Previously, on Lost: Oh, thank you, thank you, JJ Abrams, for being wise enough to bring Desmond David Hume into the storyline. Desmond makes everything better. Ever since he emerged from the Hatch, kicking the Nostradamus schtick, we've felt like the story was going to find its footing again. Better yet, what we have seen tonight totally backs the theory we favor up. But more on that later.
Lights up on Desmond, striding purposefully onto Lostie Beach. He pauses, as if to say, "That's right. I will be the subject of our adventures into Flashbackistan today."
Hurley and Charlie are ransacking Sawyer's secret stash. I totally support Charlie doing this, because even though we know Sawyer's on his way back and is bound to be pissed, he just lacks the sack to make good on any beatdown promise, and his "I've got the guns" regime lasted, what...two days? The best he can hope to do is run one of his patented snit fits. In fact, as we read ahead in the plot synopses, we discover that Sawyer is going to attempt, three episodes from now, to win his shit back playing ping-pong. To which we say: Really? Really.
Desmond, who Hurley affectionately calls "Desmondo"--and remind me to never have Hurley give me a nickname--appears at Sawyer's tent to tell Hurley and Charlie to come with him into the jungle. There they meet the purposeful, conspiratorial glances of Locke and Sayid, who break the news of Eko's death and instruct them to try to keep their shit together when they tell the rest of the Losties as an example to them. I'm not sure who on Lostie beach is using Hurley or Charlie as a role model, but, anyway. Charlie asks what happens and Locke tells him that "the island killed" Eko. Incredulously, Charlie asks WTF Locke means by that, to which Locke replies, "You know what I mean." Yeah, Locke, you are straight up fubar in the head. That's what it means.
All this while, Desmond's been acting steakier and steakier, and Hurley notices this and asks what gives. After a moment, however, Desmond breaks off into a full sprint, demonstrating the sort of cutting and running skillz that I wish, for the sake of having a standing army of any value, we'd demonstrate in Iraq. The others give chase, but Desmond's got those stadium-stair climbing skills, and he outpaces them to the beach. Desmond takes off his shoes and shirt and dives into the water, swimming out to what appears to be a floating figure.
As it turns out, it's Claire, bobbing in the waves. Desmond grabs her and swims back to the island, where, Charlie, doing his manic best to prove that he can be the biggest overprotective and jealous douche in the Pacific, pecks and pulls and tries to interfere with her resuscitation. Eventually, Desmond revives Claire. Charlie is, as his countrymen say, gobsmacked, wondering how Desmond could have possibly known Claire was drowning. That's when Hurley fills him in on how Desmond's suddenly turned into the Oracle at motherfuckin' Delphi.
Back from commersh, Claire wanders over to Desmond to thank him for rescuing her. The whole experience has traumatized her so much that she's grown bangs. They don't get too far into their conversation when eternally hovering Charlie shows up to admonish her for being apart from him for even a second.
Charlie talks about Desmond and his Baywatch act with Hurley, not entirely believing Hurley on the whole matter of Desmond having a Hatch-induced Magic Eight Ball where his brain used to be. They hatch a plan--get Desmond drunk...you know: drunk enough that he tells the truth, not so drunk that he starts claiming ownership of Malibu and blaming the Jews for stranding them on La Isla Encanta.
At first, Desmond begs off the offer of getting shitfaced. Charlie says, "Hmm. Too good to drink with his brother." This kicks off a demonstration of UK behavior that makes it look like everyone from the British Isles acts toward each other as if they were living in the nineteenth century and all members of Lord Nelson's Navy. Eventually, Desmond espies the bottle and sees that it's a bottle of MacCutcheon 60--a non-existent, presumably single-malt Scotch. This turns Desmond around, and soon he and Charlie are pulling long swigs from the bottle and singing sea chanties about girls with "cracking good knockers." According to a survey, by the way, Britain apparently has the crackingest knockers in all of Europe.
