Tonight’s episode of LOST was wonderful. We learned how Daniel Faraday, in 1996, was working on an experiment that would allow the consciousness of a living thing (in practice, a rat named Eloise) to be “unstuck” in time. He meets Desmond, after his future self tells him to go find him at the Department of Physics at Queens College in Oxford. We later learn that Desmond will be Daniel’s “constant” in both times if something goes wrong, just as he advises Desmond to find his own.
If LOST has been well planned from the beginning, we need to go back through Desmond’s flashes and piece together his story. He was dishonorably discharged from the military – presumably because of his time-travel episodes that kept getting him into trouble? He doesn’t call Penny, but he sees her at least once or twice before the boat race.
By this time, Penny’s father knows about the Black Rock, from the journal of someone on board which had been owned by Tovard Hanso, and then auctioned for a remarkable sum of money. Who were the other bidders? Did Widmore already know about the island somehow by this point? At what point does Penny know that Desmond’s consciousness has become unstuck in time? Presumably Desmond himself will give Penny the frequency of the Looking Glass station in this method, perhaps even tell her about the island, tell her to have researchers look for a large burst of electromagnetism, and give her the frequency to contact the boat (where someone else will warn George Minkowski, in charge of communications, not to answer). George too, we learn, has come unstuck in time.
The symbolism of the episode is powerful. We all feel unstuck in time and space, and we all need an anchor, a constant. Our constant can be a person – indeed, it is hard to see how anything could anchor us in the way the love of another human being can. Perhaps this also clues us in to one of the biggest mysteries of the island. It is a source of magnetism, and it seems that the soul or consciousness of those who have died are prone to reappear there – and that those who die there may appear elsewhere as well. Jack’s father, Charlie, Ben’s mother: that which can become unstuck by the power of the island and move about in time (and space?) presumably can move about in this way even when the body is gone. And so the show will presumably explore not only time travel but immortality. Indeed, it has begun to do so already.
Finally, I’ll just mention that Penny’s number in London is 7946-0893. Given the importance of numbers on LOST, I’d be surprised if there is no deeper meaning to them, and to Daniel’s frequencies.