So yeah, about those flash-sideways.
All season, we've patiently -- fine, maybe not that patiently -- watched our beloved island castaways whoosh to a universe where Flight 815 has landed safely in Los Angeles. Jack has a cute son. Great. Locke is a substitute teacher. Gotcha. This narrative device has provided plenty of fascinating moments, but let's be honest: It's evolved into a fun game of spot-the-formerly-dead-character. (One word: Mikhail!). Can you blame us? Explanations have been nonexistent.
Until the messed-up April 6 episode.
And I mean messed-up in a good way. Keeping in mind that I'm a celebrity journalist and not a quantum physicist, here's what I got: Viewers are actually and truly getting a glimpse of the Oceanic gang in a post-Jarhead detonation world. Daniel Farraday's plan worked. When Juliet set off that bomb in 1977, everyone's lives reset.
If I'm wrong, then blame Desmond and his vivid blackouts.
To quote a line uttered many times throughout the series, the island wasn't done with him yet. So Charles Widmore drugged his son in law and brought him back to run a fun experiment on him. Desmond, you see, is special. He has an awesome Scottish accent. Oh: He's also capable of surviving high blasts of electromagnetic radiation.
Not that the gift doesn't have funky side effects: Ever since Desmond hit the fail-safe button when the hatch exploded waaaaay back in the season two finale, he's had these flashes. He knew Charlie was going to die. And he was able to mentally "travel" to his own alternative, non-island universe.
Widmore somehow knows all this. And as part of his grand plan to take hold of the island and save its inhabitants, he wants to make sure Desmond can still withstand the radiation. Zoe clamps up the electricity and -- bam! Suddenly, the guy is in a dapper suit getting off Oceanic 815 and flirting with Claire at baggage claim.
Claire isn't that important here. Charlie is. When we last saw Mr. Pace, he was being hauled off the plane for drug confiscation. Conveniently, he gets bailed out by Desmond. The reason: Charles Widmore, wants the Driveshaft singer to play at his wife's benefit, and he wants Desmond to make sure it happens.
By the way, the scene in Widmore's L.A. office was ridiculously symbolic -- everybody saw the painting of the boat, right? There was a scale too (shades of Jacob and Man in Black). And the two shared that expensive bottle of liquor. The same bottle that Widmore once told Desmond was worth more than him.
The exchanges between Charlie and Desmond were also rich with subtext. Many wink-wink lines about making choices and sticking to a preconceived path of life. Though some of this was heavy-handed, longtime fans had to appreciate seeing these two doomed friends reconnect. And, perhaps, saving each other's lives. This moment happens more than half way through the episode. While Charlie and Desmond are submerged underwater, Desmond has a flash of enlightening deja vu -- he has a vision of Charlie holding up his hand with the words "Not Penny's Boat" written on it just before he drowned. (This was depicted in the classic season four finale. Please don't make me explain it.) Though Desmond is literally saving Desmond, it's really the other way around.
Here's why: Desmond's hallucination is a clear sign that he experienced another life. One that involves him running up and down steps in a stadium, loving a woman named Penny and listening to Mama Cass in a hatch in the South Pacific. He can sense it.
And an old friend appears on scene to confirm it. Oh, how I‚ve missed Daniel Farraday. Even though the guy was a genius scientist, he always managed a way to explain the island‚s far-out mysteries in an earnest, dumbed-down way. Here, Daniel's last name is Widmore and he's a genius pianist (remember him tickling the keys with that metronome in his flashback last season?). He tells Desmond about his encounter with a certain red-headed archaeologist, which leads him to sketch out a quantum physics formula. He confesses that maybe he too had an alternative existence. And perhaps a nuclear bomb detonation caused a little course correction.
Soon, Desmond comes to on the island. But he's frighteningly calm -- and ready to be enlisted in Widmore's scheme. He says he understands his father in law's intent. When Sayid suddenly kidnaps him, he's cool with that too. Yes indeed, something is very different about our Desmond Hume. In an episode ripe with a find-your-soulmate theme, maybe he's content knowing that he will be with Penny no matter his destiny; or maybe he realizes that he's indestructible -- to both Widmore and radiation.
My theory? Desmond knows his return is the best thing that ever happened to that island since the Black Rock hit that ugly statue.
-- By Mara Reinstein for UsMagazine.com