This festival of conviviality cannot last, however. Charlie finally asks the buzzkilling question about how Desmond could have known about Claire drowning. Desmond hems and haws, eventually getting up and attempting to leave. Charlie, however, makes the mistake of calling Desmond a coward, and, in true Marty McFly fashion, Desmond wheels around, charges Charlie, tackling him the ground, while wailing, "you don't want to know what I've seen!"
And so, we head to Flashbackistan, but only back so far as that time the Hatch was going kerploopie and Desmond had to turn the failsafe key, turning the sky purple and ending the Lostie run of having actual hot showers and laundry room facilities. But, the moment he turns the key, something weird happens: there is a brief flashcard montage and suddenly Desmond is in a dingy apartment, sprawled on the ground, seemingly covered with blood.
It's not blood, though, it's red paint. Penelope rushes into the room to his aid. Desmond, groggy, asks what happened, to which Penny says he fell as a result of combining paint, ladders and alcohol. Same thing happens to me when I combine alcohol, thorazine, and ranch dressing, though, to this day, I still haven't been able to figure out where all the red paint comes from. We'll come to find out that Desmond has somehow managed to become the first Isla-bound castaway to successfully bridge to corporeal gap between the Island and Flashbackistan--but it's weird: things seem a little off. He keeps noticing things in Flashbackistan that suggest his future on the island: the clock radio reading "1:08", Penelope saying, "It's not the end of the world," the microwave oven having the same annoying beep as the Hatch alarm system.
Desmond seems to have retained his memories of his future on the island, but is fully determined to make a go at reliving his past. To that end, he arranges a job interview with Penelope's imperious father. He's off to become a big wheel at the pregnancy test factory! But as if we couldn't guess, he's about to have the worst job interview since Jin was tasked with becoming a doorman at the schmanciest hotel in Korea. We do find out that Desmond used to be a set designer for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and, frankly, we can't imagine that being a job we'd ever leave. Designing at a similar theatre in the States would actually be a pretty lucrative career, and trust me--they don't let just any old fool design sets at the Royal or the Swan. Maybe what Desmond really wanted to do was direct.
If you study enough about writing or film, you eventually learn something about the economy of information. That is: the author rarely reveals something about a character that is completely absent of meaning. It is a curious thing to find out that, in this world where various manufactured realities seem to be at play, there is a character whose occupation involves manufacturing verisimilitude. Don't be surprised if Desmond's past as a set designer at the RSC, information that seems to have been very pointedly imparted, ends up mattering.
Anyhoo, Desmond meets with Penelope's dad, and his judgement is that Desmond would be best suited to work in administration. Desmond, however, interjects, and tells Mr. Widmore that he didn't come seeking a job. He wanted to come and ask for Penny's hand in marriage. God knows why he brought a resume. Widmore, claiming to be impressed, walks across the room and fetches two glasses and a bottle of the same MacCutcheon 60. He tells Desmond about Admiral MacCutcheon and how super fucking awesome he was and how his sauce is the best evers. Admiral MacCutcheon, by the way, is a character from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea.
There, as the Human League might say, the conversation turned. Widmore narrows his gaze and tells Desmond that one sip of MacCutcheon is so expensive that it would cost a month of his wage. You know, somehow, we doubt that, but Widmore is mid-diss, so let's allow it. Widmore basically goes on to reach down Desmond's throat, pull out every last vestige of his dignity and urinate on it metaphorically, saying that he would never be a great man, never be worthy of sharing a drink with, and, thus, be never worthy of his daughter.
Now, at this point, Desmond's been pretty well served. And all he can do is walk dazedly out of Widmore's office. As much as we like Desmond, we hang our head in shame that he just sat there and took that. By means of comparison, here's what the DCeiver would have done in that exact situation. Take notes, people, you're going to learn something. And note well: what's about to transpire is going to get a little outre...too outre for many of the discussion boards that like to traffic in these recaps. For you all, I have appended a "Rated G" version, after the "Rated R" version.
DCeiver: Wow. Mr. Widmore. That was really something. Was that off-the-cuff? Nice. Really good work. Maybe now, though, you might want to sit down, and shut the fuck up.
