Next: “The Variable” (Episode 5×14)

If the size of the post-thud headache is a reliable metric in evaluating the quality of an episode, “The Variable” may take top prize for Season 5. Jen and I are still trying to sort out the possibilities and impossibilities presented tonight. The man who preached emphatically that you can’t change the past finally returns, now emphatic that you can. Even our characters recognize the insanity of undoing everything that’s happened (essentially erasing the entirety of “LOST” to date). But just as Daniel Faraday gets rolling, he’s shot dead. By his mom. A mother who knew, in 2007, that he was sending his memory-addled son to that very fate.

My theory, such as it is? Faraday’s Jughead plan was doomed to failure, and will ultimately not change anything. But his death, his mother’s sacrifice, will instead be the key, the real “incident” that sets everything else in motion.

Why is Faraday wrong? Because he ended up telling Charlotte to leave the island, even though he didn’t want to, thereby closing the loop on one of his own “whatever happened, happened” moments. Because his supposedly radical conclusion — that people, and free will, are the key variables — is undercut by the fact that we’ve been shown that the meddling of our Losties in 1957 and 1977 were always part of the island’s history. And because, I think, we see him realize, with his last breath, what his mother was up to. He was never meant to go to the island to be healed or to save anyone. He simply had to die.

He simply had to die… for the first time. I’m struck by Eloise Hawking’s conversation with Penny, where she says with an obvious sense of wonder, “For the first time in a long time, I don’t know what’s going to happen next.” And she later tells Charles Widmore about sacrifice, about how she sent her son to the island knowing full well he would be killed (by her). Sacrificing her son, it seems, was something she only just barely found the strength to do. Something she’d never done before, which somehow allowed her to always know the future.

Yes, it’s still an attempt to change history, or change destiny, and I’m still not convinced it can be done. But if I ever suspected that Widmore and Hawking were playing at a wholly different level than any of the other characters, I’m convinced of it now. I only hope that whatever Hawking wants to change, it’s not erasing everything we’ve spent the last five years dissecting. That might be a bold move for the end of Season 5, but one that would ultimately be disheartening.

No question, the big questions raised in “The Variable” are worthy of a long conversation. But character wise, story wise, plot wise, it was… merely a good episode. One of those “set up” or “bridge” episodes, if you’ll pardon the expression. It brought a mix of reveals and confirmations, as we suspected Widmore might be Faraday’s father, and that Widmore planted the fake wreckage (meaning Miles’ chat with the dead guy in “Some Like It Hoth” was a fake out). The dramatic stakes were raised, once again via the separation of our Losties into two groups. We see things spiraling out of control, Faraday’s “four hour” countdown conveniently making the rest of the season a near real-time experience.

I was mostly disappointed in Faraday’s story. It simply felt rushed. We flew through his life, from his youth (torn away from the piano) to his graduation, through his experiments and expulsion from Oxford, to deciding to getting on the freighter. Theresa was but a mere blip, and the whole “Memento”-esque memory condition seemed awkwardly shoehorned in. (We did get our hint last season, though, via his memory test with Charlotte.) I mean, this is not the first time we’ve had an intriguing character with some key knowledge and connections… who ends up dying just when their significance begins to emerge (and at the end of a paint-by-numbers flashback episode).

Jen doesn’t want Faraday to be dead, but frankly, he better be. Another Ben-like resurrection at this point would be downright comical. I’d like to think we’ll still learn more about Faraday and his experiments (perhaps in flashbacks for Hawking or Widmore). His still unexplained tears at the sight of the fake wreckage suggests to me that, in true “Constant” fashion, a part of Miles’ scrambled brain was already in touch with his future self.

Notes and Notions:

  • Jaters rejoice? Sawyer asks “Freckles” to come with him to the beach to start over, and Juliet immediately gives up the code to the sonic fence. Sawyer asks if Juliet still has his back, and her response is only to ask if he’s got her back. If they’re going to go back down that path, I only hope they save it for Season 6.
  • I liked how young piano-playing Faraday told his mother that he could “make time.” Or how he, back on the island, knew when Dr. Chang would arrive at The Orchid, “right on time.”
  • We still haven’t seen Jack’s “moment,” but it was amusing how he noted that it was lucky he was a janitor when they suddenly needed the keys to the gun safe. As one of our listeners noted weeks ago, maybe that was always Sawyer’s plan.
  • Speaking of moments, Jack’s little speech to Kate about hers was pretty anvilicious. We know the both of them have yet to fulfill some grand plan, but to have that spelled out so melodramatically was jarring.
  • Tonight brought a great reminder that some of our Losties spent some time in the 1950s, with Hurley’s line, “Like, Fonzie time?”
  • Sawyer’s still got it in the nickname department. “Twitchy” suits frantic Faraday just fine. Bonus points for the straight-faced delivery of the line, “Your mother is an Other?”
  • Not to be outdone, Miles tells Faraday, “I thought you’d gotten rich inventing the DVD or something.”
  • Any numerologists want to sort out the significance of 141717?
  • Locations: Oxford was, again, St. Andrew’s in downtown Honolulu. The Indian restaurant where Daniel got his notebook was Grand Cafe on Pauahi St. Can’t place the “Marina Medical Center.”

We definitely need help untangling this 100th episode of “LOST.” Please comment below, e-mail, or call the LostLine at (808) 356-0127.

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210 Responses to Next: “The Variable” (Episode 5×14)

  1. Mirepoix from Mtl says:

    Thats the most likely stream of events I have read so far
    But still
    it makes my head hurt …

  2. paintergirl1 says:


    I disagree with your theory of paradox stuff, but I’m intrigued by your idea of Daniel as “The Looking Glass Station” programmer. The song choice “Good Vibrations” would be particularly apt given that so many of the theories behind multiple universes and time travel involve good vibration :).

