It took a flurry of emailing, discussing, debating, but the TV Slutters have finally figured out how to celebrate our blog's fourth birthday (they grow up so fast). Each of us will be picking an episode from one of our favorite television show's fourth season to blog about. It's a blogging free for all: as long as the show had at least four seasons, it's fair game. As for me, since its recent series finale marked something of the end of an era, I decided to go with what I consider the best episode of all LOST time: the fifth episode of the fourth season, The Constant.
In my mind, The Constant represents LOST at its best. Mind-blowing science fiction mixed with a personal story that may be small in terms of the number of people affected, but massive in scope. In fact, rewatching the episode, I was struck by how self-contained it was. After all, this episode opened up a lot of broader mysteries: why must you follow a specific trajectory in order to get to and from the island? Why are only some people affected by the jumps through time? Who on the freighter was helping Sayid and Desmond? What else does Daniel know about the island that he's not telling? Why is Charlotte such a bitch? But we also have the beginning and end of a story: Desmond jumping through time.
But first, a brief recap for those whose memories are a bit hazy. We pick up with Sayid and Desmond heading to the freighter (just revealed in the past episode by a dying Charlie as not belonging to Penny Widmore, Desmond's love). Juliet, Jack, Daniel, and Charlotte wait back on the island for word that the others got to the boat safely. While traveling there, Desmond suddenly finds himself back in 1996 at boot camp for the Royal Scottish Army. He then jumps back and forth between 1996 and 2004 with none of his current memories. During these adventures he finds 1996 Daniel who explains that his consciousness is travelling back and forth through time. It's chaotic, and his brain will basically explode unless he finds the constant in the variable equation: the one thing that he can cling to in the past and present.
Desmond figures out that his Constant is Penny, since she is his one true lurve, and he makes 1996 Penny promise to take a call from him on Christmas Eve 2004, even though right now she hates his guts because he dumped her. Next time Desmond jumps back to 2004, he makes the call from the freighter and Penny picks up, as promised. They both tearfully declare their love for one another and Penny tells Desmond she has been looking for him for three years and will never stop until she finds him and the island.
Ok, so maybe the recap wasn't that brief, but you know what? I don't care. This episode was awesome. The number of characters was relatively small; sure we meet some of the people on the boat, but for the most part, we are dealing with Desmond, Daniel, and Sayid. The mystery of Desmond's consciousness leaping through time is begun in the episode, and by the end, it's solved. He talked to Penny, his constant, and stabilizes in 2004 with his memories intact. Done and done. Sure we don't know the why (why he started jumping through time in the first place), but the episode has such amazing emotional and characterization pay-off, that we don't really care about the answers. In fact, I think the LOST writers were striving for something like The Constant with their finale, but just slightly missed the mark. The audience was still left asking questions despite the emotional drama, while in The Constant it was enough to see that small resolution of Desmond and Penny, just two simple people, finding one another.
I don't remember LOST having a central love story before The Constant. Sure, some people were invested in Kate's choice between Jack and Sawyer, but since I find basically all three of them insufferable, I wasn't that into it. We'd seen romance before, with Sayid/Shannon, Charlie/Claire, and Hurley/Libby, but it wasn't until The Constant that we got into the real epic love stuff. I mean, there's a reason Penny is named Penelope: she spent years waiting for a lost wanderer to come back to her. Of course, she wasn't really content to just wait, in the end Penny goes and gets her man. But with The Constant, fans got the kind of "soul-mates who are destined to be together" crap that works so well to turn the wheels of a story.
And I gotta say, that tearful phone conversation between the two of them? Incredible. The two characters aren't in the same room, the actors sure as hell weren't in the same room, but when Desmond and Penny finally find one another across the phone lines, I am sure there wasn't a dry eye in the house.
And I cried watching it again this time. Especially since I saw Desmond and Penny to the end, coming back to this moment, to this beginning, was incredibly touching.
So, yeah, The Constant. Pretty amazing television. Even if you have never watched an episode of LOST before, I suggest you check it out. And if you are a fan, you should revisit it, since there are a ton of little easter eggs in there shouting-out to other parts of the series. Now excuse me, I need to go get some more tissues. My eyes are just watering from allergies....yeah, right.