Let me tell you about how the next few hours of my life are going to go down. I'm going to leave here, step outside, and take myself a refreshing walk. Maybe take in the sights. Get myself a sandwich or a snack. Drink a little mineral water.
Then, I am going to go home to my apartment, where, if you don't know by now, your daughter is going to be waiting for me. I'm going to change out of this suit and tie, walk into the kitchen, bend your daughter over the kitchen table, and absolutely hit that up like I was a dusthead playing Whack-A-Mole. Do you follow me? I am absolutely going to blast your daughter's slot. Shit, pops. About an hour into it, you won't be able to call her "Penny" anymore. You'll have to rename her Sacajewea.
Oh, and I'm not going to stop there, daddy-o. I am absolutely going to wreck that ass as well. I'm going to set up shop in your daughter's backside and work it like it was Boxing Day. Dude, I am telling you, I am going to fill your daughter up with so much of my fuckin' baby batter that by the time I'm through, her body isn't even going to recognize the DNA you bequeathed her. For reals, papa bear. I am going to blast your daughter's pooper and I'm going to take my sweet fucking time doing it.
So, if you want my advice, why don't you bring that bottle back over here, sit down and pour yourself a glass or two, and get comfortable. If that booze is expensive as you say it is, you best take out a loan or two, because you are going to choke down quite a bit of it to get the image of me, using my cock to make your daughter's pyloric valve resemble a goddamned cuckoo clock, out of your mind.
Here's the G-rated version:
Eat a yard of dicks, you fucking tosser.
Anyway, Desmond storms outside and runs into Charlie, busking on the street, singing an Oasis tune. Because maybe...Desmond's gonna be the one that saves Charlie. Desmond starts freaking out at the sight of Charlie, prattling on about how he knows him and how he knows the future and how it's going to start raining. Which it immediately does, but, come on. Predicting rain in London's like shooting fish in a barrel.
Desmond, in search of answers, goes to talk to his friend Donovan, a physics professor of some sort, about the possibility that he might have travelled in time. Donovan, alarmed at the way Desmond has harshed his Mello Yellow, tries explaining to Desmond over drinks that there's no such thing, and, anyway, once again, the Indian character who believes all that paranormal claptrap is the guy from Heroes. Just then, Desmond's favorite Cass Elliot song, "Make Your Own Kind of Music" comes on the juke, and he jumps up, telling Donovan that the soccer team on TV is about to mount a two-goal comeback and that Jimmy Lennon--who the kids at school used to call "Jimmy Stereotype" is about to bust in and whale on the bartender with a cricket bat over a gambling debt. It's like Desmond can only predict the deleted scenes from Eastenders or something. Anyway, none of that happens.
The next day, Desmond goes shopping for an engagement ring. He ends up at the shop of a Mrs. Hawking. He selects an affordable ring and asks to purchase it. At that moment, the shocked Mrs. Hawking tells him that he's not supposed to do that. He's supposed to change his mind, break up with Penelope, change his mind again, go on a round-the-world race to prove himself to Mr. Widmore, end up on La Isla Encanta, and press the button so that he can save the world. And that's where the world of Lost, finally, after a good many episodes, savagely and satisfyingly shifts on its axis again.
Hawking and Desmond go outside to get some roasted chestnuts, and to, you know, say hello to Nicholas Nickleby or something. They make note of a guy wearing red shoes. Hawking endeavors to explain that Desmond has a preordained job to do, and while he may not like it, it's what he has to do. Indeed, it's the only "great thing" he's ever meant to do. Desmond is having none of it, blindly asserting that he has free will. But life is not a Rush song, and that is underscored when a building collapses on the man in red shoes--in another image that evokes the Wizard of Oz. Desmond, shocked, correctly susses out that Mrs. Hawking knew what was about to happen to the man with red shoes, but Hawking tells him that even if she warned him about the building collapsing, he'd just get hit by a car or fall in the shower. "The universe has a way of course correcting." Desmond refuses to buy in, and demands the ring.
