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.

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

  1. Bryce says:

    I cannot wait!!

  2. econruth says:

    I know it was just a clips show.. but any thoughts about the last episode?

  3. Connie in Alaska says:

    So…who is the “Constant” and who is the “Variable”? In the pairing of Desmond and Daniel, is Desmond the “Constant” and Daniel the “Variable” or vice-versa? We already know that Daniel considers Desmond his Constant, but he also told Des that the rules do not apply to him…he is a variable free agent in time. Hmmm…..looking forward to this episode to find out!

  4. greenberry says:

    love the mathematicalness of it all – makes sense that Daniel is the variable (free agent) as pointed out by Connie — which i suppose would mean that he (alone?) can can create alternate equations (realities), such as perhaps rejoining Jin and Sun — I’m sure this will occur before season’s end — Locke brings in a spiritual element connecting everyone to the island’s “destiny” and even Jack is on board and patiently awaiting his “role” of what the island demands

  5. Laura says:

    Daniel, of anyone, does seem to be attempting to take things into his own hands, but my guess is that one of the ways he is doing this is to use the only variable, which is Desmond. So Desmond would be both Constant and Variable.

    Different people have different Constants, but there is only one Variable (much as he doesn’t want to get involved).

    BTW, I LOVE that D&C said in a recent podcast that the time travel paradigm they are using is like Twelve Monkeys. That’s what I’ve been saying! Woohoo!

  6. Yann From France says:

    A comment (except the “what the hell”, they give answer to the fake plane in a recap episode???).
    Juliet said that Desmon REALLY was saving the world every 108minutes… So the Island if destroyed would mean the end of the world?
    We know that there is a wall in the Swan that is like “Tchernobyl”, so the atomic bomb might be in interaction with the energy in the Island and the Wheel… The energy discharge if not done could explode and destroy: what? the world? or just the Island and if the Island exploded it would be really really bad for the whole world?

  7. Rebecca in Copenhagen says:

    Hi Everyone…

    Bummer about the week off, even though the clip show was something to pass the time. Ill say it stinks that we have to wait for “The Variable”, but at least the clip show wasnt narrated by Kris White from the Official Lost Podcast. Seriously.

    Connie in Alaska…I think that Daniel is “The Variable” in all of this, and that Desmond is his constant. Remember thats what we saw in his mad scribblings when he was flipping through his notebook on the beach at the end of “The Constant”. Its going to be a great episode…I really like the idea that Daniel is just skipping through time and implanting memories, building Dharma stations and putting pieces together so that everything will fall into place as it should. My question is…was Daniel the “clever fellow” that built the Lamppost station where his mother uses the pendulum to locate the Island? Seems likely to me…
    Cant wait for the episode!

  8. Stefani from Mass says:

    If Daniel is coming back with the Dharma folk from Ann Arbor – will we find out how his mom is tied into all of this?

    And – if so, is he the same guy who had funding from Charles Whitmore after Oxford… or is this Daniel going to pose as someone else (ALA LaFleur) and is a separate entity from Whitmore. In other words, will Daniel have, now, two separate identities… or will he be able to be himself in both times?

  9. sets says:

    Ben Linus may be an evil genius .

  10. Knives Monroe says:

    The clip show said who was responsible for the staged plane crash? Well who was it after all O_o ?

  11. bluedog1121 says:

    The clip show said Widmore was responsible for the staged crash. Is it canon? That’s the question.

  12. Cat says:

    I thought it was very interesting tht the clip show said that Widmore was responsible for the crash as it didn’t seem to align with the previous week’s show. Darleton as said before that they don’t generally see or participate in the clip shows so either it is a big reveal or a big “whoops”!

