundation was trying to find a way to alter those core numerical values, and thus forestall the fated apocalypse and prolong the existence of the human race. If the island is indeed a sanctuary against the chaotic timeline of the “real world,” it could be an ideal place to research ways to alter that equation–or even be the solution itself. If the island’s power, in addition to all the crazy-science stuff, is to serve as that sanctuary in more than just a passive fashion, it could be responsible for putting various pieces into “play” to protect itself and foster further examination of ways to save the human race from itself. It could be powerful enough to manipulate events in the outside world in such a way as to bring specific individuals it needs together on a passenger plane bound for California over the Pacific Ocean at the exact moment an electromagnetic pulse would bring it hurtling down from the heavens. It can control the fates of individuals that precisely. It makes the seemingly random encounters (remembered or not) between castaways in the first three seasons’ flashbacks a bit more than sheer coincidence.
I’ve wandered a ways off the narrative road here, so I’ll hope I’ve made myself redundantly clear and move on to everyone’s fastest-growing bullet point sensation…
- The bearing Faraday gave Frank Lapidus is 40 miles North at a bearing of 305Â°. If we assume, as Daniel told us a few episodes back, that there is only way to approach and leave the island, that means Oceanic 815 came in on that same bearing (or rather, the inverse bearing of 125Â°, if it came from the North.
Flight 815 left Australia, headed for California, and encountered radio problems about six hours into the flight (this according to the pilot before he was unceremoniously beaten to a pulp by the smoke monster), at which point the course was altered to land in Fiji. Two hours later, down goes 815. The pilot also stated that the plane was as much as 1,000 miles off-course. I’ve figured a Sydney-to-LA flight is 13.5 hours. Now, instead of writing out the rest of my thoughts, I’ve put them into map form.
Make of that what you will.
- With all this talk of time, I was beginning to think that the time the castaways spent on the island relative to the rest of the world was far less than they thought. However, if the calendar on the freighter is any indication, it’s Christmas Eve both on the island and back in reality.
So, my thinking that the 20-minute helicopter flight equated to 1 day on the island doesn’t quite hold up. (For those counting, that would make 94 days on the island [9/22 to 12/24] equate to 1.3 days of real-world time. Not bloody likely.)
- Desmond’s timeshift coincided with the helicopter entering a thunderhead (Frank had no choice if he wanted to stay on that 305Â° bearing). The electromagnetic energy inherent in the storm likely served as a trigger for his time-travel, but was the storm itself just random weather patterns, or was this another of the island’s security measures?
- We finally get to see the oft-mentioned freighter and part of its’ crew, including “Keamy” of Las Vegas, and “Omar” of Canada. Neither seems like the type to crew a freighter on a friendly rescue mission, but I think we all know the expedition’s not there to rescue anyone.
A face is put to the George Minkowski on the other end of the sat-phone, but he sure doesn’t last too long, suffering from the advanced stages of the same “time disease” Desmond is developing. I’m not sure if Minkowski’s relevant enough to be more fleshed-out in future episodes, but I would like to know what kind of radiation/EMF he was exposed to (he would had to have suffered significant exposure if Faraday’s theory about Desmond is correct).
The only other member of the crew we’re introduced to is “Doctor Ray,” who is “treating” Minkowski’s condition with sedatives. The Captain is mentioned, whom I’m sure we’re all eager to meet, and it also becomes clear that Ben’s “man on the boat” is helping Sayid and Desmond, unlocking the door to their makeshift cell. Is it dear ole’ Michael?
- The name of Faraday’s rat is “Heloise.” I found two references on Wiki, one to a woman from the early 12th century who, along with “Peter Abelard are among the best known records of early romantic love.” The other is to an American lifestyle columnist who specializes in “consumer issues, pets, travel, food, home improvement, and health.” Sure, why not?
- Minkowski tells of the ship’s communications equipment being sabotaged (likely by Ben’s “man on the boat”) and mentions the now-dead “Brandon,” who also started to go time-crazy as the ship approached the island. He also tells them of a continuously-flashing light above the comm. console, which indicated a call from Penny Widmore coming in. However, the boat was “under orders” not to take her calls. Two points-of-interest, then: 1) why does this freighter have a similar comm. setup to the Looking Glass station (inside which Charlie took Penny’s call)?, and 2) why is the ship not allowed to take her call? Orders from Charles Widmore and/or Matthew Abbadon?
- Speaking of Charles Widmore, why was he so intent on getting the journal of the Black Rock’s long-lost captain (one Magnus Hanso, ancestor of Alvar)? Does it offer clues to the whereabouts of the island? Methinks yes, which lends more credibility to the theory that Widmore is at the top or near the top of the conspirators who faked the 815 crash in order to stop a search and potential discovery of the island.
The journal was one of the many facets of the online Find 815 game I’ve mentioned many times. Among the season four clues the game also offered was “Queens College Department of Physics” (the school Faraday teaches at), “423 Cheyne Walk” (which turned out to be Penny’s address), and “020 7946 0893″ (Penny’s phone #).
- Wild Reach of the Nightâ„¢: Why did Charles Widmore leave the water running in the bathroom with Desmond? Did he know it would trigger a mind freakout on Desmond’s part and hurtle his consciousness back to 2004? Nah, I didn’t think so either.
- During Desmond’s phone call, Penny tells him she “knows all about the island” and that she’s been researching it. Where, pray tell, did she get that kind of information? Daddy?
- One thing I’ve seen some confusion with online is whether or not Daniel already knew Desmond when he came to the island, and that the red entry in his journal had always been there. I don’t think so; I think it appeared in-episode, and was a sign to Faraday that Desmond did end up tracking him down in the past.
One question remains, however: why didn’t Daniel remember Desmond? If Desmond did go back and meet Faraday, it should’ve affected the future from that point forward, and that “time wave” would’ve caught up with 2004 and Faraday would’ve suddenly have that knowledge. Well, 1996 Faraday told Desmond that you “can’t change the future.” I think I’ve already dealt with enough of this time nonsense in the first epic chapter of this post; I’ll leave you to ponder this aspect of it.
Other Stuff from Other Sites
- “Frank is told by Daniel to follow a bearing of 305, which is a Northwest direction. Eko’s stick bore the inscription ‘Lift up your eyes and look north – John 3:05.’” [Lostpedia]
According to Daniel Faraday’s rocket experiment, there is a 31-minute time differential between the Island and the freighter. However, we have seen the freighter folk communicate with their ship in real time via satellite phone. Many fans want to know: Is this a continuity error?
MAGIC EIGHT BALL: No.
How do you explain it?
MEB: How do YOU explain it? You’re going to have to work a little here, ”Doc.”
Harrumph! Well…could it be that there are certain frequencies that aren’t affected by whatever forces account for the time differential? [EW]
- The freighter’s name is the “Kahana.” [Sledgeweb]
- I could probably devote a whole post to the stuff in Faraday’s journal, but I’ll let Sledgeweb handle it: click here.
Meet you here next Thursday. I think we may be updating our Dharma station tally…