  3. Pat from Ontario says:

    So now we know who staged the crashed flight 815. Miles heard it from the dead guy, he must have delivered the paperwork to Widmore. You would think he wouldn’t want a paper trail.

  4. Anna in Ky. says:

    Hi everybody, Just wanted to tell everyone on this forum that it is the best one out there. I just found it this season. All of you guys are great on you discussions. I have one thought about yhe ending to this fantastic show. The screen went black and thousands of people thought there cable had went out. Sopranos finale. After my intial shock and rant and sadness that it really was over, and even worse no real conclusion, I realized that David Chase knew he could not make every fan happy. The ending was not tied up in a nice little package. It was left up to each individual to decide “Whatever Happened, Happened. Hey, once again ,you guys are great!

  5. Fernando says:

    @ Rich in cleveland:

    In one of the “orientation videos” that the Losties have found in the Dharma stations on the island, Dr. Chang explains the fooddrops. I’m sorry I can’t remember exactly which video it is, nor what episode/season this is in. But the answer is there.

  6. James says:

    A bit surprising to see how critical many of you were of this particular episode. I actually enjoyed the pace of it, as well as the production value. Daniel is a great character, played by a great actor.

    I have given up on trying to make sense of the time travel narrative. Once you dip into that well, it is sort of over. Really.

    At best, you can write the paradoxes into the show and just go with it (like the Terminator movies) At worst, you will have narrative incoherence. This narrative device worked in Back to the Future, but that movie had a more humorous tone; Lost is a serious drama.

    Although we were promised a more grounded and logical end game, I remain optimistic. It ain’t over yet, folks. I am going to take some advice that someone on this blog gave me and see what the writers have in store. There could still be some game changer that retroactively makes sense of this “nonsense.”

    Now, on a positive note, we are getting so much information and reveals on the show now that it might be possible to start predicting the final mysteries. Don’t count out the whole “plane landing in Los Angeles” stuff. And also remember, the producers plan on having a final unresolved twist at the very end that will give the show an air of perpetual mystery. I am convinced of it.
    It will be a sort of dangling question. 99 percent of the mysteries will be solved, but at the expense of one brand new super game-changer.

    I am assuming Season Six is about the Hostiles/other-others. They are the true natives, and in season six, we will learn about the island as we learn about them: four-toed glory and all.

    I am leaning towards thinking that these others are the natural stewards of this place, and are working somehow in cooperation with a Castaway (we don’t know yet, big reveal later, maybe Locke) in a complicated role playing game (ala the Fincher movie, The Game) towards the transformation of yet another Castaway (I am thinking Jack).

    Don’t know why. Just thinking that if they are going down this time travel path (very slippery), then they will probably also go into the Game/Total Recall/Matrix area next, at which point they can explain away discrepencies as glitches in the system.

    What if the island was a computer program like the one in the Hitchhikers Guide to the galaxy that runs programs through PEOPLE to find the meaning of life, or stop the destruction of the earth…

    Then you could retroactively tie everything together. Food for thought.

  7. Rich in Cleveland says:

    I went to Lostpedia and the only mention of the supply drops I could find was in the Flame video and that was very brief. You could call for a palate drop with a certain code which was by then inoperative. That still doesn’t explain why or how drops continued to arrive for years after the DI’s extinction.

    @Nuckinfuts & Paintergirl
    A thought occurred to me about the programmer that has no substantiation anywhere, but here goes. Could Charlie have been the programmer? This would fit with the developing trend that those who came to the island brought with them or somehow created the seeds of their own demise. Does Hurley begin the curse of the numbers by creating their initial broadcast? We just saw how Daniel’s own attempts to intervene brought about his death. Wouldn’t it be ironic if Charlie programmed the code that he could intuitivey unlock thus leading to his fate? Whatever 815 did wasn’t “supposed to happen” and so they all became the causes of their own suffering. (Thanks to Fernando for redirecting me to the video archives.)

    @ Nuckinfuts
    Would it make more sense for Daniel to have time travelled via his experiments at Oxford than something he did impromptu at the Orchid? This whole thing’s confusing enough without multiple manifestations of the self running around. Still, I can picture the big twist down the line in which a character first meets him/her self.

  8. Zeppo says:

    From a strictly moral standpoint – Unless we are all like Ben, whose response to Jack’s query, “What about the other people on the plane?” answers, “Who cares?”
    If at the end of Season 6 the Losties stop Oceanic 815 and consequently Aljira 613 from crashing, why isn’t it enough to save all the people who died? It may not make the best story ending, but lets not forget that there is something morally satisfying to know that all the lives were saved vs. a story that kills off most everyone but improves the lives of those saved.

    Personally, I’m looking forward to learning about the Island’s history. What it is, its origins, its history, who are the original inhabitants, why does Dick not age, who is Jacob, etc., etc. How the story actually ends for our main characters has less importance for me.

    I guess that puts me in the camp of the Lost Mythology lovers vs. Lost Character Development lovers. I can live with it.

  9. Ashley says:

    Wouldn’t it be a complete bummer if the storyline is that Jack and Kate blow up the hatch in 1977, we see Oceanic 815 land in LA, all of our “friends” from the past 5 seasons are complete strangers and just as it seems they are all splitting off and going on with their “usual” lives, some other calamity strikes and pulls them back together?!? What if the real story here is that life and/or the universe must be reset occasionally…most of us just never remember that we do it.

  10. Michael in Michigan says:

    I went back and watched to the Dharma video from last Comic Con where it sounds like Daniel is talking on it to Dr. Chang. After listening to it again, I really think it’s Miles voice on it instead. Daniel is dead.

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