  13. christy in TX says:

    I agree, Darlton also say the statements at the bottom of the “enhanced” episodes are not cannon, so I also think the clip shows are not necessarily cannon.
    Since the episode description is still not describing who is centric to the episode, I am going to play devil’s advocate and throw a crackpot theory out there for fun. Either Sun or Lapidus are the variable.
    Sun, because she was not originally destined to be on flight 815, or
    Lapidus, because he WAS originally destined to be on flight 815.
    We have yet to see how either of them have arrived on 316, meaning the 24 hours leading up to it.
    It seems like it would be a given that Faraday would be the centric character, but since it’s not yet officially announced, I have to throw out some other ideas.
    Don’t get me wrong, I am jonesing for a Faraday-centric story, but really, this is deep into the season to not even know the exact events that made led to 3 people getting on 316: Lapidus, Sun, and Hurley. But, since Hurley made is to 1977, I am speculating that it is either Sun or Lapidus that are the variable and that the events leading them to 316 and consequently NOT 1977 island-time, I am leaning toward one of them being the variable.
    Stefani, excellent point about which Faraday was being funded by Widmore, almost makes a loop when you think about it. If it is the Faraday with Dharma experience, he would be at least 50 in 1998 when Des goes to see him, though. But, still, you got me thinking on that one, maybe there is more there than meets the eye…
    Connie, I thought the “rules” did not apply to Des because he was able to later find his constant, allowing him to be “unstuck” in time? For some reason I thought that was why he was the constant, which would mean that Faraday, too, was unstuck in time?!?! Nose bleed, gotta go…

  14. Knives Monroe says:

    Well I don’t think that ‘anyone’ in particular is ‘the variable’. I think it has more to do with a equation or an actual quantum mechanic of some sort, even to the degree of what a ‘constant’ was.

  15. Lucia in Oakland says:


    Interesting ideas about Sun or Lapidus being the variable. We do know, however, how Lapidus got on 316. He told Jack in “316” that he’d been flying those routes lately. Of course we know he’s supposed to be there. Just seemed fairly routine how he got there. Loved his face when he peered into the cabin behind Jack and saw Sayid, Sun, Hurley, Kate and said, “we’re not going to Guam, are we?”

  16. christy in TX says:

    Lucia and Knives,
    Good points. Now that I think back to The Constant, when Desmaon asks Faraday in Oxford if his Constant can be a person, he responds that as long as he makes contact with person in both times, it can be, so I guess actual people being part of the equation is not a given.
    OK, I guess I should stop commenting before the episode airs, it will be that many more comments to scroll past to get to the more recent posts as they are submitted after the episode. Good day!

  17. Knives Monroe says:

    Regardless I haven’t seen any sneek peaks, so everything is going to be solid gold for me. This episode is going to spectacular.

  18. Stefani from Mass says:

    As an Algebra Teacher, the Constant vs. Variable has definately got me thinking. I just don’t know which is which. Is Des = Constant and Daniel = Variable or visa versa? Interesting!

  19. patricia says:

    The episode is off to a banging start! So much info so quickly!

  20. EricFromOhio says:

    Best line 40 minutes in…

    Hurley to Sawyer, “You guys were here in 1954? Like, uhhh….Fonzie times?”

  21. FrogWentACourtin says:

    Damn, what an episode.. I will have to re-watch at least twice. What an ending!! way cool, and somewhat foreshadowed in Eloise’s behavior to Dan prior to his getting on the freighter… excellent episode in a season that has had its fair share or excellent episodes..

  22. SM says:


    Can’t wait to read everyone’s reaction to this episode!

  23. I have to be first…HOLY FREAKIN’ CRAP! It ain’t original, but hey, it’s the only way to describe tonight’s episode!!

  24. The question is who is Penny’s mom. Also can Richard die? Ellie thinks he can.

  25. Pete says:

    Dude That was awesome
    But we saw a lot of this coming.
    Miles’ dad is Change
    Daniels parents is Eloise and Widmore

  26. Jack says:

    I knew that faraday was gonna die because i read a spolier, but i think he was such a good character and they shouldnt have done it so quickly. i recon his story line could have gone on for longer seeing as hes widmores and elouis’s son. im interested to see how they get back to the present though :]

  27. HAM in MO says:

    I thought it wasn’t a great episode, but it was pretty good.

    I love Sawyer’s nickname for Faraday: Twitchy

    Eloise Hawking wins the Mommy Dearest Award for being the worst mother ever! Even though she knew that she shot him in the past, she could have shown him a little bit of love over the years. She seemed very cold and detached from Daniel.

  28. Knives Monroe says:



    I’m done man, I’m done!