The next day, Desmond and Penny are out walking along the Thames. A streetside photographer convinces them to get their picture taken. The resulting picture is the one that Desmond's been carrying around with him on the island. Looking at it, he seems to suddenly be convinced that Hawking was right. He tells Penelope that he can't continue their relationship and that they weren't meant to be together. Penelope, tearfully, leaves. Huge mistake, Des, because Sonya Walger is KEE-RAY-ZEE hawt. Desmond throws the ring into the Thames, presumably for Voldemort to find it or something.
Desmond returns to the pub from the night before, where, on the shelf, a bottle of MacCutcheon sits, mockingly. All of the sudden, the Cass Elliot song comes on again. He looks up at the television, and the soccer team that's trailing scores an unexpected goal. Desmond sees this and decides that he can change the outcome of his life and that there's still time to fix things with Penelope. This is a weird conclusion for him to reach, seeing as how these events playing out as he remembers them only serves to bolster Hawking's claim. But fuck dear old Ms. Hawking, Desmond thinks. He's off to change the future. And he starts by warning the publican about how Jimmy Lennon's legendary cricket bat is about to connect with his head.
And...that's where it ends as well, because when the barkeep ducks, Jimmy's swing comes full circle and knocks Desmond out cold. When he comes to, he's naked in the jungle right after the hatch has imploded. I realize that sentence is not grammatically sound. Time travel plots force the invention of the future pluperfect subjunctive and shit. Anyway, he finds the picture of Penelope and starts to cry, begging God for another chance to make things right. Gotta give props to Henry Ian Cusick in this scene. He's really quite moving in his sorrow.
And so, we're back on the beach, with Desmond on top of Charlie. Hurley pulls them apart. Desmond is weepy and apologetic. Charlie helps him back to his tent and asks for an explanation one last time. Desmond explains that when he turned the key in the Hatch, his whole life flashed before his eyes, and ever since, he's been having flashes of future events...but not of Claire's death, of Charlie's. Desmond, apologetically, tells Charlie that he's twice now prevented him from dying, but, given the fact that the universe has gone all The Wealth of Nations on everyone, he can only keep up the savior schtick for so long. In short, sooner or later, Charlie's going to explaining the lyrics to "You All Everybody" to Kurt Cobain.
Some time ago, Entertainment Weekly's Doc Jensen hatched a Lost theory that I am rather fond of: that the "story" actually has nothing to do with Jack and Kate, et al. Rather, the operative narrative is an epic romantic adventure between Desmond and Penelope, and the characters to whom we have chiefly taken to our bosom are actually minor figures in the sprawling plot, living contrivances as if they were taken out of a Pirandello play, or, in the piece I prefer to reference, from Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. They have no life outside of what is germane to the story, and they are trapped by the whims of the author, consigned to whatever role they were given until, as Locke says, the island kills them.
While nothing we've seen here in this episode explicitly proves that this theory is operating, everything we've seen in the episode nevertheless supports the possibility that this is what's happening. Indeed, Desmond seems caught in the throes of the plot as well. He tells us that "his whole life flashed before his eyes", but, curiously, it actually didn't. He has equated "his whole life" with events that are solely germane to the plot of Lost. It evokes the realizations by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that they cannot remember any detail of their existence prior to the moment they were called upon to travel to Denmark. Perhaps they had no life at all. Throughout this episode, Desmond was practically poised to speak Stoppard's line: "There must have been a moment, at the beginning, where we could have said 'no.'"
It's worth noting also, that way back in the first season, the people behind Lost made an explicit promise to their audience that they would never kill Charlie. Interestingly, this means that right now, Desmond is the agent in charge of ensuring that this promise gets kept. Which leads me to wonder: what if Lost is a television show...about a television show? Alas, this is despairingly meta. Look, in the end, we don't care if we're right or wrong. The only thing we hope is that JJ never, ever, ever brings back all that crap about the Rambaldi Device. Seriously. We'd much rather that Felicity be behind all of this.