Wow! We're gonna need a bigger chronological structure.
So, the hints of time travel were true. And in this excellent, mind-bendy installment, the focus shifts from the chortling paranoiacs of Team Locke to the romantic sway of Desmond — that kinder, gentler, more Scottish variant on Sayid (hot accent, tangled black hair, tormented lost love, inability to retain shirts). In the opening sequence, Sayid asks his soul brother what he hopes to find at the boat. “Answers!” Desmond cries out. He's clearly never seen even a single episode of his own show.
The Present: In a Helicopter, on a Boat, on an Island
Following Faraday's directions, Frank flies into a thunderstorm. This triggers chronological anomalies, a series of manly shouting matches, and the opportunity for Sayid to demonstrate, once again, his Professor-like prowess at turning coconuts into radio receivers. Also, they find the missing Minkowski, in the marvelously jug-eared, saturnine form of Fisher “Phoebe's Worst Boyfriend” Stevens. Unfortunately, he's a big, crazy mess unstuck in time and bleeding out the nose.
This is very bad news for Desmond, who has picked up the same Voneguttian time-shift problem: He's waking up alternately in 1996 and 2004, sweating and moaning and losing the top buttons of his shirt and forced to piece things together on a trippy chronological scavenger hunt. On the plus side, he is getting answers — and it all ends with a deeply romantic and satisfying “I'll always love you/you believed in me!” phone call to Penny that filled us with the sinking sense that Desmond would be dying some time very soon.
The Past: In the Army, at Oxford, at a Very Stuffy Auction House, and on Penelope's Doorstep
Yet another daring structural rejiggering of the entire series! Following instructions from Present-Day Faraday, Past Des chases down first Faraday's younger self at Oxford (a cocky bastard with a time-traveling rat; then Penelope's emasculating dad (smirking from a urinal); and finally Penelope herself, apparently not one of those people who is willing to stay friends with benefits. Desmond needs Penny's phone number so he can call her in eight years.
Say, did anyone except us watch those freaky final episodes of J.J. Abrams's earlier series Felicity? The ones where Felicity traveled in time and Ben was the only one who believed that she wasn't insane? It's all pretty much like that, and romantically delicious, and it makes Kate's little triangle look like The Hills in comparison. Sob.
What We Now Know
• The island causes time to go wonky and move slower. Or faster. We're going to consult Lostpedia and get back to you.
• Desmond is Faraday's “constant.”
• Even the cockiest physics professor should probably wear a radiation helmet.
The Wha? Factor
• So many time-machine settings, telephone numbers, auction bids! It's a Lollapalooza of numbers, enough to build, say, a lottery number.
• Penelope's father bought a sea captain's log from a Captain Hanso: Hanso is the name of the company in those Dharma training tapes, and the ship must be the Black Rock. Hmm.
• Who the heck opened that door? —Emily Nussbaum