  29. Denise says:

    Man, I would hate to have Eloise for a mother, or mother in law. She seems so cold. I’m so happy that Desmond and Penny are still both alive *sniff sniff*

  30. Megan Massa says:

    NOOO! FARADAY!!! *cries*
    I thought this episode was excellent- so much set in motion, so much answered… Now we know who that other major death this season would be! Why can’t everything be wonderful? Why can’t they all have fun at the beach camp and frolic in the jungle of mystery and kill Ben and keep Smokey as a pet? Now we’re undoing the very fabric of time! FARAAADDAAYYY!

  31. John Fischer says:

    Lot’s of questions answered, kinda and some inconsistencies. The main inconsistency is the Dharma video shown last summer where Daniel was clearly the man in the background while Dr. Chang was talking about the imminent disaster where they would all die. Clearly Daniel was not there to make that video.

    So Eloise sends Daniel back to the island knowing that he would go back to the past and that she would eventually kill him. Why? Wouldn’t a mother’s love do anything to keep her son safe?

    Widmore is Daniel’s father and Hawking is the mother. So I guess we can assume that Penny is the child he had with an off-islander.

    How did Hawking know that Desmond was at the hospital?

    Widmore definitely planted the fake plane.

    Why was Daniel so insane prior to going on the freighter. Was it caused by the experiments he did on himself?

    Looks like Sawyer, Juliet, Hurley, Miles and Jin have some ‘splaining to do to the very angry Dharma folks. It’s hard to imagine how they’ll escape this mess.

    I can’t believe that they’ll go through with Daniel’s plan to explode Jughead. That would negate 5 seasons of the show which would be so stupid.

    4 hours until the Incident – I suspect that next week will mostly focus on the 2007 Ajira 316 folks and Locke, Sun etc. and that we won’t see much more of the 1977 folks until the season finale.

    I guess all of us that thought that Jughead was buried in the big cement block in the Swan were wrong. That’s a source of great energy that Daniel wanted to destroy by exploding Jughead – wherever the Others put it.

    All in all a good episode. Not as good as the Constant, but any episode that shows some love between Desmond and Penny is OK by me.

  32. Yeah, wow. This episode played like an epic film as much as it did a episode in a serial. Faraday died, sucks, but adds a bit element to things. I felt a little short change from the episode’s description. It acted as though Daniel would share everything he knew about the Island, he, in fact, didn’t share anything about the island, just basically how to stop 815. Which by the way 0% chance they succeed at destroying the Swan, guarantee it.

    So many ways this show could go from here, with what will happen to Hurley, Miles, Juliet and Sawyer.

    Also, the Comic Con video with Faraday and Chang, apparently never happens, unless Daniel lives, and I don’t think he does.

  33. FrogWentACourtin in Jersey says:

    I think when she was telling dan that he needs to go on the freighter, she was a bit sad about it… I thought she got more tender towards him then, knowing she was sending him off to be killed… by her own hand, no less..

  34. Holli in Jax says:

    Poor Daniel, just like a Greek tragedy.
    Maybe Richard will take him to the temple and he’ll be ok??

  35. mikefrommaine says:

    Another great episode, but in a show that pays so much attention to detail, I was surprised they didn’t do a better job at continuity. Anyone else notice the difference in Daniel’s hair when they were showing him watching the fake plane crash and when he stood up to greet Widmore? The Lost Hair and Makeup department must have been on break for this scene.

  36. Jen Oden says:

    The end of this episode reminded me how awesome my Mom is. In fact, I need to call her and tell her as such. But really … most folks on Lost have Daddy issues, figures Dan would have Mommy issues, and no wonder, she was setting him up so she could shoot him for a LOONG time! “No Daniel, you cannot play the piano, you have to become a math wiz, let Jen fall desperately in love with your character, then I can shoot you and break her heart” Okay, maybe that’s not EXACTLY what happened.

  37. paintergirl1 says:

    I believe that Jack and Kate will go through with Daniel’s plan, because they always went through with Daniel’s plan. Obviously Daniel going to see Eloise and consequently getting shot by her always happened. You could tell by her acting throughout the episode. Whatever happened happened is still the truth. Perhaps this nuclear detonation is the incident.

    I’m not sure a mother’s love could outweigh the idea that not keeping Daniel on course for his destiny could be the end of… well… everything. Who knows what a rip in the space/time continuum would cause. (Did that sound as cliche as it sounds in my head?)

  38. FrogWentACourtin says:

    ha, of course they don’t destroy the Swan, then there’d be no Season 6. 😛

    Meanwhile, I get the feeling that Daniel will live, somehow, for some reason.

  39. lostcupcakefactory says:

    Y’know what’s sad? If they go through with Dan’s plan, they’ll never know each other. Makes me sad.

  40. John F. says:

    I just finished watching tonight’s episode. During the episode they paused on an issue of Wired magazine. The issue was from August 2003. In magazine is a featured article “a user’s guide to time travel.” The article is worth a read and gives some theories on time travel and parallel universes.

  41. FrogWentACourtin says:

    “Who knows what a rip in the space/time continuum would cause. (Did that sound as cliche as it sounds in my head?)”

    in the context of Lost, no. 🙂

  42. Michelle in NY says:

    Holli In Jax: That’s an excellent idea. Get on that, Richard!!

  43. Scott in Chicago says:

    @Knives – If you are done, as you say, your theories will be a missed voice on the blog.

    Could Daniel be taken into the temple, like Ben, and turned into the Bizzaro Daniel?

    I look forward to everyone’s insights and let the debate begin!!

  44. Daniel has to, or else the Comic Con video is pointless. But if not, I don’t no.

  45. Ryan says:

    @paintergirl1 – If “whatever happened, happened” really is still true, then Daniel must be okay because he’s still got that video to make with Chang. And yes, I’m convinced that it was his voice behind the camera.

    Granted, there *were* a lot of clues foreshadowing his death near the end of the episode there; from Daniel himself saying “any one of us could die”, to Eloise telling Charles that she sent him back knowing full well what would happen. Yet, I still believe he’ll make it. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking. 🙂

  46. Megan Massa says:

    I really think Faraday is dead. At the very end before they push in on Eloise’s face, he does the whole “eyes unfocus and head tilt” thing. The man was shot in the chest! I hope he’s not dead, but I really don’t think they can pull that one again like they tried with Ben. Seriously though, gunned down by his own mother? Wow. This show has mommy issues, too!

    My mom has thought for a long time that the series will end with them all on the plane to LA and no crash, but I dismissed it as a stupid, cop-out way to end it all. Unfortunately, now that seems to be a reality… Though we still have one season left.

    Also, yay for Desmond being okay. 😀

  47. Hey Ryan and Jen,

    Love the podcast. Thank you for continuing with your great insight every week. I usually just watch the debate from the sideline, but this week I had to chime in. This was a top 3 favorite episode for me. I love Dan’s character so much. For a guy with so many complex thoughts running through his head like a mouse in a maze, his motivations seem simple. Make his mother proud, protect his friends, try to change the future.

    The start of this episode made me worry that maybe the past can be changed, but it looks like the more our Losties try to change the future, the more they ensure that things go exactly according to plan. I hope Daniel isn’t dead (or at least, isn’t “gone”). While the Dharma video from this summer gives me some hope, I won’t count on it.

    Keep up the great work, guys.

  48. Megan Massa says:

    Also, I think at this point the Comic-Con video is completely non-canon. He is talking to what seems to be Faraday and a man he calls “LaFleur”- but at this point one is dead and the other in serious trouble. I don’t think Chang would have them film a video of him in his house. I think the CC video was more of a promo than a preview.

    And well, well, well, Widmore… Another man with two families? Jeez, who’s loyal to their marriage on this show???

  49. HAM in MO says:

    Why does Radiznsky run around Dharmaville unchecked? I know that he is a little paraniod, but who died and made him boss?

    Where was Goodspeed when the ‘showdown’ was going on?

    I completely agree with mike from maine about the hair/makeup team. They must have spent all of the show’s budget money on props and skimped on the hair and makeup budget!!

  50. p says:

    he is dead.

    but i think we’re due for the return of Thomas!

    from Science to Art!

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